Margin, minorities, and a political economy of displacement: the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh
The only passenger boat to Bilaichari, a small shanty town in the remote south of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh, leaves the district town of Rangamati at dawn, six days a week. Whenever I catch that boat on my way to Mahalu, I usually occupy a room on rooftop of the trawler, locally converted to a double-decked passenger boat. By sunrise, the boat cruises at the centre of a large section of the Kaptai lake. The breathtaking beauty of the first shiny sunbeams on the tranquil lake water always culls above lines from Felajeya Chakma's poetry in my mind; I feel as if the morning breeze whispers its melancholy to me: 'It's not! It's not water.' Yet, my job in the region had little room for poetic indulgence. Here, I was concerned with purely empirical facts about this lake that were poetically echoed in his verses. As poetry is an inseparable part of the social facts that a community mediates through various forms of texts they produce, the agony of his verses also prevail at the heart of the reality I was trying to understand through an ethnographic empiricism. For every socio-scientific chronicler in the CHT, displacement is a much compelling phenomenon to think about. Yet, very few of their tools have the capacity of reaching many unhealable rifts forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true vicinity.