Priti Bindu Chakma
Demand for putting an end to the conflicts and bloodshed among the regional parties, once again, has been raised at the CHT regional and national levels following the recent Bandarban Bagmara Bazaar gunfight that claimed 6 souls including 2 leaders belonged to the Jana Samhati Samiti (MN Larma) widely known as the ‘Reformists’ on 7 July 2020. With this, on 12 July 2020, the daily Samakal also published an article titled: ‘Let the bloodshed be stopped in the hills’ authored by Dr. Rahman Nasir Uddin, the renowned teacher of Chittagong University and also most beloved friend of the indigenous peoples. Needless to say, getting bloodshed stopped in the hills is undoubtedly an earnest urgency. But how bloodshed can get stopped, if heat is given all the time, if some or the other group comes to play role of the Razakars?
The CHT Accord 1997 was signed for peaceful and political solution to the CHT crisis, which vastly came to be known as ‘Peace Accord.’ The Accord was signed with support of the three armed forces of the country – one of the major influential organs of state machineries. But after signing of the Accord, the government inter alia the ruling class did not step forward in implementing the Accord. However, the government has though implemented many sections of the Accord yet the key issues/sections on which the very basis of the ‘special administration system’ depends and the sections wherein the right of self-determination of the Jumma people and Bengali permanent residents of the CHT is vested – all those sections have been left unimplemented throughout the last 23 years.
The CHT Accord having not yet been implemented even after 23 years proves that the Awami League government led by Sheikh Hasina though signed the Accord, has not been interested in awarding the right of self-determination as had been enshrined in the Accord. Though the three forces of the country were in consensus of signing the Accord, yet to what extent that they have been respectful to the Accord has become clear as the day over the last 23 years. Consequently, in one end, as the government and specific quarters of the state machineries keep maintaining dilly-dallying tactics in implementing the Accord, as so is its multi-conspiring design to retard the Accord-implementing process and to direct the CHT crisis to different course as to conceal the failure of implementing the Accord, on the other.
The profuse bloodshed in the hills is the yielding of that conspiracy. It may be recalled that a portion of the PCP (Pahari Chhatra Parishad i.e. Hill Students Council) began to oppose the Accord no sooner getting it signed in 1997, the offshoot of which, later on, came to existence as UPDF (United Peoples Democratic Front) led by Prasit Bikash Khisa and Rabi Shankar Chakma in 1998. Their aim of ‘Full Autonomy’ or let it be an aim for attaining right of any measure, it was they who right from pelting stones at the PCJSS members who came to attend the occasion of the arms deposition and later on, switching over to armed attacks which, have never been far-sighting actions. This has resulted in offering self-defensive encounters on part of some PCJSS members. This statement may not be acceptable to the UPDF leadership but it is the fact that by then the UPDF armed cadres, having camped adjacent to the security forces’ stations, carried out attacks upon the PCJSS members and supporters under indulgence of the security forces concerned. At such, conflicts and shedding blood got escalated to further extent. Dialogues in series were held at local and higher levels of the two sides for an understanding. Mutual agreements were also signed to that regard. But it was due to lacking of sincerity and goodwill towards each other and above all, due to conspiracy of the ruling class and the military, the treaties continued to get violated repeatedly.
▍It was amid the bad weather of emergency, instead of maintaining unity and integrity, some PCJSS leading workers, having been tainted and supported by the army and Intelligence forces, got imbibed in conspiracy of Groupism in the name of being vocal against irregularities and mismanagement.
During the emergency period in 2007-2008, the military junta while making use of the emergency situation raised a voice of so-called ‘Reform’ and as the way it meted out suppressive measures upon the national political parties and conspired to split them, similarly, it also meted out suppression and oppression upon the PCJSS, the regional political party and provoked the leadership to split up. It was amid the bad weather of emergency, instead of maintaining unity and integrity, some PCJSS leading workers, having been tainted and supported by the army and Intelligence forces, got imbibed in conspiracy of Groupism in the name of being vocal against irregularities and mismanagement. Consequently, the PCJSS leadership expelled those Reformist leaders during its 9th National Conference held in 2010. On the contrary, in reprisal, the Reformists declared a separate political party named ‘Jana Samhati Samiti’ (MN Larma) under leadership of Sudha Sindhu Khisa and Tatindra Lal Chakma in an assembly of workers held in the same year. By then, the UPDF also provoked the split of PCJSS by providing shelter and support to the Reformists.
Thus, as the third party, the Reformists got involved in the two-party conflict over the ‘for’ and ‘against’ the CHT Accord issue. Now the polarization of the conflict stood, in one end, the PCJSS while the UPDF and Reformists, on the other. At certain phase of the existent reality and interest of all the three sides, dialogue began with the UPDF and Reformists for two separate processes. As a result, conflict and violation got reduced to notable extent. Especially, violations among the three sides got completely stopped from 2015. Finding a ‘stop’ to the inter-party violations among the three contending parties, sleep of the conspiring army and intelligence forces got lost. They began to hatch new webs of conspiracy as to find out how conflict could restart again. The army-sponsored various yellow news portals went on belching out propaganda pointing out: “How the regional parties could forget mutual animosity and get united on the affairs against the Bengali people! Outwardly, though they are contending groups but practically, they are team ‘A’ and ‘B’, etc.”
In this circumstance, the army began to withdraw their blessing from the UPDF following some of their reckless programs. Especially, it includes: prevention of the people going to attend meeting of Prime Minister Hasina prior to 2014 election, boycotting the ‘Martyr’s Day’ or ‘International Mother Language Day’, etc. among others. This yielded in throwing away the UPDF and picking up the Reformists with full support.
In continuation, with support of the army and initiative of the Reformists, a new armed formation named: UPDF (Democratic) was formed with the inactive and ousted UPDF members headed by Tapan Jyoti Chakma and Shyamal Kanti Chakma Joleya. No sooner the UPDF (Democratic) came to being, it began to attack the Prasit-Rabi Shankar-led UPDF with support of the Reformists. Consequently, the already stopped armed conflict and violation began to occur again. Meanwhile, in such situation, the fratricidal armed conflict took a fresh moving shape when Shaktiman Chakma, Chairman of Naniarchar Upazila Parishad was killed in an attack in May 2018 and on the following day, 6 persons including Tapan Jyoti Chakma were killed in another attack.
During General Election held in 2018, conflict and violation extended to 4 sides when the Reformists helped the Awami League candidate in robbing the ballot papers against the PCJSS candidate under incitement and indulgence of the army. Now, the Reformists have become ‘B’ Team of the state security forces. The Reformists and UPDF (Democratic) are now playing the role what the Razakar and Mujahid forces of East Pakistan had played the role during the Liberation War in 1971.
▍The matter did not confine to that extent, during the last General Election, the local Awami League leadership brought in the foreign armed organization ‘Arakan Liberation Party’ (ALP) in Rajasthali and Kaptai of Rangamati Hill District and in Rowangchhari, Ruma and Sadar Upazila of Bandarban Hill District to make use them in the election for their own favour. With the task, the army and intelligence forces also extended support to ALP to act against the PCJSS.
The matter did not confine to that extent, during the last General Election, the local Awami League leadership brought in the foreign armed organization ‘Arakan Liberation Party’ (ALP) in Rajasthali and Kaptai of Rangamati Hill District and in Rowangchhari, Ruma and Sadar Upazila of Bandarban Hill District to make use them in the election for their own favour. With the task, the army and intelligence forces also extended support to ALP to act against the PCJSS. In recent days, the local Marma members left ALP and formed an armed organization, so-called ‘Mog Party.’ The army is now playing a match-making role to establish a linkage between the Reformists and Mog Party. “Some leaders of the local Awami League gave shelter to this organization,” it was mentioned in the report of Samakal newspaper on 13 July 2020. Needless to mention that the military and it is intelligence department supplied arms and ammunition to all parties they created.
During Emergency period in 2007-2008, as the way the army had escorted the UPDF armed cadres to Jurachhari, Bilaichhari and Rajasthali Upazilas of Rangamati Hill District and in Balaghata under Bandarban sadar of Bandarban Hill district to escalate inter-party conflict, quite similarly, this time, the army by detailing own escort parties, has brought the Reformists and UPDF (Democratic) armed terrorist groups from Khagrachhari Hill district to Subalong of Barkal Upazila, Jibtali of Rangamati, Dighinala of Khagrachhari and in Baghmara of Bandarban hill district. In its light, “an influential section helps the Reformist group to carry out their activities in Bandarban,” the daily Purbakone reported on 9 July 2020. The army has opened up an opportunity by letting those armed terrorist groups carry out free-hand terrorist activities including extortion, kidnapping, killing, etc. in those areas. The terrorist groups carry out attacks upon the army-indicated targets and kill members of their counter parts. Consequently, their counter-parts also do not commit mistake to encounter them in reprisal, if the opportunity prevails.
But the question arises, since it is usual that there might be conspiracy of the ruling class in any given political struggle but why the regional parties should step into the conspiracy? Needless to say that in any national liberation struggle as there are devoted fighters who are readily available for self-sacrifice so there are traitor parties like Mirzafar and Razakars too. Now, while stepping into conspiracy hatched by the ruling class many, under regional party banners, are playing the roles of Mirzafar and Razakars. It is for this reason, blood shedding in the CHT is gradually getting heightened instead of lowering. But the ray of hope that still remains: conflict among the main-stream regional parties has remained stop as to this day. People of all strata wish that they do not step into the ruling party conspiracy and get involved in the inter-party clash again.
Thus is the way that the conflicts and violations remain lively in the CHT with the support of the army and the quarters seated in the power. In greater interest, instead of political and peaceful solution to the CHT crisis through execution of the CHT Accord, why the army and government provoke conflict and violation in the CHT? If it is judged outwardly, it cannot be believed as to why the army and government will provoke conflict and violation in the CHT. But if the issue is judged through an in-depth view, it will vividly appear that the army and government never want that the Jumma people get back their right to self-determination as has been enshrined in the Accord. They do not want that the Jumma-inhabited feature of the CHT should remain intact; the Bengali settlers set their illegally occupied lands of the Jumma people free and return to the actual owners of Jumma people and get obliged to go back from CHT.
Hence, the aim of the army and the ruling class behind providing support to the actors responsible for conflicts and violations in the CHT is: to nullify the CHT Accord and to void implementation process of the Accord; to destroy the movement of the Jumma people for their right to self-determination and over all, to turn the non-Muslim inhabited CHT into a Muslim-inhabited region. The special interest on part of the army behind the issue is: to legalize their presence on plea of instable situation in the CHT; to continue to receive special grant allotted for military purpose; to gain promotion by arresting so called terrorists and arms holders; and over all, to gain a handsome amount from extortion realized by their supported armed stakeholders. There is a great deal of talk that a portion of money realized out of extortion by the Reformists and UPDF (Democratic) travels ranging from the local camp Commander to the GOC of 24 Infantry Division. It is for the reason of concealing their misdeeds, the army and ruling party people are often heard saying trifling plea: ‘The principal obstruction that comes on the way to implementation of the Accord is illegal arms, violations and conflicts among the regional parties.’ In fact, whatever the extent that the regional parties are involved in violations and conflicts, however, they are not creating any obstruction in the affairs that include: establishment of self-governance, recovery of dispossessed lands and preservation of Jumma-inhabited feature of the CHT alongside implementation of the Accord.
Although the army was not mentioned due to fear of retaliation, the news published in Samakal on 13 July 2020 gave some indication of it. The report said, “This is the ruling party Awami League who is the fuel behind the fratricidal conflict. Attempts are being made to cover up the real cause of the incident by bringing the issue of infighting, domination and extortion before the media. These conflicts are created to justify the non-implementation of the Peace Accord.”
Here, in this regard, Dr. Rahman Nasir Uddin is right to point out by saying: ‘Whenever there occurs an event of killing, an effort is seen with an explanation that it has been an act of extortion and for expansion of dominance.’ It is not that the issues of extortion and expanding dominance is at all absent behind violations and conflicts. The financial power is an integral factor in any struggle – be it a revolutionary party or a gang of miscreants without money none of their functions is possible to forge ahead. Hence, any armed group is bound to collect money in subscription. But it can be said without any hesitation that the amount of money that is collected through extortion is negligible in contrast to the amount that has to be paid in all the controlling points guarded under the army and Forest Department regulating the exploration and transportation of the forest and natural resources.
▍Hence, extortion is not the cause behind conflicts and violations. Behind it, the thing that matters most is the far-reaching conspiracy of the army and ruling class that comes to power in alternative turns. But the media, civil society and political leadership of the country, none dares to extol the paradoxical reality for fear of the army and DGFI (Directorate General Field Intelligence).
The percentage given to the struggling party is extremely meagre as compared to the percentage paid to the ruling party goons controlling the tenders and to the office bosses robbing and dealing with the development programs. This comparison can be as similar as the local adage that goes: ‘Asking about the ship by a go-in-between ginger seller.’ Hence, extortion is not the cause behind conflicts and violations. Behind it, the thing that matters most is the far-reaching conspiracy of the army and ruling class that comes to power in alternative turns. But the media, civil society and political leadership of the country, none dares to extol the paradoxical reality for fear of the army and DGFI (Directorate General Field Intelligence). Hence, whatever the magnitude of suppression, oppression and atrocities meted out in the CHT, every quarter resorts to policy of turning a ‘blind eye’ to and pretends to be ignorant as to avoid the fact.
It is also rational to say that the armed elements of self-styled regional parties that step in ruling class conspiracy and plunge into inter-party conflicts and violations, also cannot avoid the responsibility. But the extent that the regional parties are responsible, the army and government are much more responsible for the inter-party blood shedding conflicts and violations in the CHT. It is for the re-fuelling on part of the army and ruling class, the conflicts and violations that already stopped, repeatedly get revived and rejuvenated. Hence, if the blood shedding violations in the CHT is to be stopped for once and all, it is left with no alternative but to crash the conspiracy of the ruling class and of course, the military too. The bloodshed in the Chittagong Hill Tracts will never stop if this vicious cycle of conspiracy by the state forces cannot be stopped. Therefore, it can safely be said that it is only by attrition to all kinds of reactionary designs and conspiracy of the ruling class against the Accord and interest of the Jumma people and through bringing the government under compulsion to implement the Accord, the blood shedding conflicts and violations in the CHT could be stopped.