Manikjon Para and Durjodhon Para are two nearby villages of Saint Peter’s Church, Lama. Manikjon para is only two minutes walking distance from the church and Durjodhon para is about 10 minutes. I was privileged to take a walk through these two villages accompanied by Rev Fr. Samar Dango, OMI and Sr. Mamata Palma, LHC during one of my visits to Lama parish. Oblate priest Fr. Samar Dango was the first parish priest of Lama upon it’s creation on 2013 till 2017. Then he also became the first rector of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Minor Seminary at Alikadam from 2018-2022.
Sr. Mamata Palma, LHC also served in the Lama parish during 2014-15. She was the house superior of LHC sisters at Lama. On the other hand, I visited the parish only couple of times before. During our walk both Fr. Samar and Sr. Mamata were reminiscing their pastoral experience in the Lama parish. During that time, it was completely a different scenario. Roads, electricity, transport these were just a dream back then for the people at Lama.
Our little walk was halted several times as many of the passers by came to greet Fr. Samar and Sr. Mamata. Some of the older people in the area don’t understand Bengali very well but the conversation didn’t stop. Both Fr. Samar and Sr. Mamata exchanged thoughts by the means of few Kokborok (Tripura vocabulary) words learnt from their previous experience in the area. Apart from the few passers by who were mostly old people, I didn’t see any other adults in the villages we were going through. I only found the children playing around by themselves.
Where is everybody? Sr. Mamata then told me that both the parents go to the fields early in the morning for Jhum cultivation and return just before dusk. Then slowly the villages get lively. lighths will be lit one by one and the houses will be cheerful. But till then the children will be all by themselves. So night time might be the best time to be in this villages.
One special thing about these two villages is that whenever any program is arranged and people from all other villages come to the parish center they are accommodated by the people of these two villages. This is a very good example of the solidarity in the Catholic church. Along with Fr. Samar and Sr. Mamata I went inside a house and was amazed to see that here were no furniture in the house but there was an alter with.
The tribal people are very simple. They live very close to the nature. But most of the time They are suppressed and oppressed in many ways. They are easily deceived by the cunning Bengali settlers. They don’t get good price for their crops. They are being pushed more and more deeper in the rural areas and the plain lands are being occupied by the settlers. Tribal farmers face many problems if they want to cultivate their lands by themselves. For example, crops are destroyed by cattle, stolen by the local children, rotten crops etc. As a consequence they are forced to lease their lands to Bengali settlers after which all the problems miraculously vanishes. Our walk went on through the peaceful villages, through the bittersweet lives of the tribal people in CHT.
Mickey Paul Gonsalves Development Coordinator, Archdiocese of Chattogram