Tribal Rights & Issues
The Arakanese people referred to the Chakmas as Saks, Theks, or Thaikhs. In 1546 CE, while the Arakanese king Min Bin was fighting a battle with the Burmese, the Sak king attacked Northern Arakan Roma and occupied the Arakanese-controlled Chacomas of the Northern Arakan Mountains. Diego de Astor created a map of Bengal, which was published as Descripção do Reino de Bengalla in the book Quarta decada da Asia (Fourth decade of Asia) by João de Barros in 1615. The map shows a place called Chacomas on the Eastern bank of the Karnaphuli River in what is now Chittagong, Bangladesh, suggesting the Chakmas inhabited this area during this time. The Arakan king Min Razagyi (1593–1612) conquered these areas and addressed himself as the highest and most powerful king of Arakan, Chacomas and Bengal in a 1607 letter to a Portuguese merchant named Philip de Brito Nicote. After the defeat by the Arakanese, the Chakmas migrated to the present Chittagong Hill Tracts and founded their capital city Alekyangdong (present-day Alikadam). From Alekyangdong, they continued north and settled in present-day Rangunia, Raozan, and Fatikchari Upazilas of Chittagong District. In 1666, Mughal Governor of Bengal Shaista Khan defeated the Arakanese, conquered the northern bank of Kaladan river, and renamed it Islamabad. Mughal rule, however, was confined to the plain areas of Chittagong early on, leaving the Chakmas largely unaffected. The Mughals eventually demanded tribute from the Chakmas after a trade dispute developed between the two groups.
The Constitution of Bangladesh ensures affirmative action for indigenous peoples and prohibits discrimination inter alia on grounds of race, religion or place of birth, Article 23A of which provides, “the State shall take steps to protect and develop the unique local culture and tradition of the tribes, minor races, ethnic sects and communities”. It also spells out in Article 28 (4), “nothing in this Article shall prevent the State from making special provision in favor of women or children or for the advancement of any backward section of citizens”.
At the universal level, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) is the latest human rights instrument addressing the basic rights of world indigenous people. Also the ILO has developed two global instruments regarding indigenous people: the Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention, 1957 (No. 107) to which Bangladesh is a Party from 1972, and the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169). These treaties signify that, self-identification as 'indigenous' shall be regarded as a basic criterion for determining the groups to which the provisions of this Convention apply.