Bor-Porong | Duburider Atmokothon | Autobiography of the Drowned

Samari Chakma (in Sidney) and Naeem Mohaiemen (in Dhaka) read simultaneously, over the internet, from Samari’s book Kaptai Badh: Bor-Porong.
This is an oral history of Chakma people exiled by drowning in the Kaptai Hydroelectric Dam project of 1960-64 (Pakistan period). Each paragraph in Chakma language is followed by its translation into Bangla. This gesture of reciprocal translation comes in a pandemic time where conversations are isolated and digital, whether with a neighbour in Dhaka or an exiled comrade in Sidney. Placing Chakma in the dominant role is a rebuke to the role of Bangladesh in extinguishing indigenous Pahari languages in Chittagong Hill Tracts. These are the languages of the Adivasi peoples (collectively
Pahari or Jumma) – Chakma, Marma, Tripura, Tanchangya, Santal, Chak, Pankho, Mro, Bom, Lushei, Khyang, Gurkha, Ahomi, Rakhin and Khumi.
The drowning of Pahari villages in 1960s East Pakistan was followed by exclusion from the constitution of independent Bangladesh – which defined all citizens as “Bengalis.” From 1975 until the signing of the 1997 CHT Accord, the Pahari people fought for regional autonomy. Parts of the Accord remain unimplemented, and the Chittagong Hill Tracts is hostile land for its original indigenous peoples. While we rightfully advocate for Rohingya refugees pushed into Bangladesh, we forget the refugees we have created, many fleeing into India, from the 1960s until the 1990s.
Advocate Samari Chakma was the first Chakma female lawyer enrolled to plead cases at the Bangladesh Supreme Court. Like many of her people, the harassment she faced eventually forced her into exile in Australia.

Published by the Comrade Rupak Chakma Memorial Trust, Kaptai Badh: Bor-Porong (2018) comes out of years of conversations with networks of Pahari rights activists. These solidarities are expressed in and the anthology Between Ashes and Hope: Chittagong Hill Tracts in the Blind Spot of Bangladesh Nationalism (2010).

Recording Director: Hasib Zakaria (Sidney)
Book Editor: Aloran Khisa (Khagrachari)
Book Cover: Jayatu Chakma (Rangamati)
Chakma Font: Shuvashis Chakma Ittukgula (Khagrachari)
Timeline Research: Priyanka Chowdhury (Dhaka)

Agartala– GautamLal Chakma
Melbourne– Ehshanul Kabir
Khagrachari–Tushar Shuvro Chakma
Dighinala– Tufan Chakma, Injeb Chakma
Sidney– Rupayan Chakma, Pavel Chakma
Dhaka–Tanzim Wahab, Sarker Protick, Samsul Alam Helal

Samari Chakma was born in Khagrachari, Bangladesh. After her Masters in General History at Eden College, she received her LLB law degree from World University of Bangladesh and was certified as a lawyer in 2013. She was the first Chakma female lawyer enrolled to hear cases at the Bangladesh Supreme Court in 2017. Samari’s legal work is focused on providing legal assistance to rape victims, and victims of false cases, due to the ongoing political crisis of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Samari was involved in the editing of two Hill Women’s Federation (HWF) publications – The Diary of Kalpana Chakma and Paharer Ruddho Kontho. In 2013 she founded, with comrades, the Comrade Rupak Chakma Memorial Trust, providing scholarships to 16 Pahari students. She is an editor at Thotkata and her writing has also been published in New Age, Survivable International, and Alal O Dulal. In 2018, she was a Bertha Global Exchange Fellow at the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, Berlin. Samari Chakma is currently in forced exile in Australia for her safety.

Naeem Mohaiemen makes films, installations and essays about socialist utopia, unstable borders, and fading family units. His essays include Peace in Our Time? (Chittagong Hill Tracts 1715-1997) (1997), Connecting the Visible Dots: A Post- Accord history (2010), The Ginger Merchant of History: Standing in the shadow of ‘Giants’ (2016), Muhammad Ali’s Bangladesh Passport: Unsteady Dreams of a Muslim International (2016), Simulation at Wars’ End: A ‘Documentary’ in the Field of Evidence Quest (2016), and Flying Blind: Waiting for a Real Reckoning on 1971 (2011). He is co-editor of Between Ashes and Hope: Chittagong Hill Tracts in the Blind Spot of Bangladesh Nationalism (Drishtipat 2010), and of System Error: War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (Papesse 2007). In Bangladesh, his projects exhibited at Chobi Mela (2019, 2017, 2009), Bengal Foundation (2020), Abdur Razzaque Foundation (2017), Longitude Latitude (2016, 2013, 2011), Dhaka Art Summit (2014), Dhaka Art Centre (2012), Bishaud Bangla (2012), ULAB (2012), BRAC University (2012, 2004), and Gallery Chitrak (2008).