In December 2015, the online media became freaky over a Facebook post of one Major of the Bangladesh army. In his FB post, terming the Jumma people ‘crazy’, he called them for a fight.
He wrote that the army would need hardly one month to annihilate the Jumma people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), on receipt of order from the government. Referring to his FB post, many became vocal against the author. All those conscience people even among from Bengali community offered a strong criticism over the post. Thereafter, the ID of that Major Mohammad Rezaur Rahman was no more to be noticed in the social media. Since, the ID of the genre is no more in existence by now, hence, who is to take responsibility for such statement, anyway! It means, probably, all those categories are creation of the media.
However, such statement of an army officer may sound to be unfair to people of the outer world but such is not an unusual issue to us. To us who are ethnically of ‘indigenous hillman’, such behavioral manner of an army officer is rather expectable. Generally, an army officer represents the organizational culture, their thoughts, tastes and outlook of the institution. The state policy gets reflected through activities of the army concerned, since, the state makes the army think in accordance with the state policy and they really think on the given line of thought.
The Bangladesh army, as an institution, as the way it gives mental shape to all its ranks and files including the officials of the military intelligence and the army-led para-military forces, and hence, such inner-motive exposition is very likely to appear in the social media. In fact, seeing the post that day, it reminds me as I heard many saying the statement made by an army official that they want the land of the hill – not the Jumma people living therein.
At the very beginning of the ‘counter-insurgency war’ in 1977, it was a General who expressed his longing desire of uprooting the Jumma people from the hills – it is said. The General did all what necessitated to turn the hills a land free of Jumma people and what he did – we, the generations of the time grew up seeing and hearing of the saga.
Sort of these words never appears in the media – the news of CHT never comes into light penetrating the darkness of ‘Black out’ and ‘censorship’ so imposed. The recent instance of coercion upon media by the military authority is prohibition on giving advertisements in the Prothom Alo and Daily Star. Alongside imposition of embargo on publication of all news, sending and receiving news from outside and researching work in the hills are all about to face closure. Since, meanwhile, foreigners’ access to talking to the Jumma people without presence of representative from the army or administration has already been closed by merit of directives from the Ministry of Home issued in 2015.
The state security forces have the direct and indirect bearing role in maintaining the culture of lacking justice and creating terror in the hills. Many in the country are not aware of what were the misdeed of actions done by the said Military General to ruin the sons of the soil just for the sake of ‘land’ only. We, the sufferers, know. But I will not be able to produce data and information as valid evidences. Yet the truth never remains earthed. It is also possible to unearth the truth from the fossils that lie under soil for thousands of years.
It is his successors working relentlessly to fulfill the longings of that General and here I am penning this write-up to expose their ill-design. This writing basically contains the statement of human rights violations by the Bangladesh army in Chittagong Hill Tracts. Emphasis has been laid upon the events of human rights violations that have taken place during the post-Accord era. But for discourse sake, the relevant events occurred during insurgency have also been brought forth.
Optimal information of the write-up has been derived from the joint Report of the ‘International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs’, ‘Shimin Gaikou Center’ and ‘Organizing Committee CHT Campaign’ titled: ‘Militarization in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh – the Slow Demise of the Region’s Indigenous Peoples’. The Report was prepared with the financial support extended by the Department NORAD under the Foreign Ministries of Denmark and Norway.
It was expected that the peace would prevail in the CHT/hills after signing of the CHT Accord. But though the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) bade farewell to the guerilla warfare, the state and its security forces had a different plan. The ‘Operation Uttoron’ (Operation Upliftment), which had been promulgated during the Awami League government in 2001, the BNP-led government that came to power later, intensified its excecution sturdily replacing the ‘Operation Dabanol’(Operation Wildfire) persuaded by General H.M. Ershad. But the executive power and program of the army has remained unchanged as before. The pre-Accord period had witnessed 15 massacres while according to some others 13 massacres perpetrated by the Bangladesh army.
In 1979, the then Ziaur Rahman government started bringing in and settling down the Muslim Bengali people from plains as a measure supplementing the counter-insurgency war. By then, some 4 hundred thousand of Bengali Muslim people were rehabilitated – who are locally called ‘settlers’. The settlers were used as ‘human shield’ to protect the guerrilla attacks. The war between state security forces and Shanti Bahini was given a shape of racial conflict through involving the settlers deliberately. The two ethnic races have been pushed toward conflict. Village Defense Party (VDP) and Ansar Force have been recruited from among the settlers and trained them. The army has led the settlers directly or indirectly in each communal attack upon the indigenous peoples and that way the settlers have been incited to killing missions. The killing events jointly led by the army, para-military unit (including the former Bangladesh Rifles), police, Ansar, VDP forces have been mentioned as state-sponsored killings in the Report.
During the whole span of post-Accord period, it is the army that has been providing all-round support to the settlers to turn the CHT region into a zone of terror for the indigenous Jumma people. Of many instances, worthy to be mentioned are: organizing the settlers in regional political formations such as, ‘Parbatya Chattagram Somo Odhikar Andolon’ (CHT Equal Rights Movement), ‘Bangalee Gono Parishad’, ‘Bangalee Chhatra Porishad’ (Bengali Students Council), etc. and with them to create an environment of communal hatred in the CHT. Besides, forcible eviction of the indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands has now become an easy and a task of every day.
The settlers have been turned into an instrument for all kinds of national aggression and repression including rape, communal attack, arson, looting and creation of terror. As it has been mentioned earlier that the state army has a direct and indirect role to keep the culture of having no access to judiciary and terror in the hills. Statements of two human rights violation events have been dealt at the end of the write-up that has covered up to 2011. Afterward, wide-ranging racial attacks occurred in the years of 2012, 2013 and 2014 respectively in Rangamati, Matiranga of Khagrachari and Naniarchar of Rangamati Hill district. Extra-judicial killings by the army continue to occur to this day. Arbitrary arrest, harassment, physical torture and death under army custody are in the increase. As a result of illegal occupation of lands by the army officials and settlers, the indigenous peoples have landed at the edge of marginalization. The raping statistics of indigenous women by the army soldiers and settlers is heightening every year.
This writing contains only the large-scale communal attacks and events of arson meted out to the indigenous people from 2001 to 2011. During this span of time, there came to power, the Caretaker Government following the BNP-led government and by now it is the Awami League-led grand alliance in the power. But it is worthy to be noticed that the indigenous Jumma people have never had the opportunity to lead a life free from attacks during the reign of none of the governments. Statistics reveals that within the space from 2004 to 2011, 15 persons were killed; 31 were wounded; 464 were arrested; 5 houses were set ablaze; 7 temples were razed down, 285 persons were evicted; 154 persons were beaten up and 374 persons suffered repression by the army. On the other hand, the span from 2001 to 2011 witnessed that 7 persons were killed; 42 persons were injured, 37 events of looting, 10 events of raping and 1,070 arson events of houses perpetrated by the settlers directly backed by the army.
As I mentioned at the start that it is the army that bears the character of the state. The Jumma people put an end to the guerilla war through signing the CHT Accord 22 years back but it is the army that has not yet stopped the war. It appears that the Bangladesh army is still complying the order of command given by the then General. However, by then it was the Shanti Bahini to fight for the Jumma people but today, there is none to stand by their side. However, a fresh Shanti Bahiniwill have to wake up again.