January, 1973. Having decided to forfeit my work with the Bandarban Mission to travel to the forest, I headed towards Kalajhiri Tripura in the Alikodom sub-district.
Nasram Tripura, retired teacher, accompanied me. We reached Satish master’s house around 8 p.m. on the bitingly cold night.
As we sat around a fire to warm up and to warm up to each other, a young man showed up.
We learnt later that he was a member of the Shanti Bahini. As we got further acquainted over dinner, we asked to meet his Commander.
Without any hesitation, he agreed to take us the following morning.
[1972 saw the beginning of armed rebellion in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Initially the operations were strictly institutional. Then, 1975 onwards, began recruitment of local youth, militia training, political classes, mass lines, etc.]
The following day we started off for an unknown destination. Two men, Shanti Bahini members, led the way.
How perfidious the serenity of these mountains is! Braving the hilly roads felt like getting trained for a guerilla operation!
We broke our journey for the night and reached our destination the following evening.
Of course our guide, a Shanti Bahini member, informed others of our visit beforehand. We were asked to go to a Chakma area.
Upon reaching there we found ourselves at a wedding. This was the first time I experienced a Chakma wedding.
Between festivities, we were introduced to the Commander. We didn’t really get much of a chance to converse with him then.
Wedding festivities over, we were taken to another Chakma area.
A few days later, the Commander informed that the political classes were about to begin.
Decisions pertaining to aggregating young (male) participants, disseminating political ideas and ideology, militia training, etc. would all be made centrally.
The training would continue from 9 a.m. till 4 or 5 p.m. At night, they would work with the elders to create mass awareness.
We would talk about these issues of awareness every day. I spoke about the communities other than Chakma. I asked the Commander:
“When the dynamics between the 13 ethnicities here will be horizontal, only then will they be able to approach agendas as a unified front.
When they will be able to insert themselves into education and business institutions, and would have proved their competence in various fields, only then will the government allow this to be an autonomous state. What do you think?”
The Commander’s reply was:
“This is a long-term process.
This rebellion started with the government’s rejection of M.N. Larma’s demands that he had made in Parliament in 1972.
The people need to be politically aware. People from all walks of life need to come forward.”
One night, the Commander, Nasram Tripura and I went to sleep on heaps of rice. The Commander and I were short, so we were alright. Nasram Tripura had a hard time fitting himself in his “bed.”
That night I had a dream. I dreamt of two suns side by side. I was staring at them. The sky was as bright as 9 a.m. Everyone around was astonished at this sight.
When I actually woke up it was almost dawn.
The three of us approached a group of elders sitting by a fire and smoking bamboo pipes (dunda) on this winter morning.
Over breakfast, I told them about my dream.
They had remarked, “A hi; Ama Dechh Abadeyai,” meaning, we will get a free state.”
If my dream materializes into reality, then this rebellion will be successful. The Commander shared his feelings and dealt out instructions. People got to work with double the enthusiasm.
Before we knew it, a month had passed. Nasram Tripura and I took our leave from the Commander.
By the time we got to Thanchhi Bazaar from Alikodom, it was already evening.
We took shelter at Nasram’s father house in Mangmapara for a few days.
We stayed there a few days and spent our evenings spreading the party’s ideologies among the Tripura community.
Later, I continued this work in the Kaptai area by myself. At the time, that area was under the Sarbahara Party. I had communicated with them too.
We have crossed over two decades now. We have seen many regime changes.
We have seen a rift in the Janasanghati Party (shorties vs. lankies) between 1984-5, the consequence of which was M.N. Larma’s brutal death.
To prevent the party from becoming obsolete, Jyotirindro Bodhipriyo (Santu) Larma took charge.
We saw different regimes engage in different conversations with the Janasanghati Party.
Then on 2 December, 1997, we saw the formulation of the CHT Peace Accord, signed between Awami League and Janasanghati Party.
The implementation of the accord is now on a deadlock. No one has the time to reflect on who the victors in these battles are.
So is this what my two suns represented? Had the elders misinterpreted my dream in 1973? Reality is quite the opposite.
Translated by Farah Mehreen Ahmad.
Writer : Den Doha Jolai Tripura