People and Culture

People and Culture

The Chittagong Hill Tracts is the abode of different ethnic nationalities, such as, Chakma, Marma, Tripura, Murung, Khumi, Chak, Bawm, Lushai, Pankua, Khiang and Tongchongya. They belong to Mongoloid racial stock in marked contrast to the dominant Bengali population of the country. They are collectively known as Jumma, a word derived from jum or shifting cultivation. By religion, the Chakmas, the Marmas, the Tongchongyas and the Chaks are Buddhists; the Tripuras are Hindus; the Bawms are Christians; and the Murungs and Khumis practice animism.

These indigenous groups are in different stages of social and political development. While the Chakmas, the largest community in terms of population, achieved high percentage in terms of education and other social indicators, the Murungs and the Khumis are lagging behind. The policy of the successive governments has always been to widen this gap and to divide them in order to perpetuate ultra-Bengali nationalistic domination in the area.

The indigenous Jumma peoples have a long tradition of resistance. Whenever their independent and unique life style in the rugged mountainous terrain came under attack, they resisted collectively. They fought against the aggression of the powerful Moguls and the British imperialists and had been able to maintain their autonomy. Today, indigenous Jumma peoples are fighting for the right to self-determination.

Despite different national, linguistic and religious identities, indigenous Jumma peoples share common cultural traits which manifest themselves in a healthy and harmonious racial environment in which they live. The root of their common culture is the system of Jum cultivation, which every of these nationalities practice. Today, as a result of internal colonization and continuous marginalization, their common culture and identity are also facing extinction.

Apart from the Jummas, the Chittagong Hill Tracts also host a few thousand non-Jumma microscopic ethnic minorities such as Santals and Gurkhas. The Santals live in Rangamati and Khagrachari districts, while the Gurkhas are concentrated mainly in Rangamati district.

In addition, the Chittagong Hill Tracts is also populated by a large number of Bengali people who can be divided into two categories: the adibashi Bengalis or old settlers and new settlers. The adibashi settlers are those who have been settled in the CHT having obtaining permission from the then British authorities, and hence they are legal, bonafide and permanent residents of the CHT. The new settlers, on the other hand, represent those who have entered CHT after the partition of the Indian subcontinent on 14 August 1947. According to the Chittagong Hill Tracts manual of 1900, they are all illegal outsiders in the CHT.