Gunfight in Bandarban: ISPR’s ‘Loud Cry of A Thief’s Mother’

Photo : Symbolic

Priti Bindu Chakma

On February 2022, while conducting surprise attack at wee hours on an alleged armed group’s den located in a remote area of Ruma under Bandarban Hill district, one Camp Commander ranking Senior Warrant Officer died and another one constable of the Bangladesh army sustained injury. The incident also claimed lives of 3 members belonging to the alleged armed group, as it is learnt.

The Inter-Services Public Relation (ISPR) Department of the Bangladesh army promptly published out a press release expressing strong protestation against the incident on 3 February 2022. The press release claimed the incident to have been a gunfight with the “Santu Larma-supported armed group of the main JSS Party.”

On the contrary, the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) also published a press release stating: “Neither PCJSS nor any member of PCJSS was involved in the incident,” in protest against the ISPR’s alleging claim. In the press release, PCJSS mentioned that entangling PCJSS with the incident has been an attempt to null the movement for implementation of the CHT Accord for which such motivated move has been directed mere to achieve certain mean objective.

The ISPR, in its press release supplied to the media stated: “Although there is a provision under Part D of the CHT Accord according to which the surrender of Shanti Bahini has been conditioned through deposition of all arms and ammunitions, but Santu Larma has been nurturing armed terrorists after completion of the Accord violating terms of the Accord; though Santu Larma and his party often allege violation and non-implementation of the Accord against the government.”

The allegation that has been raised by ISPR, is mostly akin to the proverb that goes: “Loudest voice of the thief’s mother.” Since the very inception, it is the army that has been violating the terms of the Accord; creating obstruction in implementing the Accord; and on top of all, has been hatching anti-Accord conspiracy one after another. Whereas, it is the mouth piece of that very army to raise allegation of violating the Accord by PCJSS and Santu Larma.

It is of worth mentioning that the CHT Accord contains the provision under which all the temporary camps of Army, Ansar, VDP and APBN were to be withdrawn directing to demilitarization and establishing democratic governance in CHT. According to the data available with PCJSS, of the 545 temporary camps existent during signing of the Accord, it is only 101 temporary camps that have been withdrawn in 3 phases. On the other end, the process of withdrawing temporary camps has been put to stop since 2009. Even news on restoration of many withdrawn camps has appeared headlining the media pages. The GOC of 24th Division, himself, has declared re-establishment of withdrawn camps on plea of security concern.

Undoubtedly, this makes easily understandable as to who is violating the Accord – Santu Larma or the army, itself. In content, it can safely be said that the army is violating the Accord. It is the army to have been creating obstruction in withdrawing the temporary camps as per the Accord.

The anti-Accord role being played by the army remains not confined to that limit. One of the aspects contained in the spirit of the Accord is to establish self-rule government in CHT. To that end, it is to introduce special administrative system incorporating the CHT Regional Council and three Hill District Councils and thereby to assert the self-determination providing access to the Jumma people and Bengali permanent residents of CHT to determine their own development, by themselves – all this comprises the spirit of the Accord. But it was the initiative on part of the army to promulgate “Operation Uttoron” (Operation Upliftment) in 2001, de facto military rule, violating the main spirit of the Accord during post-Accord era. It is the ‘Operation Uttoron’ by merit of which there has been left no sector excluded from interference and absolute control of the army including the general administration, law & order, judiciary system, development and corporate business in CHT. Hence, as it is being so, who is violating the Accord?

The provision contained in the Accord provides the CHT Regional Council with the authority to coordinate and supervise all the development programs under CHT Development Board and the Hill District Councils, the general administration, law & order and development, the local councils including municipalities, disaster management & relief programs, NGO activities, issuance of license for heavy industries, etc. Now question arises, under whose signal the general administration, law & order and development programs are being ruled keeping the CHT Regional Council aside? Indeed, it is nothing else but by merit of ‘Operation Uttoron’, all those subjects are being directed as per indication finger of the army. Today, in fact, the CHT has been given in lease to the army. It is for the corporate business sake (such as tourism industry), the army is forcibly occupying thousand acres of lands from the Jumma people; getting them uprooted from their ancestral lands and homesteads; and destroying the environment and bio-diversity of the region. Things being so, who are playing anti-Accord role? In this case, it does not require to explain afresh whether the CHT Regional Council Chairman Santu Larma or the army is committing to anti-Accord misdeeds.

Having a glance over the anti-Accord and Jumma-hatred directives of the Armed Forces Division of the Prime Minister’s Office as issued from time to time makes easy understanding. On 29 August 2021, the last ill-attempt of the genre was the circulation signed by Major H M Mohaimin Billah Chowdhury for the Principal Officer of the Armed Forces Division in which it was directed to close the traditional livelihood of Jum (shifting) cultivation (production of turmeric/ginger alongside paddy) of the Jumma people. Before this, a circulation containing11-point anti-Accord and racial directives was issued through the Home Ministry at the security force’s initiative on 7 January 2015. The army has been hatching conspiracy one after another to null implementation process of the Accord immediately after signing of the Accord. As a part of the same, many army officers often write articles against CHT Accord and Jumma peoples in the newspapers. One of such illustrations is Brigadier General Mohammad Tofayel Ahmed, psc, Commander of 24 Artillery Brigade and Guimara Army Region who while being in the service, wrote a lengthy article against the CHT Accord and Jumma people and it was published in the daily Purbokone, Bangladesh Protidin and Jai Jai Din national dailies in July/August 2015.

All members of Shanti Bahini, the armed wing of PCJSS, came back to normal life through deposition of arms and ammunitions. Abolition of the Shanti Bahini was also declared. Hence, with this, insurgency in this region came to an end through signing of the Accord. But by might of the state weaponry, the army still has retained the ‘Pacification Project’ – the counter-insurgency program applied during pre-Accord period. The army receives 10,000 MT food grains per year under this project. During the post-Accord period, the army utilizes this project fund in maintaining expenses of some armed-terrorist stooges of opportunist Jummas to gain its political objectives. Apart from this, the army also makes use of this fund for expansion of the cluster villages, education and health affairs of the Bengali settlers and with providing financial support, the ultra-nationalist and ultra-communal settler organizations are being incited to conduct anti-Accord programs and communal attacks upon the Jumma people. As the things being so, who is engaged in anti-Accord activities? The undoubted answer is: it is the army.

The CHT crisis is political and national problem, which the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina admits, even though by mouth, herself and hence, the CHT Accord was signed with an aim to resolve the problem through political and peaceful means. But instead of resolving the problem politically and peacefully, who is the person or who are the people conspiring to solve the CHT problem by military or suppressive means through wide-scale militarization following the way exercised by their predecessors of military rulers? Needless to say, followers of that fascist policy are the people from the patriotic (?) army. The army, as the ‘stick-holding force’ of Sheikh Hasina government, has been implementing that conspiracy. So, it is odd to hear and looks mismatching – something like the native proverb: “Ghost’s utterance of God’s name.”

It has been further mentioned in the press release of ISPR: “At present, 4 regional parties have made the public life of innocent common people unbearable through conducting criminal activities in the hills including killing, disappearance, extortion, etc.” But it is needless to reiterate afresh who is the father to give birth to; who is the patron to bring up; and who are the shelter-providers of UPDF, Reformist JSS, UPDF (Democratic) and Mog Party terrorist groups.

It becomes easily detectable if a slight investigative analysis is conducted on the issue to find out the clues as to how the anti-Accord banners of UPDF, long-bamboo segments for hoisting banners and other materials were smuggled into Khagrachari stadium deceiving the tight security cordon of the army and police forces guarding the first arms-deposition occasion of PCJSS on 10 February 1998, in compliance with the Accord. It is easy to assume that in the field like CHT, trafficking such materials cannot be possible without involvement of deep conspiracy and assistance of the army. In later days up to a certain stage, there used to be a practice of running UPDF-controlled collection-posts and conducting extortion of money, abduction, collection of ransom, killing, etc. terrorist activities just at nose-tip of the army camps – such could never have been possible without indulgence and active support of the army – even a minor child was left to comprehend the issue any longer.

Right now, terrorist actions are being meted out to the ordinary masses including the PCJSS members and supporters by posting the armed units of Reformist JSS and UPDF (Democratic) at Subalong Bazaar, Tintila of Longadu and Jibtali of Rangamati under Rangamati Hill district, Dighinala of Khagrachari Hill district and Balaghata of Bandarban Hill district and at Powaitu Para of Rajasthali Upazila – providing them with rental buildings, as if government armed troops. The army very often met out harassment and oppression upon the innocent people on plea of searching for the armed terrorists. But the army turn a blind eye where the armed terrorists of Reformist JSS and UPDF (Democratic) move from place to place in the broad day light. At this, it can undoubtedly be concluded that it is none other than the army responsible for troubling the situation in the hills.

The ISPR’s press release further contained an absurd issue stating: “..are conspiring to secede CHT from Bangladesh to create an independent ‘Jummaland’, which is tantamount to anti-state activity.” In fact, the Jummaland phobia is a creation and discovery of the army. It is a conspired, artificial and virtual warfare of the army. With this, the army is conducting virtually propaganda war though having no existence of such unrealistic political program to the organization or party engaged in the movement demanding for implementation of the Accord as well as the right to self-determination. The army, at one end, having created an artificial issue by posting status, Jumma land programs, map, flag, currency government, etc. on fake Facebook pages and conducting wide-range propagation while hatching multi-faceted propagation and conspiracy, on the other. While resorting to the imaginary phobia, the army has been hatching such conspiracy only to criminalize (labelling as terrorist) individuals, rights activists and organizations already engaged in movement for implementation of the Accord to assert the right to self-determination. Alongside, it is the very army that raises allegation of anti-state conspiracy against Santu Larma – just like loud voice of a thief’s mother and it is the factual reality.

The Jumma peoples was given commitment of assertion of their rights through signing of the CHT Accord but they were deceived after signing the Accord. The Accord was left unimplemented. Under the given situation, if the deceived peoples, for being aggrieved with, get flared in flames of rebellion, as such, can they be charged with optimal fault? Can the community concerned be alleged of violating the Accord? No and never. It is that very party responsible for violation of the Accord – the party, which though entered upon the Accord but has not yet implemented the Accord and that party is none other than the government, itself. The army and its intelligence agent DGFI are the armed groups of the government.

They are frauds and their role is treacherous and undoubtedly, the deceived deserves just right to stand against and resist the frauds and traitors. It may be recalled, the then West Pakistan dictator had held the Election in 1970 through beating up drums pronouncing commitment to return democracy but it did not keep the given commitment. The verdict given by people of East Pakistan was ignored with thumbs down – it did not hand over the power to the elected representatives. As the thing happened so, taking to rebellion by the people of Bengal can never be justified as an unjust move. It was due to that logical stand, the people of Bengal plunged into the national liberation war against the cheaters and traitors of Pakistan dictatorial authority irrespective of their Bengali and Non-Bengali (indigenous peoples) identities.

Hence, the 3 youths who died in the incident of Bandarban gunfight on 2 February 2022; whatever be they terrorists and engaged in whatsoever unjust and brutal activities like killing; be they belonged to anti-Accord or pro-Accord group or armed miscreants of whichever group; the Jumma youth society has termed the three youths as the “National Heroes” on the pages of social media. The Jumma youth society derives their complacency in the notion that the departed youths, in exchange of their lives, have been able to kill at least one from among the tyrants involved in ruling and exploiting the Jumma people ever since the very birth of Bangladesh; they have been able to snatch life of an armed fellow from among the anti-Accord and Accord violating quarters; have been able to take revenge upon a single wretch from among the camps engaged in fascist-way oppression and suppression, instead of solving the crisis by political and peaceful means. The blatant deception that has been dealt with the Jumma people by the ruling class otherwise the state power, has resulted in burning-ash-covered fire among the Jumma youths and out of the anguish, they are not in hesitation to maintain such outlook (of terming the 3-arms bearers as National heroes).

Bangladesh army, having participation in the UN Peace Keeping Missions, is serving for maintaining peace and human rights in various countries. But the dichotomy is that inside the country, it is the same army, which has been erecting obstructions against the process of peaceful solution of CHT problem through obstructing the implementation of the CHT Accord and frequent violating the human rights. In the UNPFII session held in 2011, a recommendation was adopted urging not to appoint the members of the Bangladesh security forces who had been involved in human rights violation inside the country.

In fact, it is the CHT crisis that comprises one of the sources of power to the army in CHT. Herein CHT, the army centralize the power in different times showing the threat to the national security and sovereignty and at certain phase, the army is found to stage military coup stepping upon such power. For instance, killing of President Ziaur Rahman by General Manjur and vain attempt of occupying the state power. Using the CHT crisis, General Manjur managed to hold a great military power under his disposal and at certain stage, he organized a military revolt using his military power. Similarly, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was also assassinated with his family members by a revolting group of the army. Hence, needless to mention that the ruling class/government that strived to hold on power by giving a ‘push-up’ to the military; it was that very ruling class/government became victim of the proud and power of the army. As the illustrations have been created in the history of Bangladesh so the history of many are available in various countries.

Needless to say that democracy can never sustain relying on the army. Democracy sustains relying on the strength of people. It is unfortunate in the history that the ruling classes of Bangladesh are found to strive to retain the power relying on the army all along. From that view, each and every ruling class/government of the country completely gives the CHT region in lease to the army so as to please them and thereby to let them reap profit at their whims and wishes – at certain time, the process becomes boomerang to the ruling class/government.

Today, that the present government, instead of resolving the crisis through implementing the Accord by political and peaceful means, has undertaken the policy of foregone dictators to solve the crisis by suppressive and oppressive manner through enhancing wide-range militarization for which this government will have to make costly payment – there leaves no space to hold any doubt.