Mitul Chakma Bishal
In very recent times, it is being noticed that series of news or video cliffs with the KNF of Bandarban have asserted dominating presence in the Bangladesh media. It is presumably something like a direct reflection of reality signifying the proverb that goes: “”To lock the stable door when the mare is stolen.” As though nothing is stated on Kuki-Chin National Development Organization’s (KNDO) coming into existence in 2008 and its present position as Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) and about their patronizing partner, the Bangladesh Army, in those upstart reports, one can find all the time that there is an effort of provoking ethnic issue with KNF to establish a far-fetching geo-political relationship with the ethnic groups of Zo people of South Asia and at the same time, to turn the issue of so-called KNF into a religious fundamentalist racket conducting conversion to Christianity in the hills; and ridiculously, with a vain attempt to search out the invisible relationship between KNF and the former VP of Dhaka University (VP Noor). Probably, it is in the card that of no late we will happen to read conspiring story of the opposition party to that regard.
To say, in reality, it is all-through such efforts, the main character of KNF and the issue of KNF are not only being side-lined but also by reverse setting of KNF, a naked effort is being noticed to direct the issue towards different course. Even the editorials and columns of the leading national dailies, without bringing the realistic characteristics and impacts into consideration, are being seen to be biased and opinionating as to be a result of geo-politics, which disappoints and dejects us. However, also it is quite clear that behind all those articulation, there is an invisible hand that is instrumental with support and assistance. Through all this motivated news and articulation of opinion, a mean political exercise of promoting KNF is being carried out. Ultimately, the issue of nationalism is being provoked to label “Zo Nationalism” vs “Jumma Nationalism” and thereby the situation is being directed to take yet further different course.
At one end, interestingly, many find the only relationship of Islamic militants with the KNF but they are reluctant to find the relation of the state force, the Bangladesh army with KNF. Its means that it is to be able to see only one side of the object. Consequently, this one-sided view leads our researchers, authors and so-called right-lovers to step all along the wrong path. At the same time, for having view only on one side, they cannot reach the core point of the problem and hence, they fail to find out the path leading to solution.
To speak the truth, according to dialectical materialism, every object is related with other object and one impacts upon another. Hence, it is not that the KNF issue of the hills, does not have its political impact in CHT or in South Asia (at present to some extent). But this issue is, by no count, related with other national liberation movement of South Asia (Therefore, it is wrong to compare with that of Zo nationalism or regard it as equivalent). Furthermore, the state authority is trying to expanse its influence in geo-political sphere using the KNF and hence, the on-going ill-intention of the state authority is KNF-centric. Despite being so, the sudden rising of KNF, by no counts, be accounted in line with the fighting of other indigenous groups of South Asia. If it is estimated as equal, then, it is for a certain that once again, a blunder will be committed along the historical advancement.
Relevantly, if we review the political history of Manipur, we find that Manipur was an independent Kingdom, named Kangleipak Kingdom. Also during 1947 Partition, Manipur maintained its intension to express herself as an independent country. But for fear of Burma’s aggression, Manipur had signed the agreement ascertaining its status of apex state under Union of India in 1949. Later on, it became a central-administered state in 1956 and attained full statehood in 1972. But towards 1950, when the Naga people went on waging their “Nagalim” movement, the heat wave did also reach Manipur. In 1964, the Meitei people also took ‘U’ turn opposing Manipur’s annexation to India and with demand for independent Manipur, formed United National Liberation Front (UNLF) followed by formations of People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) and People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
In 1993, as the NSCN (I-M) carried out genocide upon the Kuki ethnic community people, in opposition, soon the Kuki people found themselves organized under Kuki National Organization (KNO) with their demand for free land known as ‘Jalengam’ and Zomi Revolutionary Organization (ZRO) including many other rights-loving organizations.
On the other end, the Chin ethnic groups living in Chin Hill of Myanmar do have political reality of their own. Since the very beginning, they have been fighting politically for their right to self-determination and at present, the Chin National Front (CNF) together with the CDF has kept their fighting lively against the Junta government.
Therefore, each and every movement of the genre has political history and political character of its own. Since, the Kuki/Zo ethnic groups of India and Myanmar have the joint historical bondage of national liberation movement, of course, it is usual to have relationship, communication and political unity among themselves the tradition of which is absent in KNF.
On a study over the recent violence in Manipur, many find fresh rise of “Zo” nationalism, once again and trying their best to focus KNF’s lineage with that of the rise. As I have already stated that such effort is nothing but to conceal the real character of KNF and in place to let it wear a mask of nationalism. The “Zo” Nationalism is not a new concept as such. It has a holistic political history. If really it had been so, KNF would have found its debut in Mizoram or Chin Hill of Myanmar. Since, the revolutionary movement pre-requisites a ‘hinterlands’ as one of the essential conditions.
But the question remains: How come! How an armed organization that brought up under Bangladesh security forces, can be a basis of nationalism? Since its very birth, the organization that can show its dare-devil courage to create a split in the national unity, and in place of protesting against national suppression and oppression, can openly place itself against a historically well-founded right-loving organization (PCJSS), as such, how one can think of searching for rights of politics in such an organization?
KNDO office was inaugurated in 2012 by the then Brigadier General Syed Siddiqui, PSC. The then Ruma Zone Commander Lt. Col. Ariful Bari and Captain Nahid were also present on the occasion. In 2016-17, the National ID cards of 42 members of the KNF were kept deposited to Ruma Zone, when 42 members were going for military training in Kachin State of Myanmar, which proved that this was done on the advice of the army.
Alright then, let us clarify the issue to a little further. On 21 June 2022, KNF conducted a surprise attack in Saizam Para area of Rainkhyong valley under Bilaichari Upazila during which they killed 2 persons (one killed by slitting throat) and wounded 4 including children – all belonging to Tripura community. To launch a protest against the incident when the Bangladesh Tripura Kalyan Sangsad and Tripura Students Forum sought permission for holding a gathering, the Bandarban Army Brigade prevented the initiative openly.
On 23 June 2022, from Bandarban Army Brigade, the Tripura representatives were categorically told that no excessive move should be made with the incident. At the same time, the army put an embargo applicable to all printing presses and shops with prohibition on producing placard, festoon and banners of any kind on the incident, with stunned warning to inform the army, if any person come to the printing press or shop for the purpose. Besides, when the Bangladesh Tripura Welfare Council and Tripura Students Forum wanted to visit the spot of occurrence, the army also imposed embargo in that approach. Afterwards, on 3 July 2022, a group of 4 police force from Bilaichari police station reached Ruma to conduct an investigation but the army refused to extend cooperation to the investigation party of law & order agency.
On 22 October 2022, Sangpa Bawm, representative of KNF went to Ruma Army Zone and met the Zone Commander Hasan Shahriar Iqbal. By then, the Zone Commander told him: “You people, have not yet been able to show even a single piece of dead body belonging to PCJSS. If you fail to show a single dead body of PCJSS within the coming 6 October, then the condition of yours will be in bad shape.”
The army started a joint campaign in Ruma Upazila and in Borthali Union of Bilaichari ulpazila from 3 October 2022. The next day, on 4 October 2022, the army and KNF personnel purchased a yak for Taka 40,000 and had their lunch at Ronin Para.
Afterward, there came a sudden change in the situation when the RAB held a press conference on suppression of Islamic militants and about a new militant group in Dhaka on 6 October 2022. The RAB exposed to the conference that the militants of Jamatul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharaqiya were receiving training at KNF camps in the hills and the KNF was providing the Islamic militants with training and shelter in exchange of money.
On 9 October 2022, on then and there, the army very tactfully let Nathan Bawm and Shamim Mahfuj move away from the KNF camp located at Ramettaung hill. As the RAB and SSF started campaign against the Islamic militants, the army found themselves landed in an awkward situation. The gravity was so much so, instead of locally posted army, even the army detachments were called from Khagrachari, Dighinala of Khagrachari and Comilla were brought to assist in the operation.
Therefore, the state security forces have been involved in all the beginnings of odds and specially, the DGFI has been the chief engineer behind the rise of KNF. During the current military campaign the differences and opinion conflicts between the DGFI and Army Security Units get the whole issue more embodied. DGFI’s theory suggests Slow Poisoning based on which the campaign was to be conducted while on the contrary, the theory of Army Security Unit was to conclude the operation within shortest possible time. At this point, DGFI would provide information to both the army and KNF at the same time. Consequently, the army would come under attack when it would move as per the information of DGFI. Besides, the influence of DGFI in army programs remains prominent by some form or the other.
The more clear and handy evidence can be found in the meeting of public representatives of Ruma Upazila and media personnel organized at Ruma Army Zone-18 BIR, by the Zone Commander Lt. Col. Hasan Shariar Iqbal. But none was allowed to speak out in the meeting. It was the only speaker Lt Colonel said: “Nathan and his men used to say that they are the most backward section. It for that reason, we helped establish the KNDO and we helped financially after its establishment and we extended our helping hands in various ways.” With great remorse he continued saying: “Where! We have heard nowhere that Nathan and his men built houses for the homeless, constructed roads or took up responsibility of education of any family! Then, where have all the money gone?”
Therefore, it is crystal clear that the army gave birth to KNF to use it as an effective weapon against the Jumma Nationalism. Since, they wanted to make use of the unity of Bawm community people in provoking ethnic division in the hills. Consequently, to incite KNF against Tanchangya and Tripura community people, meting out killing and atrocities. The army had the plan to domesticate similar armed groups from among the Tripura and Tanchangya community people. At the same time, to undermine PCJSS by terming it a “Chakma Party” obviously to generate Chakma hatred. But as though their plan spelled failure, they have separated the Bawm community people from the rest of the ethnic community people. On plea of KNF, a heinous land grabbing program is under-way where the Bawm villages are being depleted one after another while making them leave own lands and homesteads. Usually, the Bawm people establish their localities comparatively a little higher points and ensure holistic facilities available.
On the other hand, there is nothing cause and effect ground to derive rejoice from the on-going anti-KNF campaign. Since, the campaign has never been an anti-KNF campaign in true sense of the term but a campaign against the Islamic militants. For the reason of why the army have organized a ‘Peace Committee’ soon after holding Shamim Mahfuj under their custody. Indeed, the Peace Committee is a stooge and acts in accordance with the directives served from the army. In fact, it is not the rehabilitation of KNF rather it is an effort to re-construct the KNF to use against the Jumma nationalism more effectively than before. The state security forces want to keep the situation in the hills always in tensed so as to legalize their illegitimate presence. In essence, they want CHT to be used as the hinterlands of Bangladesh Armed Forces.