By Rajib Roy
SHILLONG: The Raja of Manikchari, Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), Bangladesh, Raja Rajib was in Shillong recently on a personal visit with his daughter to see his granddaughter who is studying in the city based St John’s Whitehall School.
In an exclusive interview with The Shillong Times at the city-based Asian Confluence Library, Raja Rajib appreciated the cosmopolitan and peaceful existence of culture and religion in Shillong.
He said that his dynasty, the 250-year-old Manikchari Rajbari dynasty belongs to the Royal Family of Arkan in Burma which invaded this region and is settled here now. “It is an interesting piece of history that if we had won the war against the then ruling king of Chittagong we could have gone back with honour but we were unsuccessful and were held back here,” said Raja Rajib who studied at the prestigious Cambridge School in Darjeeling.
Raja Rajib, who belongs to the Maharaj Kumar Nabadwip Ch Bahadur of Tripura Raj Family, said that the CHT has three major tribes – Mong (to which he belongs), Chakma and Bomang – and the Hill Tract covers an area of 5700 square miles with a population of 10 lakh. These tribes also took part in the Bangladesh Liberation War, Raja Rajib informed even as he spoke about the contribution of Raja Tridev Roy, the Raja of Chakma tribe, who passed away in September, 2012.
“He saved a lot of people during the Liberation War in Rangamati. He abdicated the throne and went to Pakistan and remained there till the end of his life,” he said, while adding that Raja Tridev Roy studied with him in Darjeeling.
“My family members including my mother and father are from different communities and I feel that I can bring all of them together, which is what the Asian Confluence is trying to do, the confluence of all nations and communities,” he said.
Pointing out that the people of the CHT are still suffering due to the damage to the hydro electric dam at Kaptai in the 1960s, he said that the customary laws of Mong allow a matrilineal set up, that is, the daughter is the heir to the throne but acknowledged that there are difficulties in maintaining the dynastic legacy.
His aunt, Kumari Ira Devi, daughter of Raja Chatra Singh of Jaintiapur, Sylhet is a resident of Bhagyakul in Laitumkhrah. She is survived by her sons and daughters who look after this historic house now.
Raja Rajib is set to assume charge as the Director of a trust to be formed to restore the heritage buildings and infrastructures lying in negligence in Bangladesh.