Chakma - History and Cultural Relations
Scholars differ on the origin and history of Chakma. One popular view among the Chakma is that their ancestors once lived in Champoknagar, although opinions differ as to its location. It is also guessed that the Chakma derived their name from Champoknagar. According to oral history the Chakma left Champoknagar for Arakan in Burma where they lived for about 100 years. They had to leave Arakan for Bangladesh in or around sixteenth century, when Bangladesh was governed by Muslim rulers, before the arrival of the British. Even if we do not believe the story of their origin in Champoknagar, we have reason to believe the Chakma lived in Arakan before they migrated to Bangladesh. They were then nomadic shifting cultivators. On their arrival in Bangladesh the Chakma chiefs made a business contract with the Muslim rulers, promising to pay revenue or tax in cotton. In return they were allowed to live in the hill region and engage in trade with the larger society. By the late eighteenth century, British authorities had established themselves in the southeastern districts of Bangladesh. The British formally recognized a definite territory of the Chakma raja (the paramount chief). In 1776, Sherdoulat Khan became the Chakma raja. He fought unsuccessfully against the British. Further fighting between the Chakma and the British took place between 1783 and 1785. In 1787, Raja Janbux Khan, son of Sherdoulat Khan, made a peace treaty with the British government, promising to pay the latter 500 maunds of cotton. The British recognized the office of Chakma raja throughout the rest of their rule. Different Chakma rajas maintained good relations with the authorities of central administration and the Chakma increasingly came in contact with the Bengali people and culture.