5 Jumma orgs appealed PM to stop criminalization of activists and to implement CHT Accord

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Hill Voice, 22 September 2019, Canada:  In September 2019, five overseas indigenous Jumma organisations, namely, CHT Indigenous Peoples’ Council of Canada, International Council for the Indigenous Peoples of CHT, European Jumma Indigenous Council from France, Chakma National Council of India from Agartala, American Jumma Council from New York submitted an urgent appeal to HE Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh demanding to stop criminalization of Indigenous Rights Activists in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) and to declare roadmap for fullest implementation of the CHT Accord for the sake of political and peaceful solution to the CHT problem.

The Jumma community bodies expressed their deep concern and regret saying that despite 21 years have passed after signing the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord (hereafter ‘CHT Accord’) between the Government of Bangladesh and the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) on 2 December 1997, the core issues of the Accord remain unimplemented. Hence, substantial progress is yet to be achieved in regard to the peace, development, demilitarization, power-sharing through the CHT Regional Council (CHTRC) and Hill District Councils (HDCs) and meaningful engagement of the indigenous peoples in the governance of the region.

The unimplemented core issues of the CHT Accord include, among others, preservation of indigenous inhabited-features of the CHT region; transfer of all subjects and functions, such as, general administration, law & order, police, land & land management, forest & environment and development of communication etc., to be under the jurisdiction of the CHT Regional Council and the three Hill District Councils, and their enforcement thereof; holding of elections to these councils by adopting the Electoral Rules and Election Rules of the Councils; resolution of land disputes and adoption of the Rules of the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission; rehabilitation of internally displaced persons and India returnee refugees to their respective homesteads with restitution of their lands to their rightful ownership; dismantling of all temporary military camps including the de facto military rule ‘Operation Uttoran’; cancellation of land leases given to the non-residents; appointment of permanent residents to all services available in the CHT on priority basis; amendments all other relevant laws applicable in CHT including the CHT Regulation 1900, Bangladesh Police Act 1861 and Police Regulation in accordance with the spirit of the Accord; rehabilitation of the Bengali Muslim settlers outside CHT with due honor and dignity.

Due to non-implementation of the CHT Accord, systemic human rights violations by the military and law-enforcement forces continue unabated in the CHT region with full impunity. Recently the criminalization of indigenous rights activists including members and supporters of the PCJSS and the UPDF (United Peoples’ Democratic Force) engaged in the movement for bringing peace in the CHT labeling them as terrorists, arm criminals, extortionists, separatists etc. has been intensified alarmingly by the government and military forces. This has resulted in arbitrary arrest, so-called cross-fire and extra-judicial killing, enforced disappearance, detention and intimidation. In the name of military operation against terrorists and criminals, military and para-military forces and police have been continuing house searching, waking up the Indigenous villagers at midnight followed by arbitrary arrest putting arms with arrestees, brutal physical assault and harassment, violence against indigenous women and girls. Even, the Indigenous activists who were released on bail are being illegally held without warrant by the intelligence agencies and military forces and taken to the army camp wherein they are tortured and having them freshly entangled in other fabricated cases, they are being sent to jail and the religious intolerance have been observed not only in the CHT, outside of the CHT too, such as a monk has been killed recently in a plain district. They cited following some instances-

  1. On March 14, 2019, Mr. Mayadhan Chakma, president of PCJSS of Balukhali union and Mr. Gyana Shankar Chakma (45), a contractor, were arrested from Chittagong city by RAB (Rapid Action Battalion). Mr. Gyana Shankar was shot dead by army and RAB led by Lt. Col. Miftah Uddin Ahmed, commanding officer of RAB-7, in a so-called crossfire at Naikkhyongchari in Bandarban district on April 3, 2019. On the other, Mayadhan Chakma still remains untraced.
  2. On May 15, 2019, Mr. Saya Mong Marma, Chairman of Raikhali union in Kaptai and also President of PCJSS of Raikhali unit and Mr. Kyaisa Aung Marma, Chairman of Chitmoron union in Kaptai and also member of Kaptai unit were sent to jail by court while they appeared before Rangamati Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate court in accordance with anticipatory bail granted by High Court. They were falsely charged for killing of Mr. Aung Sunu Marma and Mr. Jahid Hossain. They were again made shown arrested before getting out from Rangamati jail as per bail granted by High Court, on September 06, 2019, falsely charging them for the killing of the Chairman of Nanyachar Upazila Parishad, Mr. Shaktiman Chakma.
  3. On May 25, 2019, army of Bandarban zone arrested Mr. KS Mong Marma, central member of PCJSS and member of CHT Regional Council and Mr. Kyawba Mong Marma, central member of PCJSS and former chairman of Rowangchari Upazila Parishad while, after being called, they went to Bandarban army zone. After being interrogated for two hours, they were arbitrarily arrested and handed over to Bandarban police station. On the other, at the same time, Mr. Thowai Hla Prue Marma, Headman of Kolakhyong mouza; Mr. Hlaching Mong Marma, Karbari (village head) of Ujipara and Mr. Mong Hla Tripura, Karbari (village head) of Jodarn Para of Huyalong union were taken to police station after arresting them. They all were falsely charged on false allegation and shown arrested in connection with abduction and killing of Mr. Chaw Thui Mong Marma. They were again made shown arrested with another case in last August before getting out from Bandarban jail in accordance with the bail granted by High Court.
  4. On August 08, 2019, RAB-7 with plain cloth and intelligence personnel apprehended Mr. Subhash Chakma, president of PCJSS of Kaukhali unit and a businessman, from the Gate of Chittagong central jail, while he was getting out from jail after gaining bail from High Court. Since then, Mr. Subhash Chakma remained missing. RAB, police or intelligence agencies have been denying to apprehend him. At last on September 11, 2019, he was released in Chittagong. It is worthy to be mentioned that Mr. Subhash Chakma was arrested by the army of the Champatali camp on October 24, 2018 while he went to the camp after being called by the Champatali army camp authority and handed over to police falsely charging him for involvement with the killing of the Chairman of Nanyachar Upazila Parishad, Mr. Shaktiman Chakma.
  5. On August 23, 2019, an innocent youth named Mr. Shanti Moy Chakma was shot dead by the army from Baghaihat zone of 12 Bir Bengal at Sajek union under Baghaichari Upazila in Rangamati district, in the name of cross-fire. His crime was that he was a former member of the UPDF.
  6. On August 25, 2019, a Buddhist monk named Venerable Amritananda Vikkhu was killed by unknown Muslims in Comilla district. This is your government’s inability to safeguard the other religious priests outside of the CHT.
  7. On August 26, 2019 army from Dighinala zone arrested (1) Mr. Nabin Jyoti Chakma, s/o Mr. Dhanyasen Chakma; (2) Mr. Bhujendra Chakma, s/o Mr. Tungyaram Chakma and (3) Mr. Rusil Chakma from the house of Mr. Shanti Moy Chakma of Kripapur village of Dighinala Upazila in Khagrachari district. Then on August 27 at noon the arrestees were shot dead taking them to the jungle close to Binandachuk Bhabana Centre of Dighinala in the name of cross fire. They were active members of the UPDF.
  8. On September 02, 2019, police arrested Mr. Chasa Thowai Marma, Vice Chairman of Thanchi Upazila Parishad and president of PCJSS of Thanchi unit, from the Gate of Bandarban jail in Bandarban district, while getting out from jail after gaining bail from high court. Soon after picking up from jail gate, he was made shown arrest of another new case. He was arrested first in August 2019 falsely charging involvement with the killing of one Mr. Kyaching Thowai Marma.
  9. On September 10, 2019, a settler named Md. Nurul Amin with a group of other Muslims went to occupy the land of an Indigenous person named Mr. Mangkhai Murung in Alikodom, Bandarban district of the CHT. When local Indigenous people tried to stop them from occupying the land, the Muslim group made an attack on them. As a result, Mr. Mangkhai Murung, Mr. Swakkhom Murung, Mr. Tong-a Murung, Mr. Songya Murung and Mr. Laipao Murung were seriously injured who were taken to a nearby hospital.

Rights bodies opined that arbitrary arrest, cross-fire killing, framing in fabricated cases and sending to jail have become a common in the CHT. Similarly, searching and ransacking houses of indigenous peoples and messing up of household belongings has become a part of indigenous peoples’ life. These incidents have caused widespread panic and risk among indigenous rights activists including PCJSS and UPDF members of the region. Hence, more than 500 activists have fled from their respective areas to avoid arrest and intimidation. Unfortunately, these types of scenario were experienced by the indigenous peoples before signing the Accord too. All these acts are destroying the image of your government as well as goodwill earned by Bangladeshi Forces in the UN Peace Keeping Operations.

Therefore, in light of the above stated situation, they appealed to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as well as international communities for urgent action on the following issues:

(a) To stop criminalization of Indigenous Human Rights Defenders including PCJSS and UPDF members and supporters and to stop indiscriminate military operations across the CHT which resulted in illegal household searching, arbitrary arrest, so-called cross-fire and extra-judicial killing, enforced disappearance, detention and intimidation.

(b) To declare a timebound road map for the proper and full implementation of the CHT Accord, including immediate withdrawal of all temporary camps and de facto military rule ‘Operation Uttoron’ from the CHT region, for the sake of political and peaceful solution of CHT problem.

(c) To end the culture of impunity and to ensure access to justice of indigenous peoples including women and girls as per commitment in the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review held in 2013 and 2018.

The appeal was signed by Priti B. Chakma, President of CHT Indigenous Peoples’ Council of Canada; Dr. Aditya K. Dewan, President of International Council for the Indigenous Peoples of CHT; Shaky Mitra Chakma, General Secretary of European Jumma Indigenous Council; Shanti B. Chakma, Assistant General Secretary of Chakma National Council of India; and Shantha Tanchangya, President of American Jumma Council.

The appeal was also copied to Amnesty International, London, UK; Survival International, London, UK; Human Rights Watch, New York, USA; UN Human Rights Commission, Geneva, Switzerland; Department of Peace Keeping Operations, United Nations, New York; European Union, Brussels, Belgium; Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi; Global Affairs, Ottawa, Canada; Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London, UK; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Copenhagen, Denmark; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oslo, Norway; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Hague, The Netherlands; Head of Communication, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Stockholm, Sweden; AIPP, Chiang Mai, Thailand; International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs, Copenhagen, Denmark; CHT Commission, Dhaka, Bangladesh; Dr. A. K. Abdul Momen, Minister of Foreign Ministry, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh; Ashaduzzaman Khan, Minister of Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of the Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh; Bir Bahadur Ushwe Shing MP, State Minister of CHT Affairs Ministry, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh; Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, Chairman of CHT Regional Council, Rangamati; Chairman of National Human Rights Commission, Dhaka.

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