Supporting tribal Buddhists in Bangladesh

By Ian Finlay

I first became aware of the Chakma people in about 1975 when Survival International published a booklet entitled ‘genocide in the Hill Tracts’. It detailed the atrocities being committed against the Chakma and other tribals in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. I then met several Chakmas at a conference in Bangkok but it was not until about 2000 that I went out to visit them in their homeland.. A Buddhist organisation had been contacted by Chakma refugees in India and I went on a sort of fact finding mission.chakma school kids

The tribal people of Bangladesh, of which there are 13 main groups, had not done too badly under the British and the Chakma particularly had a high standard of education. Their main problems really began in 1945 when India was partitioned. The Hill tracts should have become part of India, but because of dubious political deals their land was given to Pakistan, the eastern bit later becoming Bangladesh. The Chakma have always been Buddhist, the other hill tribes dividing between Buddhism, Hindu, Christian and animist.

Finding themselves part of Muslim Bangladesh was bad news for all of them as land hungry Bengalis moved onto the tribal land and violent ethnic and religious persecution followed. Most of their best land and their palace was flooded when the Kaptai Dam was built and their way of life became unsustainable. Some half a million fled into India, where they mainly live in remote communities in the North-East hill states. Here they desperately try to survive, preserving their unique culture (they are possibly the oldest Buddhists in the world, some believing their name Chakma is a corruption of Sakya, the clan of Buddha. Be that as it may, they have a unique culture and language with its own script.

I found the people tremendously welcoming and friendly, many men and a good few women speaking excellent English, just as well due to my own lack of skill in the linguistic department!

One of the Indian states where many of the Chakma people fled was Mizoram and I was recently contacted by Sudip Chakma who has started an organisation with the delightful title, ‘The ultimate truth teaching mission’. In fact this is a fairly humble and small scale attempt to try to help the Chakma people in the area retain their culture and gain some form of education. Thus there is a school where the children can learn basic skills and some English, a vihara or small temple for religious meetings and practice and workshops to encourage traditional crafts.

When I was in the North-East of India I remember seeing the Chakma women sitting outside their huts weaving beautiful material on their handlooms, and also listening to wonderful music, so I was pleased that these skills are being encouraged along with modern education. I am hoping to make a reasonable donation to Sudip’s project (The Aberystwyth Quakers are collecting this month) so if anyone is interested in this project they can contact me or Sudip for more information or donate through me or the Quakers. I am certain this is a very genuine and worthwhile cause.

Ian’s email address is

4 thoughts on “Supporting tribal Buddhists in Bangladesh

  1. 1234sudip says:

    Hi, My Dhamma Friend, Ian, I am so happy to see our children with our traditional dresses in your website. I think deeply on you are a real chakma. Your love and compassion will not be forgotten by the whole chakma community of Mizoram. Your generous donation shall be solely used for the development of buddhist temple and giving education for the helpless micro minority chakma children here at Ahimsa Buddhist Mission School, Tuichawng. Your kind dhamma visit to our village is highly anticipated.

  2. rakesh says:

    Thank you for your kind article,you dhamma of love and compassion r will inspires us to to educate our society and the world

  3. Sudip Chakma says:

    Dear Friend,,
    At the very outset I would like to introduce my self as a Volunteer and social worker for Helpless minority Chakma children in mizoram to give free and compulsory with quality education to give light of education. To eradicate illiteracy and poverty among the Chakma community in mizoram we have established a NGO name as “ THE ULTIMATE TRUTH PREACHING MISSINO and by which we have established
    AHIMSA SCHOOL is a school for underprivileged indigenous minority chakma children at Tuichawng village under Lunglei District,Mizoram, India, Established in 2000, and run by the “THE ULTIMATE TRUTH PREACHING MISSION” AHIMSA SCHOOL started with just 7 children in a small room with a pair of desks and benches by “THE ULTIMATE TRUTH PREACHING MISSION” as mission felt the essential need for education among children of their community,who were mostly engaged by their parents in labor from a very young age due to financial problems.
    AHIMSA SCHOOL has now grown to a school of over 70 students. It is a non profitable school providing free education. Children are encouraged to develop the positive qualities of loving kindness,compassion and universal responsibility.
    AHIMSA means ‘Nonviolence’ and extend of universal love and compassion. AHIMSA is a school for children of families with low income,living in TUICHAWNG and the school covers 11 minority chakma tribal villages namely Tuichawng-I, Tuichawng-II, Sibinasora, Borkol, Tuichawngchhuah, Diblibagh, Matrisora, Samuksury, Ugudasury,Tuikawi and Kauchhuah. The main Founder,Rajesh Kumar Chakma is a teacher and President of THE ULTIMATE TRUTH PREACHING MISSION firmly believes that education is the birth right of every child and no child –rich or poor should not be left behind.
    Unfortunately, the school may not run any longer as, the financial position of the school authority is too worst. We do not have donor,sponsor and well wisher to make a handsome fund for the helpless,needy and under-privileged minority chakma children over here in mizoram.
    The major focus of the organization being the issues of Education For the needy,helpless and destitute indigenous chakma Children, Women Empowerment, Capacity Building to improve the socio-economic condition of Resource poor women and men living in remote rural Chakma areas in Mizoram, Skill Development and initiating various socio-economic, vocational and health activities, training and Micro Insurance finance activities, for the welfare and development of rural disadvantaged sectors covering 13 chakma Villages in Lunglei District,Mizoram.

    We have a team of committed staff members with an excellent background and a vast experience in the development field. We are very much
    interested to take up the programme, through you.

    We are hereby seeking the support from the donor agencies towards the Educational
    developmental activity in the community as well as sustainability of
    the project. We would appreciate if you could extend your financial
    support to our project and this would definitely help the deserving
    people in the project area. Atpresent, Our main need is honorarium for the teachers and hostel building as, the children have to come from remote hilly villages on foot. If we can construct hostel for them we can accommodate them to stay in the hostel.
    We also abide with the terms and conditions set forth by the donor.
    Just take the case of the Chakmas. With over 8% of the total population of Mizoram the Chakmas are the largest minority group and most of the chakmas are still illiterate due to the lack of financial problems.
    . At present our primary needs are as follows:s
    1. Meal for the hostel children.
    2. Monthly sponsor for our needy children.
    3. One Time Donation.
    4. Laptop/computer
    5. Honorarium for teachers.

    Finaly, I would say that the aim and objectives of the Mission is not possible to make it success without your HELP and CO-OPERATION.
    Therefore, With folded hand, I request you to come forward and extend your helping hand for the well being of the whole Chakma Buddhist Community in Mizoram.

    With Metta and Loving Kindness.

    SUDIP Chakma
    Volunteer of Ahimsa School, Tuichawng.

    “Help to Needy Children”.Why not do some help to needy people.A little effort from you can make a big difference.
    ” A small deed is what they need”

  4. Andrés Tremols says:

    The origin of TripuraSundari Lalitha Goddess, There is for sure a connection with buddhism and I believe buddhism was more connected with her even before hindues incorporated her into puranas since the Vajrayana adopted tribal Gods and Goddesses of Eastern India before Hindus.
    There is the Lalitavistara Sutra, and she fits the archetype of red tara. I am with the view that chakma comes from Sakya.

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