Indigenous Jummas lack rights and security in CHT: Jummas diaspora in US

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Hill Voice, August 10, 2023, International Desk: Yesterday, August 9, 2023 at around 10:30 a.m. local time, on the occasion of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, the indigenous Jummas living in the United States (US) organized a gathering in front of the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

The speakers in the gathering complained that the indigenous Jumma pepople of Chittagong Hill Tracts do not have civil and political, social, cultural and economic rights and security. And after the demonstration they also submitted a memorandum on the status and rights of the Jumma people of Chittagong Hill Tracts to Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Government of Bangladesh through the Ambassador for the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the United Nations.

Jummas of different levels living in New York City participated in this gathering organized by the organization named ‘America Jumma Council’ of Jummas in the United States.

Uchingnu Marma gave the welcome address at the demonstration which was presided over by Supta Chakma Tatu, President, American Jummas Council and moderated by Mong A Prue Marma, Executive member of American Jummas Council, New York City. Besides, human rights activist Chanchana Chakma, Chipamong Chowdhury (Rebat Bhante) and others spoke as special guests.

Uchingnu Marma said that indigenous people in the hills do not have civil and political, social, cultural and economic rights and security. Disappearances, killings, oppression etc. exist on hill indigenous people. The government of Bangladesh has been depriving and torturing the indigenous people of the hills for ages. He demanded constitutional recognition of indigenous people including stopping land dispossession of hill and plain indigenous people. He opined that the role of youth should be important and dynamic in realizing the rights of indigenous people.

Human rights activist Chanchana Chakma said that the government has not implemented the CHT Accord signed in Bangladesh on December 2, 1997 even in 25 years. The government has cheated us. There are constant human rights violations on the indigenous people in the hills and plains. There are land grabbing and development in indigenous areas without the permission and consent of the indigenous people, endangering the lives of the indigenous people.

She said that the indigenous peoples of the entire world, including Chittagong Hill Tracts, are fighting for their fundamental rights and right to self-determination and we must live by fighting. Indigenous youth should be progressive and come forward in the movement to establish the right to self-determination.

Chipamong Chowdhury (Rebat Bhante) said that indigenous people are not able to live freely in independent and sovereign Bangladesh. They are to live in fear every moment. Incidents like attacks and torture on religious gurus, monks, including house searches in the dark of night are taking place. There is no fair trial. Where to get security?

He urged the government and the majority of the people of Bangladesh to show due respect to the Cheebar-wearing venerable monks and demanded the implementation of the CHT Accord and the respectful re-habilitation of the Bengali settlers outside Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Rapru Sai Marma, Basing U Marma, Bartika Chakma, Lal Thwai Marma and others were also present on the occasion.

After the gathering, the Jummas also sent a memorandum to Sheikh Hasina, the Honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh government entitling ‘An Urgent Appeal to the Government of the Peoples Republic of Bangladesh for Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Peoples and Proper Implementation of CHT Accord’ through the Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the United Nations, New York.

The Memorandum states that ‘We do believe that through the signing of the CHT Accord, a historic opportunity has been created for a political and peaceful solution to the CHT problem, to end the longstanding bloody conflict and communal clashes, and above all for the peace and development of the CHT region.

In this context, we earnestly appeal you and your government to undertake necessary steps to implement the following issues, in the light of the UNDRIP-

  • To provide constitutional recognition of indigenous peoples in Bangladesh living in plain lands and the CHT region.
  • To undertake legal and administrative measures to preserve the tribal-dominated feature of CHT;
  • To devolve the political, administrative, economic powers and functions including subjects of general administration, law & order, police, land & land management, forest & environment, tourism, development of communication system to the CHT Regional Council and three Hill District Councils;
  • Formulation of Election Rules and Electoral Roll Rules, preparation of Voter List with the permanent residents of CHT and accordingly, holding elections in the three Hill District Councils;
  • Withdrawal of all the temporary camps including de facto military rule ‘Operation Uttoron’;
  • Having the Rules of CHT Land Commission formulated, to settle the land disputes and return the dispossessed lands to the actual owners of Jumma people;
  • Cancellation of land leases given to the non-residents and non-tribal persons;
  • Proper rehabilitation of the India-returnee refugees and internally displaced Jumma families in their lands after having returned the dispossessed lands to them;
  • Appointment of the permanent residents in all jobs available in CHT on priority preference to the tribal people;
  • In order to make consistence with the Accord, bringing amendment to the all other laws applicable to CHT including the Police Act of 1861, Forest Act of 1927 and CHT Regulation of 1900; and
  • Rehabilitation of the Bengalee settlers outside CHT with dignity.’