Govt ignores and grossly neglects CHT Accord: Speakers at seminar in Dhaka

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Hill Voice, 9 December 2023, Dhaka: Even after 26 years of signing the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Accord, on 2 December 1997, the core issues of the Accord such as land disputes and devolution of powers remained unimplemented. The present government is not only ignoring the Accord, but so grossly violating it.

The speakers said this in a seminar titled “Necessity of full implementation of the CHT Accord and establishment of hill peoples’ land rights” held at Azimpur Rahman Conference Hall of the Daily Star Bhavan on Friday morning (8 December 2023). Human rights activist and Co-chair of International CHT Commission Adv. Sultana Kamal presided over the event jointly organized by the CHT Commission and Association for Land Rights and Development (ALRD). She said, while the government itself makes laws and agreement, violate those laws and Accord on the other. The government seems to be cunning, and thinks to stay safe breaching laws and agreement by attempting the people making fool. But the people of this country could not be fooled by any dishonesty or hypocrisy.

Chakma Circle Chief Barrister Raja Devashish Roy presented the keynote in the seminar. He pointed out in his presentation that the government often proudly says adoption of various laws, transfer of subjects, project implementation and spending money in the context of implementation of the CHT Accord. But it does not disclose the causes of failure in implementing the Accord. The fundamental issues of the Accord, such as devolution of powers to Regional Council and Hill District Councils, resolution of land disputes, rehabilitation of India-returnee refugees and internally displaced persons, inclusion of hill persons in local administration, effective land commission, task force etc. has not been implemented. The culture and traditions of CHT are now under threat. The problem of CHT is not security problem at all, rather self-governance, not having the right of own culture, tradition, customs and traditional land management and self-determination. Bangladesh, according to the constitution, is supposed to be a non-communal, democratic and pluralistic state, but due to non-implementation of the Accord, it is undertreating.

The CHT Commission member and the coordinator of Nijera Kori, Khushi Kabir said the CHT has been overshadowed by the subculture of hegemony and determinism of Bangladesh. The Bengali settlers, who were settled in the CHT, must support the state hegemony. Although the CHT people deposited their arms according to the terms of the Accord, their rights and demands, especially the right to self-determination, were not met and recognized.

Department of Mass Communication and Journalism of Dhaka University Prof. Robayet Ferdous said, “Just as Israel is not a state, but a project, the CHT Accord too is not an agreement but a project. Keeping the CHT in possession and destroying culture, tradition and self-determination of the area- the Accord was done to establish hegemony, tourism, business and carry out land grabbing. If the CHT indigenous people cannot have their rights, enjoy rights as independent citizen, establish their rights to self-determination, as Bengali Muslim and citizen we do not have freedom, our freedom also has little significance.

President of the CHT Citizen Committee Goutam Dewan said that only officials of the ministries are members of the committee that has been formed to evaluate the CHT Accord. Without putting anyone from Jana Samhati Samiti (JSS), one of the parties of the Accord or hill communities or CHT councils in that committee, if the committee unilaterally says that the implementation of 65 out of 72 sections has been completed, it can never be accepted. We believe in peace. No matter how much persuasion is done, we cannot leave the CHT people to be killed, oppressed and ethnically cleansed like Hamas. He urged to stop- the tactics of marginalizing the indigenous Jumma peoples of CHT by the tourism, land grabbing, attack and aggression on culture.

General Secretary of Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Oikyo Parisad Adv. Rana Dasgupta said that the elimination plan of the Pakistan government took to the minority the Hindus before the liberation war, 52 years after independence, this Bangladesh is implementing it. Our political parties are busy with power sharing, but they are not at all worried about the future of this Bangladesh. The CHT Accord was made by the government, it is the responsibility of the government to implement the Accord. If you don’t fulfill the Accord, you will have to take the bad name as a cheater and fraudster, you cannot avoid the responsibility.

General Secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum Sanjeeb Drong said, in the past, the coverage of the CHT Accord was made in the media, it is no longer promoted. Why it is not happening, why they are not doing it, whether there have control over them, or whether they have lost interest – we do not know. He recommended holding a high-level dialogue on the CHT Accord and said the hill peoples have been cheated for the past 26 years, and demand an answer as to why they have been duped.

Executive Director of ALRD Shamsul Huda said, CHT Land Commission was formed, but can’t they sit or hold meeting, why they cannot do so? Why the laws, adopted for CHT, are not implemented? We must persistently ask this question. The state has been undermining the spirit and values of the liberation war by deceiving the indigenous hill community. It is not only obligation of the state to implement the Accord, but also the responsibility of our civil society. If we perform our responsibility properly, today or tomorrow the Accord must be implemented.

One of the Joint Coordinators of the CHT Accord Implementation Movement and professor of Sociology Department of Dhaka University, Dr. Khairul Islam Chowdhury said in the seminar that if the state is not governed with the sprits of democratic, pluralistic, diverse, socialist principles, the benefits of Accord is far reaching.