Hill Voice, December 2, 2023, Dhaka: On December 2, 2023 (Saturday), at 10:15 am, a discussion meeting was jointly organized by Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanhati Samiti (PCJSS) and Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum (BIPF) on the occasion of the 26th anniversary of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Accord demanding its full implementation at Muktijuddha Jadughar Auditorium of Sher-e-Bangla Nagar of Agargaon in Dhaka. Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma alias Santu Larma, one of the signatories of the CHT Accord, the President of PCJSS and BIPF presided over the event.
Maithin Pramila, Finance Secretary of BIPF moderated the event while Co-Chair of International CHT Commission Adv. Sultana Kamal, Coordinator of Parliamentary Caucus on Indigenous and Minority Affairs and Professor of Dhaka University Dr. Mesbah Kamal, poet and journalist Sohrab Hasan, General Secretary of Bangladesh Communist Party Ruhin Hossain Prince, Join Secretary of Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal Rajekuzzaman Ratan, Executive President of Samilita Samajik Andolan and professor of Dhaka University Robayet Ferdous, Joint Coordinator of the CHT Accord Implementation Movement Zakir Hossain, Acting President Oikya NAP Advocate SMA Sabur, Vice President of BIPF and President of Jatiya Adivasi Parishad Rabindranath Saren, Central Member of Bangladesh Workers Party Mustafa Alamgir Ratan, Professor of Jahangirnagar University Snigdha Rezwana spoke among other in the meeting. In event, Assistant General Secretary of BIPF Dr. Gajandranath Mahato delivered welcome speech while Nipun Tripura spoke as the representative of student-youth generation.
In the meeting, Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma said that even though there are various opinions and reviews about the procrastination of implementation of the CHT Accord, I think the failure of the government is responsible for the non-implementation of this agreement. The movement for realizing the rights of hill peoples is constantly intensifying. Due to the reality of the military rule, the hill people can no longer hope the implementation of the CHT Accord, although for the last 26 years they have awaited it. Today, the hill dwellers have no way but compelled to opt for alternative course of movement. Being aware of their own reality, the youths must prepare themselves to spring into a larger movement to implement the Accord.
Advocate Sultana Kamal said, “It is true that we have succeeded in concluding a bloody conflict through signing the CHT Accord, but we cannot be excited with the implementation status of this Accord. Although the government is very excited about it, I think it’s a lot like the excitement we show when we cheat others. I would visit CHT on behalf of the International CHT Commission. Then the army would take us to their camp. They used to ‘brief’ us in their own stylish words in the camp. Once we were told in that briefing that they were contributing socio-economic development in CHT. I asked what is the jurisdiction of the army in socio-economic development in the hill? Because their duty is to ensure security there. There has been army in the hill for years. But so far, peace has not prevailed there yet. So, why they do not return. They should be convinced that peace is not possible with army. The government has to adopt a new strategy to establish this peace. The Land Commission has not been effective in the hill. We have been breaching our pledges one after another. Now I have to say, today, the CHT have been gifted to a particular clique. They have been enjoying all the facilities in the hill. A political movement should be formed against them.”
Professor Dr. Mesbah Kamal said, Now, this word will be heard piercing that “I am happy that the CHT Accord has been signed” while the two signatories are now celebrating the anniversary of the Accord separately. The CHT Accord- a document of empowerment to the people of CHT- has not been fully implemented. How much of the 33 functions that were supposed to be transferred through the CHT Accord to decentralize the unitary Bangladesh have been implemented? Effective decentralization is inevitable to develop democracy along with devolution. Both of these are guided by this Accord. This Accord is the one that the Bangladesh state signed with the people of CHT, the government cannot disown this Accord by no means.
Poet and journalist Sohrab Hasan said that the two parties who signed the CHT Accord, one of them has violated the Accord- the Bangladesh government. If we consider the diversity of Bangladesh, if we think about the rights of all the people of Bangladesh, if we think about the land-culture-language of the indigenous peoples and their right to live, then, we have to consider their movement as our own movement. I would like to request the government not to recreate the situation in which the hill people were forced to take up arms then. This country has been a deaf on CHT Accord in the last 26 years.
Ruhin Hossain Prince said, while there is eye-catching publicity of development of the ruling class, undemocratic military rule still exists in the CHT. After 26 years of the government’s statement, we agree with it that Accord is a rare one. Rare in the sense that Accord was made, international rewards were received but Accord has been disowned. We want to spread this message and make conscious the people of the country through the Accord Implementation Movement- the Accord must be implemented fully and rapidly.
Rajekuzzaman Ratan said, when the CHT Accord was signed, we made a statement on behalf of our party, fearing that whether the hill people were trapped by this Accord. We did not want this fear to come true. But after 26 years of this Accord, today, it is clear that the hillmen have been deceived. What kind of Accord is it – where one side is cheering and the other one is moaning. So, is it not that the hill dwellers were trapped by signing the Accord? When the government talks about any kind of development, we have to look for how much looting is there. The government details the status of the Accord implementation in various ways, referring percentages. But, with the level of percentage, truth cannot hide.
Professor Robayet Ferdous said that the first line of the CHT Accord is- the CHT shall be an indigenous inhabited region. But we can see radical Islamization has been rising there now, military rule is imposed there. I want to say that we are not against Islam but radical Islamization, not against the army but military rule. If there are minorities in a country, the first duty is to recognize them. Recognizing them, we should respect them. If you can’t respect them, you should tolerate them. But in this country, the state cannot even tolerate the indigenous peoples. The Bengalis who were oppressed by the Pakistani regime for 24 years have now become the oppressor. The glaring evidence of it is Israel’s hegemony in Gaza. There is no other nation in the world that has been so oppressed as the Jews. The history of World War II shows that 60 lakh Jews were killed. But those Jews are the oppressor in Gaza today. In the same way Bengalis have been oppressing today in CHT. That is why the CHT Accord cannot be being implemented. An Accord has been made with PCJSS. If they think that this Accord has not been fully implemented, only 25 clauses have been implemented, that is the exact fact.
Advocate SMA Sabur said, CHT Accord is not an Accord of mercy, but has been achieved through long armed struggle, so why is the government neglects to fully implement this Accord? We notice that many petitions and complaints have been submitted to the commission to solve the indigenous land problems, but none of them are being resolved. Even after 26 years, they are not being addressed. The Accord was accepted by the government as a fair agreement and it was also internationally recognized. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the government to implement this Accord.
Zakir Hossain said, we also gathered the same place last year last year with this day. We have been uttering the same thing – CHT Accord is not being implemented – again and again. A timetabled action plan has to be formulated for the implementation of this Accord. On our part, the democratic ways we have to realize the Accord, we will do that unitedly. As you all know, a platform named ‘Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord Implementation Movement’ has been formed. The platform has also rallied in various divisions demanding the implementation of the Accord. We would like to see a more vigorous movement to demand the implementation of the Accord rather than a day-centred celebration.
Rabindranath Saren said, this government does not want to recognize the indigenous peoples, so, the government is not sincere to implement the CHT Accord. The life of indigenous people in the hill and plains has become very miserable today. Adivasis are not allowed to advance, we are used only when needed. We have nothing left to lose but the struggle.
Member Mustafa Alamgir Ratan said, when I was a student involved in student politics, I saw the wall writing in Rangamati – ‘I don’t want the life that is crushed under the olive boot’ but it is unfortunate but true that even after 26 years of the CHT Accord, the lives of the CHT are still crushed under olive boots, the demography of CHT has been being changed, the indigenous peoples of CHT are being made minority in their own motherland, land rights are being taken away, CHT Regional Council has not been empowered, so, immediately, a stronger movement need to realize the implementation of the Accord.
Professor Dr. Snigdha Rezwana said, this Accord is called a peace agreement, there is also politics cantering it. This is the CHT Accord and it is for the people of CHT. The mass media is one of the four pillars of democracy, some mainstream media also tell lies claiming that 96 percent of this Accord has been implemented. Why will the movement of indigenous peoples be confined only within them? Why the indigenous communities’ movement will not be one for the whole Bangladesh? Why will not the movement be a mass movement or national one? Today, with the eviction of the indigenous peoples for tourism-resort, the socio-culture of the indigenous community is on verge of extinction and the environment is also becoming disastrous. The double-standard policy of the state regarding the rights of CHT and indigenous people should be exposed to the mass.
BIFP Assistant General Secretary Dr. Gajendranath Mahato said, the Accord that was signed to establish peace in the hill, the sharing of joy among Bengali-indigenous peoples supposed to have in celebrating the 26th anniversary, but we cannot notice that. Though the government claims that the major parts of the Accord has been implemented, in practice we see that the basic clauses of the Accord have not been implemented yet.
Nipon Tripura, President of Hill Student Council, in his speech as the student and youth representative, said, the CHT Accord was signed on December 2, 1997 as a result of 26 consecutive dialogues for a political and peaceful solution to the CHT issue. We hoped that this government would be committed to implement the Accord after signing it. But, we do not find the government’s sincerity to implement the Accord signed 26 years ago in the presence of the current Prime Minister. We have witnessed lies on the part of the government about the implementation status of the Accord. There was a bloody struggle behind this Accord, we do not expect further a bloody one to implement the Accord. However, if the Accord is not implemented, every youth in the hills is committed to join the movement. Executive Director of ALRD Shamsul Huda also spoke in the event.