[Reader-list] Jamatia 'Hoda' , a unique institution (Courtesy: www.tripurainfo.com)

Sagnik Chakravartty sagnik_chakravartty at yahoo.com
Tue Jun 4 20:51:07 IST 2002

Jamatia 'Hoda', a unique institution 
By Our Special Correspondent 

There was a time-in not so remote past-when jamatia
'hoda okra' (head priest and supreme community leader)
would order summary execution of his hindu tribal
brethren found guilty of serious offences against the
community. A chilling reminder of the power and clout
wielded by the 'okras' of the-by now more than a lakh
strong-hindu jamatia community is an incident that
occurred in 1985. The golden 'garia' image (highest
deity of the jamatia community) had been stolen from a
makeshift temple at Koraikaplabari under Udaipur
subdivision. The thieves were nabbed within a short
while and the image was reinstalled after mandatory
consecration. The six jamatia youths charged with the
theft were ordered to be buried alive by the 'hoda'
under the stewardship of the then all-powerful 'okra',
forty seventh in the line, Siddhi Kumar Jamatia. No
complaint against the order was ever registered with
the police by anyone of the community. Since then
pronouncement of death penalty-always the last option
for 'hoda okras' has not been heard of but the supreme
community leaders continue to hold near complete sway
over the socio-religious and cultural affairs of the
jamatia community. It is this clout and committed
support of the tribal brethren that inspire the
incumbent 'okras', 52nd in the line, to carry on their
crusade against the banned NLFT militants. During the
past three years jamatia 'hoda' has been the rallying
point for Tripura's hindu tribesmen in their
resistance against the 'gun-point conversion drive'of
the church-backed NLFT rebels. Speaking on the issue
noted scholar Dr Jagadish Ganchowdhury said 'jamatia
tribesmen had always been favoured subjects of
Tripura's manikya dynasty monarchs becasue they were
the first to settle down to conventional cultivation
on plainland and they formed the bulk of the
'maharaja's armed forces. Asserting that jamatia
tribesmen have been orthodox hindus over the past five
hundred years Dr Gan Chowdhury said 'because of their
martial tradition jamatias have always been a proud
community steadfastly preserving their religious faith
and cultural tradition and you will be surprised to
know that in their annual reports the erstwhile
british resident commissioners have referred to at
least two cases of sati among jamatia tribesmen in the
eighteenth century'. The 'hoda' (community council) of
the jamatya tribesmen is a unique institution without
a parallel in any other hindu tribal communities in
northeast or in the rest of the country. The
institution of 'hoda' as a guardian of the community
was launched in the year 1510 during the reign of king
Dhanya Manikya (1490-1520) and incumbent 'okras', Mr
Bikram Bahadur and Mr Haricharan Jamatia, elected by
the community council for three years, are the 52nd in
the line. In their continuing struggle against the
outlawed NLFT militants under the leadership of Bikram
Bahadur and Haricharan Jamatia the community has made
lot of sacrifices. While both the 'okras' continue to
be marked men as many as six innocent 'hoda' members
lost their lives in NLFT attack at Noabari on
September 2 this year. Earlier on December 29 last
year as many as 21 'hoda' volunteers were kidnapped en
masse though the search operation launched by jamatia
youths as well as police personnel ensured the safe
return of all of them. Before that the durga puja'
pandal of 'okra' Bikram Bahadur had been fired upon by
NLFT rebels at Hodrai under Teliamura police station
area on October 3 last year. There has not been any
major attack on the community or its leaders over the
past two months but the threat and intimidation
continue as the NLFT rebels have initiated a move to
force jamatias to pay 'tax' denied them over the past
few years at the instance of the 'hoda'. The secretary
of the jamatia 'hoda' Mr Rampada Jamatia said on
December 8-9 the 411 state conference of the jamatya
'hoda' will come off in Moupasha area under Amarpur
subdivision to discuss a new strategy to protect the
interests of the community in matters of religious
faith, culture and community affairs. The conference
will be attended by representatives of 321 jamatia
'paras' (localities) and 16 'mayals' (panchayats)
spread over the West and South Tripura districts of
the state where the jamatias are settled. Mr Rampada
Jamatia said the 'hoda' would shortly launch a
programme of setting up schools,'garia missions',
orphanages and other cultural centres. A large plot of
land has been acquired by the 'hoda' in the Atharobula
area under Udaipur subdivision where the foundation
stone of a huge complex was laid by Union Tribal
welfare minister Mr Joel Oram on October 7. Mr Rampada
jamatia said central intervention was an urgent need
to resolve the problem of tribal militancy in Tripura
but asserted that the jamatia community would carry on
its struggle against all forms of militancy and
violence to ensure proper development of the community
in all respects.

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