A Short Story of Great Exodus or Bor Porong

The Calamitous Great Exodus also indicated this tragic period of Chakmas history it ” Bor Porong ” . The Calamitous Great Exodus is one of the black periods of Chakmas Community. In 1906, a hydroelectric project was proposed to be built, using the flow of the water in the Karnafuli river. But it was not until the 1950s that the plan took shape and a large hydroelectric project was commissioned at Kaptai, a riverside village close to Rangamati. The dam flooded an area of 655 square km and inundating 22 000 cultivable land which was 40% of all such land in the CHT. The reservoir submerged 18 000 house and displaced 100 000 indigenous people, 70% of which were Chakmas.

The dam also submerged the Rangamati town and the palace of the Chakma Raja (king). There was no systematic rehabilitation plan for this large group of people, almost 25% of the local population. According to the official document, the majority of the displaced people were rehabilitated on the upper reaches of the rivers Kasalong and Chengi during the early phases of the project. But the reality is that the displaced people, “environmental refugees” in development discourses, moved to the low-lying areas of Langdu, Barkal and Bhaghaichari as per the advice of the officials. When the Kaptai dam was completed in 1960, a big lake formed in the Karnafuli valley, flooding many villages and leading to the Calamitous great exodus (or Bor Porong, as the Chakmas call it).

Later this area had gone under water by 1962 as the reservoir gradually filled up, causing most to be displaced for the second time. About 100,000 people are thought to have fled the waters, most of them Chakmas. Many settled elsewhere in the district, including reserved forest areas, but in 1964, tens of thousands sought refuge in India. As a result, from 1964-1969 some 40,000 Chakmas started their journey of a greater misfortune to india brought under the arrangements made under the direct supervision of then Prime Minister of India Mrs Indira Gandhi. The Government of India had granted them Migration Certificates and 20,000 had to refuge in Myanmar. Several days were walking with all group of the Chakmas Refugees and carrying whatever belongings that a refugee family could gather before an uncertain journey and reached the Demagri refugee camp, set up by the Government of India in the Mizo district (now Mizoram) of Assam. The moment they registered their names in the refugee list of the camp, their fate as “Chakma refugees” in India was sealed. Initially, all the Chakmas were to be settled in the district of Lushai Hill (presently Mizoram) which did not work out completely.

The journey was, however, yet to end. Soon Chakmas Refugees had to proceed to Badarpur in southern Assam, again on foot, under police escort, in batches. Chakmas Refugees used to walk for six hours a day, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., to reach the next temporary camp set up on roadsides, to rest for the night. The journey would resume the next morning. Then they stayed in the Badarpur refugee camp for several months before they were taken to Ledo in Upper Assam; but this time, they were lucky enough to board a passenger train to continue the journey.

The Indian government planned to settled to Chakmas in Andaman and Nicobar Island, where Chakmas wanted not to go. Since Chakmas were Buddhist by religion , the Indian government wanted to settled in the Gaya District of Bihar. Some Chakma families were taken to Bihar as well but due to cultural differences and climatic condition of Chakmas didn’t stay there much. At last Finally, Chakmas choose to go to North Eastern Frontier Agency (NEFA) present now as a Arunachal Pradesh. No words would be enough to express the pain and suffering we have gone through, thousands of people died in this journey, thousands of relationships were broken. Since then many families were torn apart and the tragedy of separation on the two sides of the border continue from generation to generation.

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