Conflict in the CHT and Ways of its Transition


Nilotpal Khisa

The Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) has been turned into a volatile, confronting and insecure region. Here, normal life is interrupted, trampled. People are always driven with despair, fear, anxiety and apprehension. The root causes are state conspiracy, terrorism, divide and rule policy towards the Jumma people formulated by government resulting disunity, riot, communal attack and autocratic attitude of the local administration.

It is universally recognized a fact that only implementation of the CHT Accord in precision and full signed in 2nd December 1997 is the solution to the CHT crisis. Land dispute settlement, political rights to the Jumma people, preservation and enrichment of history and tradition, social and political rights must be ensured. On the other hand, the end of suppression, oppression and persecution such as insecurity, rape, disappearance, abduction and realization of ransom, arbitrary arrest, filling fabricated and false case and the arrest is possible only through the implementation of the CHT Accord.

Though progressive, humanitarian and democratic people are vocal to settle the CHT crisis through implementation of the Accord, a vested-quarter of government, military and civil bureaucrats are the main hindrance to it. These anti-Accord quarters are exposing themselves as mean, undemocratic, ultra-nationalist and ultra-communal minded. The people with the spirit of the liberation war and development-wishing people have to face these anti-Accord elements for the greatest interest of the country and it is a demand of time.

The Jumma people consist of 14 ethnic group speak in different languages in CHT obliged to live in their own land in a suffocating state like outsider. Though the Jumma people are distinct from the majority Bengali people in Bangladesh, their distinct identities have not been recognized in the constitution of Bangladesh. Rather they have been defined as Bengali. On the other hand, their national identities were neglected by defining them as ‘tribes’, ‘minor races’, ‘ethnic sects’, ‘communities’ in the constitution which the Jumma peoples could not accept, and impossible to do that.

Instead of recognizing them as JUMMA in the constitution, they were called as ‘tribes’, ‘minor races’, ‘ethnic sects’, ‘communities’, neglecting and denying their national identities, which the Jumma people could not concede in the past, and as well in future. The mean, heinous and insulting motive of Bengalization of the Jumma people is nothing but an initiative of cleansing the Jumma peoples. It is very simple that such injudicious actions make the Jumma peoples bear extreme fighting approach in mind for regaining their rights.

The struggle for the rights of the Jumma people from 1982 to date can be divided into two parts. In the 1st portion we find that the formation of the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti in 1972 and the democratic and non-constitutional movement for the realization of the rights of the Jumma people under its leadership came to a successful conclusion on 2 December 1997 with the signing of the CHT Accord. It was the Bangladesh government that pushed the Jumma people into the movement in which the Jumma people were subjected to indescribable oppression, torture, murder, rape, land grabbing and many other human rights violations. The then Awami League government ignored and rejected a demand of four points for autonomy.

The 2nd portion of the struggle shows that soon after the signing of the Accord, the continuous anti-Accord activities and conspiracy by a section of the government and the army and DGFI working in the hills planted seeds of doubt in the minds of the people about the government’s goodwill in implementing the Accord. The government got stuck in speeches over settlement of land dispute, removal of temporary army camps, devolution of powers and functions and election to the three Hill District Councils and CHT Regional Council. There has been contradictory between actions and speeches of the government. Moreover, it has been continuing false and confusing statement over the state of implementation process of the Accord.

Besides, the activists of the PCJSS which is a signatory party of the CHT Accord were entangled in falsehood cases and compelled to flee from their area. The CHT Affairs Ministry and three Hill District Councils which has been achieved through struggle are being manipulated against anti-Accord activities. Consequently, the Jumma peoples are obliged to a wage a democratic movement for implementation of the Accord and still going on. But all avenue of democratic movement to realize the demand was virtually blocked by of Bangladesh military and DGFI posted in the CHT. So, realistically a question arises that will the Jumma people be destroyed then? Or will compel the government to implement the Accord by waging a greater or high-degree struggle? In regard to movement, what will be the form of the movement? Even before that, a question remains, why is the state pushing the Jumma people towards a tougher movement?

The army and intelligence agencies posted in the CHT have been executing blueprint one after another to destroy leaderships of the PCJSS. The army have been carrying out propaganda and activities to incite the people of Bangladesh against the Jumma people and avail financial facilities. They have exclusive influence over all business including timber and contract businesses and are picking up their shares from that. These seem to be irremediable.

The army and DGFI in the hills have created and assisted armed terrorist groups and established a reign of terror. In fact, they are the main perpetrators of all the misdeeds in CHT such as supporting armed terrorist groups in the region, inciting conflict, communal attitudes and attacks as well as killings, abductions, false charges and arrests, extrajudicial killings through cross-firing, extortion, torture of women, rape, harassment, and so on.

A stable environment is needed in the country for the overall development of Bangladesh and for building a united and prosperous Bangladesh. But how will this country prosper by keeping the CHT unstable. Therefore, it is true that proper implementation of the CHT Accord is the only way to end the conflict in the region. If the government moves in the wrong direction or in the wrong way with the false, fabricated and motivated reports of the army and intelligence agencies posted in CHT, then the conflict will intensify.

If so, the government and the army will be responsible for this. And the ongoing struggle for the rights of the Jumma people can be suppressed through ongoing repression, injustice and harassment. It is not only foolish to expect that, it would be extremely suicidal.