Journey Through Bangladesh
Family feud displaces Princess Unika Devi, Prince Rajib Roy and their three daughters
The Mong Royal Palace
THE 214 hundred years old Mong Royal Houses are quietly approaching their ruin. Careworn and neglected, stripped of their valuable possessions by looters, their surrounding lands occupied by powerful groups, the Royal Houses of Manikchhari uppazila find themselves at the mercy of a community of which they used to form the proud centre. Inter family feud and factional divisions have ripped apart the Mong royal family, leaving them in position to be able to defend their possessions.
According to the annals of the royal family, King Kong Joy Sain was the first Mong King to rule from the Manikchhari palace, in 1796. The current king, King Saching Prue Chowdhury, in nominal power since 2009, is the eleventh of the line.
All Mong kings have ruled over the Chittagong Hill Tracts, especially the ethnic Marma community dominated areas. Before moving the seat of power to Manikchhari, Ukhiya of Cox's Bazar district, Roujan, Hathhazari and Fatikchhari of Chittagong District were their capitals. Today many uncared for structures remain in those places, a
stark reminder of the transient nature of power.
The seventh Mong King Mong Prue Sein, who ruled the Mong Kingdom from 1954 to 1984, was an active freedom fighter and fought many battles against the Pakistani occupations forces and local collaborators, sources said
His wife Rani Nihar Devi took charge of the kingdom after his death in 1984 and continued till 1991. But after her death in 1991, her foster-daughter Unika Devi took up the yolk of power. In 1996, in a controversial move, the national government deemed Unika Devi unfit to rule due to her status as the foster daughter, and nominated Paihalaprue Chowdhury as the tenth Mong king. At that time, Paihalaprue Chowdhury was working as the district Information Officer.
Princes Unika Devi filed a write petition in high court division of Supreme Court challenging the nomination of Raja Paihalaprue Chowdhury and the case is still pending.
Meanwhile, Prince Sachingprue Chowdhury came to power as the eleventh king on January 17, 2009, after his father, the tenth King, was killed in a road accident.
Princess Unika Devi
In an Interview, Prince Unika Devi alleged that 15 years worth of law-suits, counter law-suits and government intervention has cost the region dearly.
“While I have been busy fighting through the legal system to regain the chief post of my kingdom, inter family feud has made things almost intolerable at home”, she said.
Unika Devi, owner of some 858.88 acres of land at Manikchhari and its nearby areas in Khagrachhari district, claims that her elder Son Kumar Ching Prue Sain and younger song Suiching Prue Sain jointly misappropriated 25.37 acres of first class land, including the palace, and 8.24 acres second class land through forgery.
“They took my signature when I was ill and barely conscious, now they don't even allow us in my own palaces. I have been forced to live in rented houses in Chittagong”, she said.
“My sons and their musclemen kept the main entrance of the palace under lock and key when I, along with my husband Rajib Roy and our three daughters went to the Manikchhari palace on August 23, 2009 for my elder son Chingprue Sain's Funeral” continues Unika Devi. She claims that she had to enlist the services of security personnel to gain access to her son's cremation ceremony.
When contacted, Suiching Prue Sain, son of Unika Devi, denied any wrongdoing to have taken place. He said the land was given to him be his willing mother, without any form of coercion. He refused to comment on the forgery case filled against him.
Asked about the events of August 23, he said “We resist her entrance to the palace as she is conspiring to deprive us from our share of the properties”.
Prince Rajib Roy denied having any designs of depriving his sons from their properties, but admitted that the gap in their relations has, at least to some extent, to do with the large property holdings Unika has to her name.
Current Mong King Price Sachingprue said Unika Devi become the owner of her holding through legal means, and the government should assist her if any attempts are made to usurpe her properties.
Additional Deputy Commissioner admitted about that situation was problematic, and said that the authorities did not intervene as this was considered a family matter.
(R) thedailystar.net 2009