Tatindralal Chakma, President of Reformist group identified themselves as Jana Samhati Samiti (MN Larma), passed away on 13 August 2020 at 68 years. It was he who was better known as Pele Babu in political domain of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). The regional political party that he headed as President has also been being identified as the Reformist JSS among the common Jumma people. Those who keep in touch with regional politics are believed to have definitely accustomed with the Reformist JSS way of politics.
It was the government of 1/11 – the regime of General Moeen Uddin Ahmed and Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed – a special genre of Caretaker Government backed by the army. It was a period of Emergency with ‘minus formula’ and the modus operandi was to execute reform programs aimed at achieving much-claimed-about political purification. During the State of Emergency, to ‘reform’ was the widely-spoken word in the de-politicization process undertaken by the Caretaker Government.
Also allegation of having involvement of state intelligence agencies in the political reformation process would be heard very often. Many top politicians in the country began to blossom in name and fame as the Reformists overnight. Consequently, many political stars got labeled as Reformists. Now, it passes almost a decade since that time but the label that once had been stuck, the political leaders are bound to carry the label as of today. Breaking the reforming web, many politicians have repatriated to own homes yet the crisis of faith and confidence is yet to get over in own parties.
The theme of this write-up is all about the politics in the hills (CHT). The party of which recently demised Tatindralal had been the President, had its birth and rise along the formula set in accordance with the ‘1/11’ political reformation. During Moeen Uddin and Fakhruddin regime the ‘minus-two’ formula would travel from lip to lips among the people. In order to succeed the formula, the army-backed government put Sheikh Hasina, President of Awami League and Khaleda Zia, Chairperson of BNP in imprisonment during the emergency. The ‘minus formula’ also went strongly whirling the political atmosphere of the CHT. What was vested in that ‘minus formula’?
In politics of the hills, there was one person as target under the minus formula of 1/11 main actors. He is none other than Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma (Santu Larma), President of PCJSS and also Chairman of the CHT Regional Council. Along with, it was to unleash reform activities inside the PCJSS organization. Having fixed the target, the army authority already identified as the prime factor of the 1/11 began its mission in the hills. The main object of the mission was to arrest Santu Larma and replace him by installing a new Chairman in the CHT Regional Council and gradually to bring the PCJSS under its grip. This may also be attributed to have been a highly ambitious political intrigue to gain control over the Jumma movement in the CHT.
Various active agencies of the army-backed Fakhruddin government started laying baits to hunt the indigenous Jumma politicians. Hooks were thrown inside the PCJSS, which had already set a tradition of waging struggle. An overwhelming formidable environment was created to weaken the compact unity of the organization. Harassment, persecution and various repressive measures upon the PCJSS leaders, activists and supporters went on throughout the hills. The baits that were of alluring include: Chairmanship of CHT Regional Council and three Hill District Councils and Chairmanship of the CHT Development Board.
Some of the ambitious leaders and activists of PCJSS began to swallow the enthralling baits so offered. Soon these highly ambitious leaders and activists started forming up small groupism inside the organization. A tiny group of the kind came to light with Rupayan Dewan, Sudhasindhu Khisa, Tatindralal Chakma, Mrinal Kanti Tripura, Shaktiman Chakma and Sudirgha as the leading organizers including some others. Oral articulation of probabilities went on stating: “Santu Larma is going to get arrested; Rupayan Dewan is going to be nominated as Chairman of the CHT Regional Council; and some others are already in the pipeline to have got appointed in lucrative posts.”
People like Rupayan Dewan and Shaktiman Chakma used to propagate such probabilities with great enthusiasm. Of them, stepping further, many went ahead with rehearsals of mannerism, if they got nominated for the desired posts. Continuation to the trend, the organization named Jana Samhati Samiti (Reformist) came into being. Thus, the active agencies of Fakhruddin government for spelling total failure in occupying the main leadership of the organization, picked up the portion that was highly ambitious for power and pleasure. Since thence forward, the new-born group publicly came to be known as JSS (Reformist).
The hardcore political strugglers in the hills, people like Rupayan Dewan, Sudhasindhu Khisa and Tatindralal, got turned into chessmen themselves in the strong whirl wind of political reformation process. But the funny aspect was that even though enrolling the names in the register of Reformists, the special agencies dealing with the program did not put Rupayan Dewan, Shaktiman and Co in the posts as per their commitment. However, the ‘radish’ that caused secretion in the mouth was kept hanging ahead. Now, the people of Reformist JSS, being tainted with desire for having taste of the hanging radish, continued walking along the path directed by the special agencies.
The departure of Moeen Uddin-Fakhruddin government was staged through the 9th National General Election held on 29 December 2008. With this, the much-discussed ‘minus two’ formula also got disappeared. The main actors of 1/11 took their leave from the scene. The politicians who had appeared to be Reformists started recoiling themselves. The much-talked-about reformist politicians were on the low tide disappearing gradually. Many went out of sight of the people. But the political equation of the hills (CHT) is always different. Now, the local actors of 1/11 have remained in the cockpit as the controller of all affairs. Despite changes in the government, the people of one/eleven remained as usual. Therefore, the work of the Reformists of Jana Sanghati Samiti remain active.
The party also convened a congress session in 2010. The organization was renamed as Jana Samhati Samiti (MN Larma). Of course, the Jumma people did not accept the name that was re-introduced. To the hill people, their identity has remained as ‘Reformists.’ Since the very birth, Rupayan Dewan and Sudhasindhu had been visibly at the lead. The duo also discharged their duties as the Joint Executive President of the organization. Outwardly, Rupayan Dewan and Sudhasindhu are the known face of the party. But the organizing center figure of the Reformist JSS party was Tatindralal. He had been soul of organizational structure of the party.
Sudhasindhu Khisa, the top leader of Reformist JSS, at certain point of time, became inactive due to physical ailment. Rupayan Dewan also slowly moved himself from the theater. Young organizer, Sudirgha Chakma was got killed by shot of their counterpart. The other influential known face, Shaktiman Chakma, Chairman of Naniarchar Upazilla was shot dead by an assassin near his office. In this backdrop, party congress of the Reformist JSS was held in February 2020. Tatindralal Chakma Pele and Bimal Kanti Chakma Murta were elected as President and General Secretary respectively. In one hand, sickness of Sudhasindhu Khisa while Rupayan Dewan’s inactiveness alongside death of Shaktiman Chakma, on the other – taking all the factors into account, Tatindralal became the Chief Helmsman of the reformist political line in the hills.
It is notably to be mentioned that the Reformist JSS was formed with sponsorship of the special agencies arisen out of one/eleven and support and blessings of the special quarter has always been with the Reformist JSS. It can safely be said that this special power is the only ‘life line’ to the Reformist JSS. Tatindralal formally became Supremo of the organization with responsibility as the President through Congress in February 2020. After suffering physical ailment for so long a time, Sudhasindhu Khisa, member of the CHT Regional Council and one of the founders of the Reformist JSS party, passed away. This also has been a damaging blow to the party.
On the other Side, another known face, Mrinal Kanti Tripura got himself involved in NGO activities with too much inclination. Consequently, though there has been communication, Mrinal Tripura has gone far off the partisan politics. In this juncture, sudden demise of Tatindralal happened on 13 August 2020 at 68 years of age – although he was not so healthy for several days earlier either. Even being so, his physical working ability was intact.
At the moment, demise of Tatindralal, President of Reformist JSS was not desirable to the party. The death may be disastrous to the organizational structure of the party. Saying only a disaster may be a sort of spoken less. In real sense of the term, the sudden death of Tatindralal could invoke a great disaster to the Reformist JSS – although the news of Pele Babu’s departure including the name of President-in-Charge was sent to the media at the same time. We came to learn the name Subhas Kanti Chakma alias Porichoy as the President-in-Charge through the media. However, the issue did create a little bit of reservation. The question arises, why was an unknown face declared acting President without giving the most senior member Rupayan Dewan?
Why it was to declare the name of President-in-Charge on the very death day in a hurry? In addition, the party did also create an obscurity with the death news of Tatindralal. A Baghaichari-based journalist, on his verified Facebook Account, confirmed Pele Babu’s death in the morning of 13 August 2020. Following this, the death news of Pele Babu came to public through social media. But the Reformist JSS formally rendered the news of late. It was learnt that one of the causes of delay was an effort to hide the information of death while being under army treatment in Combine Military Hospital (CMH) in Chittagong, and in place to show that the death was at Chittagong Medical College Hospital.
Now, question may obviously get arisen. What may be the direction of Reformist JSS afterward period of Tatindralal? Will the party be able to coup up the loss or adversity or great disaster? Leader and leadership is, of course, of a great importance to any political party. If it is studied in context of the Reformist JSS, it will be seen that Sudhasindhu Khisa and Shaktiman Chakma is no more. Rupayan Dewan, one of the summit leaders and CHT Regional Council member is passing his retired political life; that he would return to politics, such probability is also a big naught. From among the aged members, the remaining are: Subhas Kanti Chakma Porichoy, Bimal Kanti Chakma Murta, Bibhu Ranjan Chakma Dipu and Naresh Chakma Naresh. But who among them will lead?
The other known face, Mrinal Kanti Tripura is awfully busy with NGO activities. He also does not seem to get involved in politics any further. Pragyan Khisa of Mahalchhari, is a widely known face in Reformist line politics in the hills. So far, his active presence in the party’s process has been negligible. Bimal Kanti Chakma Murta, current General Secretary of the party, also keeps himself confined to local area politics. In up-to-date activities of the party, his lively presence is not so reckonable. Sudarshan Chakma, Chairman of Baghaichhari Upazilla, is seen doing area-based politics, to say. Angshuman Chakma is one of the senior workers and known as a devoted worker of Reformist JSS politics. But it is hardly possible for him to acquire the qualities to become a substitute of Tatindralal. Angshuman Chakma and Sudarshan Chakma, though young in age, have earned a ‘name’ for killing, kidnapping, realization of ransom, demanding extortion, etc. within short words of which there are sets of allegations with the party against them. Subhas Kanti Chakma who is entrusted as President-in-Charge, deals in rice business and the responsibility so given is hardly possible for him to carry on. Sudhakar Tripura, is another leader’s name that is sometimes noticed in the press release sent by the reformist party. But the working scope of Sudhakar Babu is limited to that ambit.
Therefore, in ultimate analysis, there is not a single leader as all-rounder as Tatindralal in front of the Reformist JSS party. The matter does not end up here. Leading figure capable of directing an organization or becoming a central character is rare to be seen in the party. Hence, death of Tatindralal at this hour is not only a cause of loss to the Reformist JSS but also a great disaster that awaits for the party. Fear on probable consequence of the Reformist JSS will remain in minds of the masses. Review suggests that the party is likely to get split on area basis giving birth to small sub-groups. Every sub-group may have several pocket segments.
These sub-groups and pocket segments will be very likely to gain confidence of the state special forces i.e. military forces and DGFI. These state special forces will keep the ‘radish’ hanging at the front so long they remain capable of fulfilling interest of the state forces. Hence, it is very likely that due to feeble and immature leadership, to maintain own influence and dominance solely depending on shoulders of the state forces, the Reformist JSS of post-Tatindralal era will be used more nakedly in multi-faceted ways by the state forces than ever before. The reckless programs of the Reformists may become more and more heinous and brutal under indulgence of the state forces. In absence of the Reformist JSS President Tatindralal, who has departed recently, it is comprehended only the thorn and split form of the party to be seen in the coming days.
The other side of the reality is, many leading and ordinary workers may chose the path to become inactive out of despair. On the other hand, a sizable portion of the workers of the organization may also assimilate themselves in the mainstream struggle. Especially, the young workers engaged in the field are considered that they may make a walk along the latter path. The reason is that it is they who have to combat all odds and on the other hand, it is also they who happen to become the first target of the counter-part in the field. But it is the upper level members who enjoy all sorts of fame, dominating power and amenities. In addition, sentiment of patriotism and nationalism to some extent is noticed among the field-level workers. It is beyond doubt that the patriotism and consciousness that they cherish will inspire them to march towards the mainstream struggle and that very successful end up will be conclusion of the existing reality.
Satyadarshi Mulimya: Political Analyst of the CHT.