Hill Voice, 17 October 2019, Thursday, Rangamati: Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, Home Minister of Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh paid a 2-day visit to Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) with a great pomp on 16 and 17 October 2019. During his visit, he delivered speech at least in two gatherings including several press briefings in Ramgarh of Khagrachari hill district and in Rangamati hill district town along with a retinue of high-level officers of law & order and security forces, local public representatives and civil society members. Meetings organized by the Home Ministry under the banner titled: ‘Special Meeting Relating to Law & Order in Three Hill Districts,’ the Home Minister spoke against killings, conflicts, terrorism, abduction and extortion; and he pronounced direct threatening of drastic measures against the terrorists. With an assertion, he also said that peace will be restored in CHT at any cost. He has covertly warned by saying that formidable days are coming to those who are engaged in extortion and bloodshed in the hills.
Echoing the same tune, the GOC of 24 Infantry Division, Director General of RAB and Inspector General of Police also, while raising allegations of terror, conflict and extortion, delivered one-sided speech blended with provocation and threatening of dire consequences. The threatening uttered in their deliberations of speech, among other frightening words, include: ‘…the terrorists will be dug out from their hideouts even be it lying under 3 feet deep in the earth. The cases with Dhaka wherein dwell more than 20 million people and in addition, despite regular in and out going of one crore commoners, the terrorists are easily busted, as such, for the case with CHT populated of some 1.6 million, searching out the terrorists cannot be a matter of impossibility….’ As a result of such one-sided allegations and threatening, there has arisen panic and anxiety in the psyche of mass people in CHT at large. Amid continued arbitrary arrest, killing in so-called crossfire, searching houses in the wee hours and rampaging household articles and regardless physical torture, the threat of ‘formidable days ahead’ has made the people extremely panic-ridden and insecure.
It is to be noted that this sort of meetings relating to law & order, indeed, are being held directly violating the implementation process of the CHT Accord. According to the CHT Regional Council Act 1998 framed as per the CHT Accord, the ‘general administration’ and ‘law & order’ subjects falls under jurisdiction of the CHT Regional Council (CHTRC) for supervision and coordination; and as per the three Hill District Council Act 1989 (Amended in 1998), the subjects of preservation of ‘law & order’ and ‘police (local)’ are within perimeter of functions of the Hill District Councils (HDCs). But meetings of this kind are usually held unilaterally by the Home Ministry of Homes and CHT Affairs Ministry without having consultation with the CHTRC and HDCs. The Chairman of the CHTRC and the Chairmen of the three HDCs, however, have been invited to the aforesaid meetings only. The CHTRC and HDCs have not been consulted in any form about planning and methodology of organizing the said meetings. Hence, it can safely be said that these law & order related meetings have been held violating the CHT Accord and the laws existing in CHT.
On the other hand, with provocation and threatening of dire consequences, speeches of one-sided, fabricated and of conspiring have been made on ‘law & order’ situation in CHT while evading the actuality wherein lay deep backdrop and conspiracy. It is the fact that the situation in CHT has been getting worsened day by day keeping pace with escalation of the killings, conflicts, terrorism, extortion and kidnappings by the quarter of vested interest and stooges under direct support and collaboration of the state machineries amid continuous dilly-dallying tactics and indifferent attitude on part of the government in proper and fullest implementation the CHT Accord that was signed to resolve the CHT crisis politically and peacefully.
It is as bright as the day that the government has been persuading one after another conspiracy to achieve its mean objectives to turn the CHT Accord into a null & void issue, to ruin the leadership of PCJSS, one of the signatories of CHT Accord, and, above all, to realize ethnic cleansing of the Jumma people. It is to be noted that immediately after signing of the Accord, the government, security forces, state machineries and the ruling parties have been providing support to the anti-Accord UPDF element; facilitating the self-styled Reformist collaborator clique with sponsorship, shelters and indulgence; and patronization of the foreign armed group named Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) through which series of conspiracy involving anti-Accord activities and designs of anti-interest of the Jumma people etc. have been persuading in CHT. It is due to the conspiring genre of this category on government part, the undesirable incidents like killings, blood shedding, terrorism, extortion and kidnapping continue to exist as daily usual matters. Hence, it is needless to say that the Home Minister has resorted to Goebbels’ policy by raising allegations of killing, terrorism and extortion obviously to direct the course of deteriorating situation CHT towards different direction.
It is to be noted that at the very outset, the Home Minister inaugurated the newly-built Ramgarh Police Station building of Ramgarh upazila under Khagrachari hill district in the morning on 16 October 2019 and at noon, he delivered speech at a gathering organized by Khagrachari district police on terror, drug and anti-terrorism held at the Ramgarh High School ground. He then moved to Rangamati town on that day and he attended the Special Meeting on law & order situation from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm held at Rangamati Deputy Commissioner’s conference hall. The next day, on 17 October 2019, he attended the meeting on the same theme organized by the Ministry of CHT Affairs at the Rangamati Cultural Institute Auditorium. In all these meetings attended along with the Home Ministers were: Bir Bahadur Ushwe Shing, Minister of CHT Affairs; Kujendra Lal Tripura, MP and Chairman of Task Force on Rehabilitation of India-Returnee Refugee and Internally Displaced Families; Dipankar Talukder, MP of Rangamati Constituency; Basanti Chakma, MP of reserved seat for women; Benazir Ahammed, Director General of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB); Mohammed Safinul Islam, Director General of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB); Major General SM Motiur Rahaman, GOC, 24 Infantry Division; Mohammed Zabed Patoary, Inspector General of Police; Mostafa Kamal Uddin, Secretary, Security Department of Ministry of Home Affairs; Misbahul Islam, Secretary of Ministry of CHT Affairs (MoCHTA); Sudatta Chakma, Additional Secretary of MoCHTA and various government and non-government officials. Besides, it was learnt that local public representatives, traditional leaders and some of the civil society personalities were also present in the meeting.
While addressing the meeting, the Home Minister categorically told the public representatives, civil society members and media people: “Bloodshed has broken out all of a sudden in all the three hill districts. The situation in CHT has taken unrest mood in the three hill districts due to regardless killings and extortion taking place over the last few days. At this, there prevails a formidable situation. An effort has been undertaken to stop the dreadful situation. We will bring back peace and law & order at any cost.”
Besides, Home Minister also said: “The points from where the army camps withdrawn, have been replaced with police and BGB camps and will be enhanced more, in need.” Further he said: “We will purchase helicopters for BGB and police forces. In all places, we will arrange roads and helicopters so that peace comes back in those places again.”
It is needless to say that if the ongoing various conflicts and violent incidents are viewed independently and one-sidedly and outwardly, if those are viewed in context of the law & order situation of the country, the statement made by Home Minister may generally seem to be of anti-terrorism. On the other hand, despite having knowledge of everything, as the statement does not contain clear explanation as to who are the people involved in the terrorism, it also gives birth to confusion. But ironically, it is well-known to all concerned that though some local vested section of the ruling party and army have been making statements against terror and extortion, in reality, it is they who have been nurturing with indulgence and providing support and shelter to the terrorists. Indeed, with a view to creating obstructions in implementing the CHT Accord, this very quarter of vested interest, in one end, as they are engaged in various anti-Accord conspiracies, so are they involved in the creation of hired stooges sometimes namely, Democratic UPDF or Reformist Group engaging them on anti-Accord plea following divide and rule policy aimed at bringing in extinction of Jumma national entity and entity of their land of birth, on the other end.
This anti-Accord quarter of vested interest constituted of ruling party people and army personnel, with a mean objective of damaging the Accord implementation process or movement for implementation of the Accord, having entangled the leaders and workers of Santu Larma-led PCJSS in fabricated cases, is putting them in the jail as terrorists or compelling them to flee from their areas or labeling the arrestees as terrorists and after cold-blooded killing them making public their death to have occurred in the crossfire. Alongside, with the hired armed stooges, killing and kidnapping the PCJSS workers and supporters have been let continue to take place. It is to be noted here that as some small section had created an anti-Accord element named UPDF, the ruling party began to nurture the group and provide them with shelter, support and indulgence. On the other side, the same anti-Accord quarter unleashed the Muslim settlers’ organizations namely, Somo Odhikar Andolon, Bangali Gono Parishad and Bangali Chhatra Parishad to conduct communal attacks upon the Jumma dwellings one after another.
To say honestly, even though having the CHT Accord signed but it is due to not having the Accord implemented by the government with heartily, sincerity and in time, the situation of CHT has now turned into a complex one. Consequently, those who are the creators of terrorists, even they, too, are now striving to hide the real terrorists by talking about the terrorism. On the other side, while showing the CHT crisis as to be of terrorism, are engaged in an ill-effort to slip the CHT under carpet and strengthen the military rule further while giving a legal shape. It is really a matter of regret that today, it the same patrons and collaborators of the terrorists, extortionists and arms-holders, are highly vocal in declaring war against terrorism, extortion and arms racing out there in the field!
The Home Minster has covertly threatened to deploy BGB, police and RAB in those points from where the army camps had been withdrawn and to face formidable days to those who are engaged in extortion and bloodshed in the hills. As we know, it is seen in the history, those who are dictators and fascists, always term the just movement for the rights to be terrorist activities to confuse the public opinion and opt for ill-effort to give legal shape to their suppression and oppression. We need not to go far off place to find out an illustration. It is just a few decades back, General Zia and General Ershad, like the Home Minister, had threatened the Jumma people showing the fear of ‘formidable days.’ But the just movement of the Jumma people could not be nulled. Consequently, spelling abject failure in solving out the crisis through military means, as part of continuity of formal dialogue with the government of General Ershad and Khaleda Zia, the then Sheikh Hasina government had to come forward to sign the CHT Accord in 1997 to resolve the crisis politically and peacefully at national level.
It is fact that since independence, the Jumma people of CHT have been and as of today, are under military rule and fascist suppression and oppression. The Jumma people are passing the ‘formidable days’ for almost five decades. The Home Minister should keep in memory that a political crisis cannot be solved through military suppression and oppression. Bangladesh is the best illustration of the kind.
The Home Minister, through his opinion stating the presence of a Magistrate during conversation between the CHT regional parties and diplomates to be obligatory, clearly manifested mentality of extreme communalism and hatred of the Jumma people the attitude of which can never be desirable from a personality like his status. It is needless to say that the aggressive, unilateral and threatening statement delivered by the GOC of 24th Infantry Division, Director General of RAB and Inspector General of Police during the visit to Khagrachari and Rangamati is ostensibly a part of the conspiracy hatched by the government and ruling class.
In his deliverance, the Home Minister further mentioned: “According to the CHT Accord, still we honor the Accord. We want, following the Accord, we will bring in peace in this region.” But though he referred to the Accord, he did not come up with mention-worthy direction or statement on implementation of CHT Accord. If the government really wants to follow the Accord, then the following issues are needed to be addressed:
⦿ the Jumma (tribal)-dominating feature of the region has to be preserved and legislative and administrative measures to that regard have to be undertaken;
⦿ the power and functions of general administration, law & order, police, land & land management, forest & environment, communication, secondary education, tourism, development etc. have to be devolved to the CHT Regional Council (CHTRC) and the three Hill District Councils (HDCs);
⦿ having the Election Rules and Electoral Rules formulated and Electoral Roll prepared with the permanent residents of CHT, elections of CHTRC and HDCs have to be held;
⦿ all the temporary camps including de facto military rule ‘Operation Uttoron (Operation Upliftment) have to be withdrawn;
⦿ having the Rules of the Land Commission framed and allocating adequate fund and human resource to the Land Commission and establishing sub-office of the Commission in Rangamati and Khagrachari districts ensure, the forcibly dispossessed lands of the Jumma people have to be returned to the actual owners;
⦿ the India-returnee Jumma refugees and internally displaced Jumma refugees have to be rehabilitated properly after having their lands and homesteads returned to them;
⦿ the permanent residents of CHT with preference to the Jumma people have to be appointed in all government and non-government services in CHT;
⦿ the CHT Development Board has to be brought under overall supervision of CHTRC in the interest of pro-people and eco-friendly development approach and build a self-determined development process by letting the Jumma people determined their own development;
⦿ amendment to all the laws and regulations applicable in CHT have to be made as to make them in consonance with the Accord; and
⦿ the Muslim settlers have to be rehabilitated outside CHT with dignity and honor by dismantling their cluster villages and by stopping supply of ration to them.
Doing so, it is only then the situation of CHT will start to improve within a second, by itself and healthy breeze will then blow over the region. In order to follow the CHT Accord, with political firmness and sincere will, would the government be courageous enough to implement the above-mentioned unimplemented issues of the CHT Accord?
It is passing 22 years since signing of the CHT Accord. The grand alliance government led by Awami League is in power consecutively for 11 years. But the government has not yet been seen coming up with visible and goodwill initiative for proper and fullest implementation of provisions of CHT Accord. The government entered upon Accord but it would not implement the Accord; having signed the Accord and afterwards having taken deposition of arms, then government would cheat and and as before, would go for ethnic cleansing of Jumma people; on the contrary, the government in guise as saint but would give threatening – all this cannot be a sense of a civilized human. Hence, there is no alternative to implement the CHT Accord to its preciseness and the fullest extent.