Thursday, December 5, 2013

Tridev Roy: The Raja who gave away his Kingdom for Pakistan.

Raja Tridiv Roy

This is the story of Raja Tridiv Roy, who was minister-for-life, former government adviser, envoy and chief of the Chakma Tribals and will always be remembered as the man who gave away his kingdom so that he could be with Pakistan during one of the country’s most turbulent periods.

Raja Tridev Roy was a former 50th Raja of the Chakma tribe in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region of present-day Bangladesh from May 2, 1953, until his abdication in 1971 following the Bangladesh Liberation War. He chose to remain a Pakistani when Bangladesh achieved independence in 1971. He became known as a writer, diplomat, Buddhist religious leader and politician in Pakistan. Between 1981 and 1995, he served as Ambassador of Pakistan to Argentina with concurrent accreditation in Chile, Uruguay, Peru and Ecuador. He was also a Minister-For-Life within the Pakistani government.

Despite being heavily non-Muslim, the Chittagong Hill Tracts were awarded to Pakistan (specifically East Pakistan) by the British during the 1947 partition of India. The Chakmas and other people of the hill tracts had favored union with India instead of Pakistan. Initially granted special autonomy, the status of the region was changed by the Pakistani government during the 1950s to allow the settlement of large numbers of largely non-indigenous, Muslim Bengali settlers into the region.

The Pakistani government also opened a hydro-electric damn during the early 1960s, which flooded approximately 40% of the Chakmas' available arable land. However, the Chakmas under Tridev Roy chose to remain neutral during the 1960s and 1970s as relations between the Pakistani Army and Mukti Bahini, which fought for Bangladeshi independence.

In 1970, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the head of the Awami League and future founder of Bangladesh, asked Roy to run for Parliament as a member of the Awami League. Roy declined Rahman's offering, choosing instead to run in the 1970 general election as an independent. Roy won his election as independent candidate from his constituency in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Roy sided with Pakistan in 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, which resulted in Bangladesh's independence. Following the war and Bangladesh's independence, Roy chose to move to from the former East Pakistan to West Pakistan, where he resided for the rest of his life. Roy feared political persecution if he remained in Bangladesh after the country's independence, which led to his decision to move to Pakistan. He also felt that the new Bangladeshi government would no longer guarantee the special autonomous status of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. He abdicated as the Raja of the Chakmas in 1971 in favor of his son, Raja Debashish Roy, when he went into exile. The government of Pakistan made Roy a lifetime federal minister for his loyalty to the government in Islamabad during the war.

Roy headed a delegation from Pakistan to oppose the Bangladesh's application to join the United Nations. The government of Bangladesh, under Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, sent its own delegation to New York to apply for admission led by Tridev Roy's mother.

Roy joined the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto during the 1970s. Bhutto offered Roy the position of President of Pakistan once he became Prime Minister of Pakistan. However, Roy declined Bhutto's offer of the presidency because, under the new Constitution of Pakistan of 1973, only Muslims can become President of Pakistan. Roy, who called the presidency a "gilded cage," was unwilling to convert from Buddhism to Islam to hold the office.

In 1981, Roy was appointed as Pakistani Ambassador to Argentina by the Zia government, a move which simultaneously removed him from day-to-day involvement in Pakistani politics. He was simultaneously accredited as an ambassador in Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay and he held these positions until 1995. He later was Pakistan's High Commissioner to Sri Lanka. He remained abroad to abroad until 1996, when he returned to Islamabad. Roy also held the position as a federal minister-for-life within the Pakistani government.

Roy was a leading figure in Pakistan's Buddhist community, headed the Pakistan Buddhist Society from 1996 until his death in 2012. In 2005, the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka, General Srilal Weerasooriya, on behalf of the President, conferred the emblems of the Sri Lankan Ranjana National Award on Federal Minister Tridev Roy for his work on behalf of Pakistan's Buddhist community.

Tridev Roy died from cardiac arrest at his home in Islamabad on September 17, 2012, at the age of 79. He was survived by his wife, Binita Roy, three sons, and two daughters.

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