Hill Voice,1 February 2023, Chittagong: The unrest in the hills will lead the unrest in the whole country. We the hill people and Bengalis will compel the government to implement the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord.
Menon vowed this stance in a solidarity gathering organized Yesterday (January 31), at 3:00 pm at Chittagong Zilla Parishad premises on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of CHT Accord, under the initiative of ‘CHT Accord Implementation Movement’ to demand proper and full implementation of the Accord.
President of the Workers Party of Bangladesh and Member of Parliament Rashed Khan Menon was present as the chief guest in the solidarity gathering that was presided over by poet and journalist Abul Momen and conducted by Chittagong District General Secretary of Workers Party of Bangladesh Sharif Chauhan. In addition, General Secretary of Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal (BSD) Bajlur Rashid, former presidium member of Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Oikya Parishad (BHBCOP) Prof. Ranjit Dey, CHT Regional Council member Soukhin Chakma, JSD central leader Jasim Uddin Babul, Joint Coordinator of CHT Accord Implementation Movement Zakir Hossain, Executive Director of ALRD Shamsul Huda, Joint General Secretary of Oikya NAP Harun Rashid Bhuiyan, Organizing Secretary of NAP Central Committee Mithul Dasgupta, Central Member of BHBCOP Advocate Pradeep Kumar Chowdhury, Representative of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum Mr. Alik Mree, President of the central committee of Pahari Chhatra Parishad, Suman Marma spoke as special guests.
Rashed Khan Menon said in the speech as chief guest in the gathering, we were able to start this peace process through a long struggle. But today I am worried. The hills are now restless. Not only that, there is a fear of creating unrest in Chittagong and all over the country centering the unrest in the hills. You have seen, for the past few months, the militant fundamentalists have been getting armed training with the help of an organization in the CHT to carry out attacks inside the country. That is, the turmoil in the hills is now the turmoil of the whole country. To my surprise, Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina received the UNESCO Peace Prize as a result of this CHT Accord. It was hoped that through the implementation of this Accord, Bangladesh would set an example in establishing the rights of indigenous peoples. But unfortunately, it didn’t happen. I have appealed to the government many times to enact CHT Land Commission Act in the Parliament. Every time we have made a statement from the Parliament, there have been various obstacles from the bureaucrats. Finally, the Prime Minister had to intervene to enact the Land Commission Act. 30,000 applications have been submitted to the Land Commission, not a single one has been resolved. So, we are not resolving the problem which was supposed to be solved by that law.
He said that Ziaur Rahman took the help of the military to solve the CHT problem and they brought innocent people from different parts of the country and made them immigrants and settled them in the CHT. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced within CHT due to this incident. They were supposed to be rehabilitated as per the CHT Accord. Let it stay away from resolving, today we cannot go to CHT to talk about this matter. When we went there we were halted by a strike. We were detained along with Dr. Kamal Hossain, Oikya NAP leader Pankaj Bhattacharya. When we went there to meet DC, he said, we should not go to much discussion. I said, the Accord is with the government, however, you are talking this way.
He also said that today in the hills we see unwritten military rule. Not only the army, but the APBN, the new police are being camped there. This CHT is one tenth of the country. One day Khaleda Zia said that Sheikh Hasina will hand over one tenth of the country to India by signing the Accord. It hasn’t happened in 30 years. If the government today makes the same argument, talks about the same kind of separation, then there will never be peace in the hills. Not only the people of the hills, but all the people of the mainstream should be united in this demand. We Pahari and Bengalis will compel the government together to implement the Accord. It is our responsibility.
Soukhin Chakma, a central member of the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS), said that after two and half decade long bloody struggle, we got the CHT Accord. The aim of this Accord was to bring peace to the hills and ensure the rights of the disenfranchised hill people. But even after 25 years, Jumma people are not able to live in peace due to lack of proper implementation of the Accord. Instead of taking steps for the implementation of the Accord, the government continues various anti-Accord plots and created various anti-Accord groups.
President of CPB Shah Alam said that it has been 25 years since the CHT Accord signing. It has not yet been implemented. The government that signed this Accord is in power for 14 years today. Why are they not implementing the Accord? So, whether there is another government in the government? Are they greater than Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina? If not, why is the Accord not being implemented? The Accord needs to be implemented immediately to protect the independence and sovereignty of Bangladesh.
General Secretary of BSD Bajlul Rashid Feroz said that our constitution has not recognized the indigenous peoples who are in the hills and plains of this country as citizens yet. Today, the ruling group of Bangladesh is conspiring against the ordinary people of this country, in the same way they are suppressing the disenfranchised indigenous people. Hill people depend on Jum cultivation. They do not have any land documents. Their rights to land has to be confirmed. The land problem should be solved through the Land Commission. But the government is not looking at it. It is proved clearly that the government does not want to solve the CHT problem. Therefore, it is not taking the initiative to implement the Accord.
Executive Director of ALRD Shamsul Huda said, we did not fight for the country that made the Accord by setting an example of breaking the promises. This country became independent by demanding basic rights of all citizens including women, dalits and minorities. The government says that such a percentage of the Accord has been implemented. We don’t understand numbers, we understand human rights. The CHT Accord is not only for the hill people, but also for the country’s sovereignty.
Prominent human rights activist Zakir Hossain said that the problem of hills is not only for hill people, it is a national problem. 25th anniversary of the Accord should have been celebrated in a joyful atmosphere. But we can’t do that. Because the hill people did not get back their desired rights. It is a failure of the state. Moreover, he urged the government to adopt a workplan with time-frame for proper and speedy implementation of the Accord.
In the president’s speech, poet and journalist Abul Momen said that without the participation, support and active role of the majority Bengali people, the solution to this problem will not be easy. The major political parties of the country are silent on this question. Indigenous peoples are losing their land not only in the hills but also in the plains. I do not see the role of major parties in these questions. New complications are emerging in the hills due to non-implementation of the CHT Accord. If we keep a region disturbance and normal life disrupted, that region is bound to become unstable.
Chittagong University’s Rendezvous Artist Group performed mass music in the demonstration organized. After the solidarity demonstration, the procession went around the various roads of the city and ended at the Cheragi Pahar junction. From the demonstration, 5-point demands were made to the government for the implementation of CHT Accord.