Brief History and Struggle of the people of the Chittaging Hill Tracts[1*]
Dialogues between the Government and the PCJSS
1. Dialogues with Zia Government
2. Dialogues with Ershad Government
3. Dialogues with Khaleda Zia Government
4. Dialogues with Sheikh Hasina Government
Main Features of CHT Accord
Problems with Implementation for the CHT Accord
1. Machiavellian Double Standard
2. Dilly-delaying Tactics and Non-cooperation of the Government
3. Continuation of Militarization
4. Non-stopping and Non-withdrawal of Bengali Muslim Settlers
5. Paucity of Land and Development Issue
Root Causes of the CHT Problem
1. Right to Self-determination
2. Encroachment on Land Rights
3. Islamisation Policy through Transmigration of Bengali Muslim Settlers
4. Military Solution for a Political Problem
5. Non-indigenous Hostile Bureaucracy
6. Lack of Good Governance and Decentralisation of Power
7. Non-recognition of the Entity of the Indigenous Jumma People in the Constitution
Solution of the CHT Problem
[1*] This paper has been prepared by information and publicity department of the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) in 2003. Later, it has been updated in 2014.
The Chittagong Hill Tracts Issues
The Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), south-eastern part of Bangladesh, comprises a total area of 5,093 sq. miles (13,189 sq. km.) which is about one-tenth of the total area of Bangladesh with over 1.325 million populations (0.700 million indigenous people and 0.625 million permanent Bengali Muslims, infiltrated and politically transmigrated Bengali Muslim settlers). It shares borders with Myanmar on the south and southeast, India on the north and northeast and Chittagong district on the west. It is completely different in physical features, agricultural practices and soil conditions from the rest of the country with mountains and beautiful landscapes. CHT is located between 21°-40? degrees and 23°-47? degrees north latitude and 91°-40? degrees and 92°-42? degrees east longitude. It is a unique territory with mountains and beautiful landscapes and socio-economically and culturally completely different from the rest of the Bangladesh. It roughly runs from North to South for 280 km.
From time immemorial the CHT has been the home to eleven indigenous ethnic peoples. They collectively identify themselves as the Jumma people (High Landers), the first people of the CHT. They are the Chakma, Marma, Tripura, Tanchangya, Murung, Lushai, Khumi, Chak, Khyang, Bawm, Pankhua. Beside, a very small number of descendents of Assames and Gorkhas also live in there. The Jumma people are distinct and different from the majority Bengali people of Bangladesh in respect of race, language, culture, heritage and religion.
Before the British colonization, the indigenous Jumma people of CHT were independent. During the whole period of the Mughal rule in this Indian sub-continent, the Chakma Kings were internally supreme and externally free. In 1550 a Portuguese cartographer named Joa De Barros shown the Chakma kingdom on his map as the Feni river to the North, the Namre or Naf river to the south, the Lushai hills to the east and the sea to the west.
In 1763 Mr. Henry Verlest, the First Chief Officer of the Chittagong Council appointed by the East India Company officially proclaimed that the ‘tract’ bounded by the Nizampur road, Kuki territory, the Feni and Sangu rivers belonged to the Chakma Raja.2*
In 1712, there were several encounters between the forces of Chakma King and the Mughal Governor of Chittagong because of a border dispute and the Chakma king captured two canons, which are known as “Kalu Khan” and “Fatheh Khan”. However, in 1713 the Chakma king, Fateh Khan made peace with the Mughals and obtained permission from the Mughal Emperor, Farrukshiyar to allow ‘Beparies’ (traders) to trade with the Jummas on payment of 11 mounds of cotton.3* It also gave access the Jumma people to Chittagong for buying their necessities i.e. salt, dry fish etc.
There had been no external interference by any outside power in the affairs of the CHT until 1787 when an agreement was signed with the British and the British colonization started since 1860. So the Kings of the CHT reigned independently during the whole pre-British Era.
2* District Gazetteers- page 34
3* District Gazetteers- page 34
After the battle of Pallessy in 1757 the East India Company became the virtual master of the whole of Bengal, Bihar and Orissya. The East India Company took over the administration of Chittagong on 15 October 1760 and led several military expeditions against the Chakma king to establish their colonial footing in the region. The first battle of the indigenous Jumma people of CHT with East India Company ensued in 1772 and subsequent battles in 1777, 1778, 1780 and 1782. This war was popularly known as ‘Carpus Revolt’. In 1787 after about one and half decade of fighting, the Chakma Raja, Jan Bux Khan signed a peace treaty named ‘Cotton Treaty’ with the company at Fort Williams, Calcutta. Under this treaty the quasi-independent status of CHT was recognised. The subject matter of the treaty4* between the Governor General and Chakma King was as follows:
(1) The East India Company recognised Jan Bakhsh Khan as the Raja of the Chakmas.
(2) It was agreed that the collection of revenue was the responsibility of Raja.
(3) The British government would preserve tribal autonomy and migration from the plains.
(4) Jan Bakhsh Khan was bound by the treaty to maintain peace in his country.
(5) British troops would remain in the Chakma territory not to terrify the Chakmas but to protect the land from the inroads of the fierce tribes.
The Chakma struggle against British domination earned historical significances. Their struggle may be viewed as a fight fought by unconquered people in a conquered territory. For long thirty years the Chakmas offered resistance against British authority. It was in fact a war of aggression conducted by the British rulers against the Chakmas who were conducting a war of defense. Though they were defeated by the British army they could not be subdued. Their fight for freedom added a new chapter to the resistance movement that was going on throughout Bengal in the latter part of the eighteenth century. Jan Bakhsh Khan and Ranu Khan may be regarded as equal to such freedom fighters as Bhavani Pathak or Majnu Shah in courage and ability. They demonstrated same degree of courage, fortitude and love of freedom like other contemporary freedom fighters of Bengal. Their Resistance against imperialism is worthy of being remembered by the posterity.5*
The CHT was reduced into a tributary state and the Chakma king obliged to pay 500 maund (about 2000 kg.) of cotton to the company as revenue. The company maintained a policy of non-interference with the kings in governing the CHT. Later the rule of East India Company came to an end in 1867 while the British monarchy took over the power of whole India. From 1787 to till 1860 the British government did not intervene in the internal administration of CHT. More than a hundred years afterwards in 1860 the Kingdom was divided into two parts as Chittagong and Hill Tracts of Chittagong. Former part was included into Bengal as a regulated district and later part was retained as non-regulated district with a limited autonomy under the Governor-General in council of British India.
In 1873 and in 1883 Bohmong circle and Mong circle were created respectively. Consequently, the CHT was divided into three circles, namely, Chakma circle, Bohmong circle and Mong circle. Each eircle was sub-divided into several Mouzas and the mouzas into Paras (villages). There were 33 blocks formed in 1880 for the census of 1891 and had been constituted permanent divisions and were called ‘Taluk’ in CHT. Subsequently, these Taluks were sub-divided ‘Mouzas’ or taxation areas.
4* Chakma Resistance to British Domination – Dr. Sunity Bhushan Qanungo
It is note worthy that in the early 17th century the Arakan King appointed Mongcheopeu as an Administrator of then Chittagong awarding him as Bohmong (Leader of Generals). As a result, the Mon or Telang people who came from Pegu along with Mongcheopeu gradually settled down in the Chittagong region. They became tenant of the Bohmong King. During period of Bohmongri II Konghla Prue, the great-grandson of Mongcheopeu, they, the kinsmen of the Bohmongri II, had started permanent settlement in Bandarban (Roadawmro) since 1804.
In the late 18th century, the Marmas who belong to Pleingsa and Lundukya built settlement in Matamahari valley. They then proceeded to the North during the period of Chakma king Jan Box Khan and settled at Sitakunda hills by paying taka fifty as Jum tax to the Chakma king. Their first leader was Kongjai alias Kunja Dhamai and Kyaja Sain Chowdhury became the leader after death of Kunja Dhamai. In 1884, the British East India Company created new circle named Mong Circle dividing the Chakma circle during the period of Chakma queen Kalindi Rani and Kyaja Sain Chowdhury was enthroned as king of Mong circle.
After 1860 and until 1900 the British government administered CHT through a set of rules promulgated from time to time. For the maintenance of discipline among the police personnel in CHT, Frontier Police Regulation III of 1881 was promulgated on the 7 December 1881 and CHT Police Force was raised with indigenous hill people.
In 1900 the British government enacted the CHT Regulation 1 of 1900 and declared CHT as a ‘Backward Tracts’ and later totally ‘Excluded Area’ in 1900 and 1935 respectively in order to protect the Jumma people from economic exploitation by non-indigenous people and to preserve their traditional socio-cultural and political institutions based on customary laws, community ownership of land and so on. According to this regulation, the general administrative set-up was made as District, Sub-division and Thana and the traditional set-up was made as Circle, Mouza and Villages. The Deputy Commissioner was empowered as the administrative head of the CHT district. Besides, he/she was entrusted with the responsibilities of exercising power as revenue collector as well as magistrate of the CHT. On the other, the Circle Chiefs and Headmen (mouza head) were made responsible for collection of revenue and exercising other powers including litigation and enforcement of customary laws and social justice. The CHT Regulation 1 of 1900 for more than a century acted as bulwark against the encroachment of the Bengali Muslim on the land of the Jumma people. In fact several provisions of the Regulation, 1900 functioned as a safeguard for the Jumma people and it prohibited land ownership and migrations of non-indigenous peoples into the CHT. In the CHT Regulation of 1900 it was clearly stated that:
“No person other than a Chakma, Mogh or a member of any tribe indigenous of CHT, the Lushai Hills, the Arakan Hill Tracts or the State of Tripura shall enter or reside within CHT unless he is in possession of a permit granted by the Deputy Commissioner at his discretion.”
It is notable that only few Bengali Muslim families from plain district (Chittagong district) who with special permission from the British Indian government were settled in CHT by the then Chakma king in 1870s mainly for agricultural cultivation purpose. Besides, Bengali Muslim businesspersons were allowed to enter into CHT for business purpose. The provisions of the CHT Regulation were executed properly and the indigenous hill people were safe during the British period. Thus, the CHT Regulation of 1900 provided for limited self-government by the people of CHT and this was strictly followed by the administration. Administrative changes were, however, made in CHT under British rule:
(1) On 1921, the CHT Regulation of 1900 was amended to declare CHT a ‘Backward Tracts’ and gave the Governor in council sole authority in the area;
(2) The Government of India Act of 1935 created CHT a totally ‘Excluded Area’ and so granted further recognition to the special status of CHT;
The CHT Regulation of 1900 yet could not meet up the aspiration of the people of CHT. It made the Deputy Commissioner so powerful that he could do or undo everything. There was no provision for popular representation in the affairs of CHT by the CHT Regulation. The Chiefs of the three circles, the Headman in the Mouza and the Karbari (Head of the village) were key links with the Deputy Commissioner and to the people. The Circle Chief and the Mouza Headman were the hereditary representatives of the people nominated by the Deputy Commissioner at his discretion. The Chief, the Headman and the Karbari were all self-centered and guided by self-interests. Thus, in the name of maintenance of peace and trampling down the political consciousness of the people of CHT, the British government made a typical hereditary aristocracy or privileged class in the society. These typical aristocrats seldom paid any attention to the general well being of the people and became puppets to the Deputy Commissioner. There was ban on politics in CHT. By the CHT Regulation of 1900, the Deputy Commissioner had the capacity and power to arrest a person even carrying a ‘Dao’ (Big knife) or country made iron instrument used for household work, no person was allowed to carry even a ‘Dao’ or a spear by the CHT Regulation, yet amidst of strict political stringency and bareness some Jumma people tried to take initiative to organise Jumma people in order to emancipate from subjugation.
For this purpose an organisation named ‘Chakma Juba Samiti’ was formed in 1915 by Raj Mohan Dewan. Through this organisation, some people from various classes tried to take initiatives for education and protection of national identity of the Jumma people. In developing education among the Jumma people, the name of Krishna Kishore Chakma was famous and the most notable. He was School Inspector of British India government. He established schools in several places and encouraged people to send their children into school. His initiatives for education supplied long-term input on national awareness among the Jumma people. Another organisation named ‘Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samiti’ was formed in 1920. The works of the organisation were basically limited within the interest of Headmen and elite class of the society. So, it did not put influence to the Jumma society till Ganashyan Dewam Dewan and Sneh Kumar Chakma took it charge in forties.
Yet amidst of strict political stringency and bareness there was formed a political organisation named ‘Chakma Jubak Sangha’ in 1928 under the leadership of Ghanashyam Dewan. It was a milestone in arousing political sentiment in CHT in later stages.
The British rule was over in 1947. Indian subcontinent was partitioned on the basis of two-nation theory under the provisions of Indian Independence Act, 1947. The Muslim dominated regions were to constitute Pakistan and the non-Muslim dominated regions were to constitute the Indian Union. It was quite natural for the Jumma people who constituted 98.5% of the total population of the then CHT to express desire to be included in the Indian Union. But the result was quite opposite, Sir Cyrill Radcliffe, Chairman of the Bengal Boundary Commission with a stroke of pen trampled down the aspiration of the people of CHT. The Bengal Boundary Commission recommended CHT to be part of Pakistan and on 17 August 1947 two days after the declaration of Pakistan independence the CHT was declared as part of Pakistan.
In fact, according to the primary survey reports of the Boundary Commission, CHT was to form a part of India. The mystery lies in the fact that the district of Zira and Ferozpur sub-division of Punjab, predominantly a Sikh populated area fell into Pakistan as envisaged in the early reports of Punjab Boundary Commission. As the Sikh are a brave and worrier nation they might not abide by the decision of the Punjab Boundary Commission if a part of Sikh dominated area would fall into Pakistan. Lord Mount Batten, Governor of the then India that the plan for Indian division might go futile; so he took it with serious concern. Therefore, Lord Mount Batten cancelled his primary plan and awarded CHT to Pakistan two days later after the declaration of Pakistan independence in exchange of Zira district and Ferozpur sub-division with India. It was incompatible with the Indian independence Act of 1947 by the British government.
The indigenous Jumma people of CHT could not abide by the decision of the Bengal Boundary Commission. The CHT Peoples’ Association, a socio-political organisation of CHT under the leadership of Sneh Kumar Chakma, unfurled the Indian national flag on 15 August 1947 at Rangamati, capital of the CHT, as a mark of protest against this injustice. The leaders of the Peoples’ Association formed resistance squads to defy the decision of the Bengal Boundary Commission. It was really an injustice to the CHT people meted out by the British at the fag end of their rule. The Jummas vehemently protested against the decision but to no avail. All their efforts were thwarted when the Baluch Regiment of Pakistan Army entered into CHT and proclaimed control over the area. They lowered the Indian flag at Rangamati six days later at gunpoint and raised the flag of Pakistan on the 21 August 1947.
In August 1947, the British handed over the administration of CHT to the government of Pakistan. The Pakistan government, however as per the provision of the Independence Act, recognised CHT as a fully Excluded Area and retained it even in the first constitution of Pakistan, which was passed in 1956, along with the CHT Regulation of 1900. From the very outset, the Pakistani government looked upon the Jummas with an eye of suspicion as anti-Pakistani as well as anti-Islamic. There was discrimination against the Jummas in jobs, business and education. The government policy was clearly revealed by the repeal of the CHT Frontier Police Regulation, 1881 with disbanding the Jumma police force in 1948. Pakistan government though did not dare to cease the CHT Regulation of 1900 it maintained grim view on the people of CHT. It considered the indigenous people as hostile elements and pro-Indian. Therefore, the Pakistan governments’ ultimate aim was to exterminate the people of CHT through its socio-political-economic policy.
Even in 1950s, in implementing her brazen designs violating the principles and spirit of the CHT Regulation of 1900 the government of Pakistan started Bengali Muslim settlement at Longadu and Naniarchar in CHT and it continued up to 1966. Side by side, the government actively encouraged the outsider-Bengali Muslim infiltration into the CHT. To facilitate this, the government of Pakistan amended the CHT Regulation of 1900 several times against the will of the Jumma people in order to find a legal excuse for transmigration of the non-indigenous Bengali Muslim people from the plains of present Bangladesh into the CHT with a view to changing the CHT from a non-Muslim dominated area into Muslim dominated one. As for example, the government had enacted the CHT (Land Acquisition) Regulation, 1958 in order to grab Jumma peoples’ ancestral land. Moreover, the government snatched away the rights and privileges of the Jumma people through abrogating the Excluded Area Status of the CHT in 1963.
Further, the government amended Section 34 of the CHT Regulation of 1900 in 1961 and later in 1971 in order to throw open the CHT region for the outsider Bengali Muslim settlers. It is relevant that Section 34 of the Regulation was a safeguard for the Jumma people which prohibited land ownership and migrations of non-indigenous peoples into the CHT.
Further still, Section 51 of the said Regulation put a restriction on the outsider Bengali Muslim migration into the CHT. That was why it was repealed in 1965 to facilitate migration as well as infiltration of outsider Bengali Muslim settlers.
The government deliberately ignored the fact that the CHT Regulation 1 of 1900 was an indispensable legal instrument for ensuring the safeguard of the Jumma people, and that could not be amended without mutual agreement. On the contrary, the Pakistan government interpreted the CHT Regulation of 1900 as a legacy of British colonial administration, which helped separating the CHT from the Islamic mainstream of the country.
In 1960, in order to materialise its evil design and breaking down the economic backbone of the people of CHT, in the name of so-called industrial development the Pakistan government built the Kaptai hydroelectric project on the Karnafuli river in the heartland of the indigenous Jumma people which flooded 1,036 sq. km. of lands and submerged 54% (54,000 acre) of the best arable land and also displaced about 100,000 Jumma people from their ancestral hearth and homes for good. Rehabilitation Program was a cruel farce. By Karnafuli project people became panicky and because of insecurity, finding no alternative among these some 40,000 Chakma were forced to migrate into India and about 20,000 other Jumma people had to take refuge in Myanmar. The people who are living in Indian State of Arunachal are yet to be given citizenship.
The area affected by the Karnafuli project is the nucleus of CHT. In a publication of the Far Eastern Economic Review in 1980, it was amply stated that the government set $ 31 millions aside for rehabilitation. Only $ 2.6 millions had actually been spent. The Kaptai dam damaged the agro-based main economy of the CHT and brought about a permanent disintegration of the Jumma people on one hand and led to the inroads on Bengali Muslim population in the region in large number on the other. It created jobs and business opportunities for Bengali Muslim. The uprooted Jumma people were neither compensated properly for their lands and homesteads nor provided land for their rehabilitation. It destroyed the economical backbone of the indigenous Jumma people completely. In the second constitution of Pakistan, the Excluded Area Status was changed to “Tribal Area” in 1962. But it was abolished in 1963 by constitutional amendment. The entire administration including the police was manned by Bengali Muslims from plain districts. As a result, execution of the policy of discrimination, deprivation and exploitation against the indigenous Jumma people became very easy.
What is more naked is that Pakistan government hit upon a surreptitious policy of depopulating the indigenous population of CHT by encouraging the settlement of Bengali Muslim in CHT from other districts of East Pakistan. Consequently, Bengali Muslim settlers in thousands streamed into CHT and begun to grab the lands of the indigenous people in the middle and the last of sixties. In this way, Pakistan government had successfully materialised its vilest socio-political-economic policy in exterminating the indigenous Jumma people of CHT. The reaction of the people of CHT against the nefarious policy of Pakistan was alarming. As a result of repressive measures followed by Pakistan government, discontent and resentment was simmering through out CHT. Educated people, in particular, the students who had been imbibed with modern political consciousness and thinking had thought of ways of withstanding the repressive policy of Pakistan government. Manabendra Narayan Larma, President and founder of the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) (The United Peoples’ Party) and champion of national awakening in CHT was a student leader in the early sixties.
A student conference under the leadership of M. N. Larma was held in 1962 in Rangamati. In this conference, the Jumma students were called to go village and remote area to work for education and to make political awareness among Jumma people. The conference also condemned the government policy regarding CHT. As a result, M. N. Larma had to undergo detention for a protest against the unjustified and improper compensation and rehabilitation to the affected people of Kaptai dam by Pakistan government on 10 February 1963. He was released from detention on 8 March 1965. After his release from detention, he contemplated in the unification and organisation of hitherto scattered student community of CHT. By his dynamic leadership, students and educated people became more and more unified and conscious of their centuries repression in all respects. The CHT Tribal Students’ Association which was reconstituted in 1956 under the leadership of the then student leader Ananta Bihari Khisa and Sudhakar Khisa became more unified and organised in early sixties under the leadership of M. N. Larma with a definite political aims and objects.
The CHT Tribal Welfare Association was formed in 1966 under leadership of Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma (Santu Larma), the present leader of PCJSS which served as a turning point in the emergence of national sentiments of the people of CHT in the later years. The CHT Teachers’ Association was also formed during this time under the leadership of J. B. Larma with definite political aims and objects. The Tribal Welfare Association contested in the East Pakistan Provincial Assembly election held in 1970 in the name of the Parbatya Chattagram Nirbachan Parichalana Committee (CHT Election Organising Committee) through which M. N. Larma contested from the northern constituency and was elected with majority votes as Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA) of East Pakistan. Chakma Circle Chief Raja Tridiv Roy also contested in the election of Pakistan National Assembly held in 1969 and was elected as Member of National Assembly (MNA).
The Election Organising Committee had 16 points demands in its election manifesto. ‘Autonomy with own legislature for CHT’ was the main point of the manifesto. This received wide support from the people of CHT during the election. M. N. Larma unequivocally raised the demand for autonomy for CHT.
Soon, Bangladesh liberation movement took a serious turn reaching its climax dramatically. After 26 March 1971 the law and order situation in East Pakistan entirely collapsed and the provincial Assembly virtually ceased for function. Then M. N. Larma organised the students and youths. But the Awami League leadership with its ill motive pushed out the people of CHT from joining the liberation movement. Even Kumar Kokandashka Roy, popularly known as K. K. Roy (uncle of Raja Tridiv Roy, then Chakma Circle Chief), an Awami League candidate for 1970 East Pakistan Provincial Assembly election, when crossed into India to join liberation movement was arrested and insulted at Agartala in a conspiracy by H. T. Imam, the then Deputy Commissioner of CHT and a district Awami league leader Md. Syedur Rahman. Therefore, the future of CHT had to ponder over the future of CHT again.
After nine months of war of independence against Pakistan, Bangladesh emerged as an independent state on 16 December 1971. The victorious ‘Mukti Bahini’ (Freedom Fighter) entered into CHT with vengeance and communal hatred, creating a reign of terror situation through out CHT. The Mukti Bahini fell upon the innocent Jumma people, killing, looting, arsoning and raping women, burning houses and villages, victimising and terrorising the inhabitants who was were forced to take refuge in the jungles. Soon after the Pakistani army had withdrawn, the Mukti Bahini (liberation forces of Bangladesh) went on a systematic rampage against the Jummas in the CHT. On 5 December 1971, 16 Jumma people were massacred by the Mukti Bahini at Panchari. Another 18 were killed at Dighinala. On 14 December 1971, the Mukti Bahini killed 22 Jumma people at Kukichara. Moreover, a huge amount of paddy land belonging to the Indigenous Jumma people in Matiranga, Ramgarh and Manikchari was forcibly grabbed by the horde of Bengali Muslim from Feni district.
The indigenous Jumma people hoped that the new rulers of Bangladesh would realize their hopes and aspirations as Bangladesh rulers also struggled against the oppression and suppression of Pakistani ruler and the Jumma people would be free from oppression and discrimination. So the Jumma people demanded of the then government for autonomy in a democratic way. Unfortunately the government of Bangladesh did not respect their fundamental rights and did not write even a single word in the constitution regarding the entity and safeguard of the Jumma people. Rather immediately following the independence of Bangladesh in early 1972 the CHT underwent militarization. Three cantonments were established in Dighinala, Ruma and Alikadam during Sheikh Mujib period. Wide range discontent to unrest that resulted from terror through out CHT let loose by the Mukti Bahini, forced the people to assemble into a common political platform with the formation of Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) on 15 February 1972 under the leadership of M. N. Larma.
Against this backdrop, on 15 February 1972, a delegation of the Jumma people led by M. N. Larma, then a member of parliament, and Raja Maung Prue Sein Chowdhury, Mong Chief, the then Advisor to Bangladesh government on tribal affairs, called on the Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in protest against mass killings and atrocities committed by the Mukti Bahini in CHT and submitted before him a written memorandum with four-point charter demanding autonomy of the people of CHT. The four points were:
(1) CHT will be an Autonomous Region with its own legislature;
(2) For the safeguard of the rights of the Jumma people, a Statutory Provision must be guaranteed in the Constitution similar to the CHT Regulation of 1900;
(3) Administrative set up of the tribal Chiefs be retained; and
(4) There must be a Constitutional provision with a guarantee that no constitutional amendment on matters relating to CHT will be made without the prior consent of the people of the CHT.
M. N. Larma led another delegation to the Bangladesh Draft Constitution Formulation Committee on 24 April 1972 with a view to placing before it a memorandum containing five point demand which includes a demand for Regional Autonomy with its own legislature for the people of CHT and to see there point were enshrined in the constitution. The Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman forbade M. N. Larma not to meddle with affairs of CHT. He categorically rejected these demands with his sarcastic saying- “No, we are all Bengalis, forget your ethnic identity, be Bengalis”. He also threatened him with dire consequences and to flood CHT with Bengali Muslim if the Jumma people stick to their demand. But M. N. Larma was not a man to be scared.
In 1972 Bangladesh constitution was framed. The Awami League government ceased the existence of separate status of CHT in its constitution. Under the guise of Democracy, Nationalism, Secularism and Socialism the nationality for the people of Bangladesh was made to be as Bengali though there are various national minorities who are not Bengalis and have a distinct culture and language of their own. M. N. Larma opposed in the Parliament, for national minorities being called as Bengalis. He claimed – “A Bengali can never be a Chakma and vice-versa”.
The first election of Bangladesh Parliament held on 7 March 1973. M. N. Larma and Chaithowai Roaza won the two seats of CHT. The PCJSS in its election manifesto declared 15 point demands including Regional Autonomy with separate legislature for CHT and on the basis of these points M. N. Larma won a landslide victory in the election.
M. N. Larma strongly reiterated the demand for autonomy for the people of CHT in Bangladesh Parliament (Bangladesh Jatiya Sangsad), analysing their separate history, distinct culture, ethnic identity and centuries old political, cultural and economic problem of CHT. But all his efforts ended in failure and he was termed as separatist and hostile to government of Bangladesh.
So there had been no provision for the CHT and its Jumma people in the new Bangladesh Constitution of 1972. The entire region was thrown open for the waves of Bengali Muslim migration. With a view to control the movement of self-determination of the Jumma people, the government started suppressive measures including infiltration of Bengali Muslim. In no way it can be denied that the creation of Bangladesh was a traumatic experience particularly for the Jumma people in the CHT. They were still reeling from the economic impact of flooding of the Kaptai Hydel Project. In a period of extreme Bengali nationalism, there were serious Bengali Muslim reprisals against the Jumma people. As no provision on the CHT and its Jumma people had been included in the new constitution, so an increased numbers of Bengali Muslim settlers have been coming into the CHT since then. In fact, it was the beginning of a relentless ethno-cide as well as eco-cide in the CHT by intolerant Bengali Muslim governments on the basis of extreme Bengali nationalism.
When the constitutional movement ended in failure, the only means to safeguard the national existence of the people of CHT was through armed struggle. M. N. Larma, J. B. Larma and other top members of PCJSS and the Hill Students’ Association were all dismayed and gave up hope for guaranteeing national existence through constitutional process. They all agreed to take up armed struggle in order to achieve its rights from Bangladesh government. An armed wing of PCJSS was created under the name of Shanti Bahini (Peace Force). It was due to M. N. Larma’s strong leadership and organising capacity that the people of CHT were unified within a short period. He had to maneuver both constitutional and unconstitutional movement during the first phase of it. He was able to draw the attention and support from the people for armed struggle for the rights of self-determination for the people of CHT. A parallel administration was set up in CHT. The movement took a new shape.
In the meantime, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s government in a bid to forestall the arrest of the movement of the people of CHT has started increasing the number of its police posts and deployed the army, Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), Bangladesh BRP and other para-military forces in the CHT. Thousands of innocent people and many party workers were victimised due to brutal suppression forces. By this time, Sheikh Mujib’s government started bringing thousands of Bengali Muslim families into CHT from other districts of Bangladesh with a sinister motive to outnumber the indigenous population of CHT. Regime of Sheikh Mujib did not last long. He was toppled and killed in a bloody coup in 15 August 1975 by the army. Martial law was proclaimed throughout the country. However, the Jumma people continuously tried to negotiate with the government on the CHT issue even after the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in August 1975. A delegation consisting of 67 representatives from CHT on 19 November 1975 called on President Justice A. S. Sayem and submitted a memorandum to him reiterating the demand for regional autonomy. But the attempt was a fiasco. The government continued to execute the policy of Islamisation in CHT.
General Ziaur Rahman took over power on 7 November 1975 through a coup. His government branded the CHT problem as economic as well as separatist movement of the Jumma population and he sought a military solution. A memorandum was also submitted to then Deputy Chief Martial Law Administrator Major General Zia by the Jumma people in January 1976. General Zia responded to the PCJSS activities with a sharply increased military presence in the CHT. The government issued military administration in the CHT named ‘Operation Dabanal’ (Wildfire).
General Ziaur Rahman kept the flow of infiltrating Bengali Muslim into CHT till he was killed in an abortive coup in 1981. Then Adbus Sattar came into power as President of Bangladesh. During his tenure, infiltration of Bengali Muslim was carried out more nakedly. Lt. General H. M. Ershad toppled Abdus Sattar in a bloodless coup in 24 March 1982 and Martial law was declared throughout the country. Thus, it is evident that from Ziaur Rahman to H. M. Ershad, Bangladesh has been ruled by successive military juntas and some times with a titular President as head of the state but themselves remaining as Chief Martial Law Administrator of the country. Both the Generals and their governments persuaded the repressive policy in CHT like the Awami League government in the past and even surpass the Awami League regime in its brutally and barbarity. In suppressing the movement in CHT both Ziaur Rahman and H. M. Ershad instituted their most destructive and heinous socio-economic-political-military policy in CHT. The characteristics of this policy may be summed up with following perspectives:
1. State-Sponsored Migration of Bengali Muslim Settlers
President Ziaur Rahman began state-sponsored migration of Bengali Muslim settlers into the CHT, providing land grant, cash and rations. This program was continued in secret, the international communities were not aware of this program till mid-1980s. At least four hundred thousands of Bengali Muslim were transferred into CHT. During the armed struggle, the successive governments of Bangladesh followed same policies against the Jumma people. Since 1979, the government officially started to settle Bengali Muslim from the plain districts in the CHT to outnumbering the indigenous Jumma people and for using them (settlers) as human shield. The government declared that each settler family would be given 7.5 acres of lands and ration for unlimited period. Indeed, no cultivable land was vacant for settlement so the settlers started to forcibly occupy the land of indigenous Jumma people.
In order to suppress the Jumma people, the CHT has been very heavily militerised. The military has been linked at the highest levels with the civil administration. The Bangladesh military juntas want to solve the political problem of CHT, militarily by imposing its military and para-military forces. The 24th Infantry Division of Bangladesh army is in-charge of the CHT. It has set up as many as 3 (three) full fledged cantonment (Dighinala, Alikadam and Ruma), four brigade installations (at 3 district headquarters and Guimara), one Naval Base at Dhalyachari (Kaptai), several schools for jungle welfare, more than 525 base (temporary) camps of army, Ansar, APB and VDP. It is estimated that near about 150,000 army, BDR, APB, BRP, Police, Ansar and VDP forces have been deployed in different strategic places of CHT. After Zia, General Ershad became the President of Bangladesh in 1982. He too stepped into the shoes of Zia with regard to the CHT issue. The same policies of militarization and Bengali Muslim settlement programs in the CHT were continued. The CHT Commission says: “From military sources there are over 230 army camps, more than 100 BDR camps, over 80 police camps and so many base camps and security posts in the CHT. These figures do not include Ansar or the Village Defence Party (VDP), who carry out their counter-insurgency role under army control. At Kaptai there is also a naval base. Helicopters are frequently used to transport people and goods, to patrol and to fight the Shanti Bahini.”
3. Genocide and Ethnocide:
It was a program of ruthless Islamisation and political marginalization of the Jumma people in the name of counter-insurgency measure. With an aim to uproot the Jumma people from their ancestral land, a long series of massacres and genocide were perpetrated by the settlers with the direct help of government forces. As such it left a horrible legacy of violence, rape, loot, murder, arson, abduction and forcible conversion, sacrilege of religion and forcible occupation of Jummas’ land and property as well as gross violation of human rights for more than two decades. Thousand of Jumma people were ousted from their own hearth and home. Hundreds of Jumma women lost their lives, prestige and chastity. Thousand of Jumma people were ousted from their own hearth and home. Of them about 70 thousands Jumma took shelter in India as refugee and hundred thousands in deep forest of remote areas within the country. Thousands of indigenous children were deprived of education, health care and basic needs.
4.Establishment Cluster Village to detach the Jumma People from the Movement:
In order to detach the Jumma people from the movement for self-determination, the successive governments established cluster villages, namely, Adarshsgram, Shantigram, Baragram and Joutha Khamar for the Jumma people. The Jumma villagers were forcibly settled down in the cluster villages. The military kept vigilance over the Jumma people setting up camp and sentry post around cluster villages. The Jumma people were compelled to maintain daily register where, when and why they went out and come back. Even they had to compel to deposit their big knives, axes, spades etc daily to the camps. The military forces used them as workers without wages and committed sexual harassment upon the women. It is estimated that there were 205 cluster villages under this programme.
5. Identification of the CHT Problem as Economic Problem:
Though the government of Bangladesh accelerated the policy of military, side by side publicly identified the CHT problem as economic one with an aim to mislead the international community as well as to have fund for implementation of the plans and programmes against the PCJSS and the Jumma people. Under this policy, General Ziaur Rahman established CHT Development Board in 1976. However, it totally failed. On the contrary, the CHT Development Board was used as one of the counter-insurgency platforms. Several roads were constructed for military movement. On the other, road development project benefited the Bengali settlers in two ways. Firstly, as they monopolized marketing, the benefits automatically accrued to them. Secondly, the improved road communication made it easier for the Bengali settlers to migrate into the CHT. The development initiatives undertook by the CHT Development Board produced counter-effect to the real economic well-being of the Jumma people. In 1982 the GOC of 24th Infantry Division of Bangladesh army who was empowered to launch operation in CHT was made Chairman of the CHT Development Board. He utilised the fund provided by various international donor organisations like Asian Development Bank, World Bank etc. for implementation of development projects in CHT successfully for military purposes and settlement of Bengali Muslim population in CHT from plain districts.
6. Misleading Propaganda:
Foreign journalists, tourists and even Bangladesh journalists were prohibited to visit the CHT. There was censorship with regard to CHT, as repression and oppression being perpetrated on the people of CHT by Bangladesh government and also in fear of the truth about self-determination for the people of CHT might be published in the news items. The main causes behind the control and censor of news on CHT were – (1) to detach the CHT from home and abroad; (2) to implement the government-sponsored population migration programme secretly; (3) to conceal human rights violation committed upon the Jumma people and (4) to execute the ethnic cleansing programme secretly. On the other hand, the government propagated against the just movement of the Jumma people through government-backed journalists, newspapers, radio-television etc. For this purpose, the army sponsored dozens of daily, weekly and monthly newspapers. Several books and magazines were also published in Bengali and English from CHT with the direct financial support of army. These newspaper and books were supplied free. The PCJSS movement was always identified as terrorist and separatist activities.
7. Divide and Rule Policy:
The successive governments used divide and rule policy to oppose the movement of Jumma people. Under this policy, the government particularly the military authorities floated many organisations with local leaders from Jumma people since 1976, such as, Tribal Convention, Headmen Association, Chakma Unnayan Sangsad, (Chakma Development Council), Marma Unnayan Sangsad (Marma Development Council), Tripura Unnayan Sangsad (Tripura Development Council), Bawm Youth Federation, Murung Complex etc. These organisations were funded by army authorities to mobilise Jumma people of the related groups for their own interests only and to oppose the PCJSS and the movement openly for propaganda purposes. Besides, the military authorities floated several terrorists groups, such as, Gram Protirashka Committee (Village Protection Committee), Santras Protirod Committee (Terror Prevention Committee) etc. But the attempt achieved a little success.
Dialogues between the government and the PCJSS
The PCJSS always kept the door open for dialogue for resolving the CHT problem through political and peaceful means. For this purpose, the PCJSS held 6 and 13 times formal dialogues with the government of Ershad and Khaleda Zia respectively. At the last, after holding 7 round of dialogues with Sheikh Hasina government, ‘CHT Accord’ was signed between the government and PCJSS on 2nd December 1997.
Dialogue with Zia Government:
In September 1979, the government of Bangladesh sent Upendra Lal Chakma, then Member of Bangladesh Parliament to communicate with PCJSS for opening negotiation. The PCJSS responded in positive and demanded formal communication for dialogue. Communication between the two sides through him continued till October 1982. But the government refused to maintain communication and hold dialogue formally and even refrained from sending any letter to PCJSS about appointment of him as accredited representative of the government for communication. It was basically a diplomatic step of the government to propagate falsely about its attempt to resolve the CHT crises by political and peaceful mean and to hide its plan for military solution, particularly settlement of half a million political migrants between 1979 and 1982 under the government scheme.
Dialogue with Ershad Government:
The Ershad government sought negotiation with the PCJSS through a Liaison Committee. In order to holding dialogue between the government of Bangladesh and the PCJSS for resolving the CHT problem through political and peaceful means, a 3-member liaison committee named CHT Liaison Committee headed by then MP Mr. Upendra Lal Chakma was formed on 4 May 1984. However, under the supervision of the Liaison Committee, the first formal dialogue with Ershad government was held on 21 October 1985 at Logang Community Center under Panchari upazila in Khagrachari district. In this dialogue, the government recognized the CHT problem as national and political problem. The second dialogue was held on 17-18 December 1987 at the same venue where PCJSS submitted its five-point charter of demands including provincial autonomy with a legislature to the government. The main features of the charter of demands were:
(1) To accord Provincial Autonomy for the CHT with its own legislature;
(2) To make constitutional provisions prohibiting any constitutional change regarding CHT without consent of the CHT people and preventing anyone from other parts of country from settling down in CHT;
(3) To remove from CHT all those illegal outsiders who have infiltrated into CHT from 17 August 1947;
(4) To make special economic plans for the development of the Jumma people of the CHT;
(5) To create favorable climate for a peaceful and political solution of the crisis in the CHT.
The government denied to accept it and even to discuss on the 5-point charter of demands saying that it was inconsistent with the constitution and a threat to the sovereignty and independence of the country. On the contrary, government side put nine-point outline for resolving the crisis. The PCJSS rejected the outline, as it could not guarantee the national entity, land rights and the fundamental rights of the Jumma people. Yet 6 round of dialogues were held between the Ershad government and the PCJSS. It ended without any fruitful result as the government enacted Hill District Local Government Council Act 1989 and formed three HDLGCs one-sidedly bypassing the dialogue.
2. Dialogue with Khaleda Zia Government:
In 1991 Khaleda Zia came to power after the fall of Ershad regime. The PCJSS did not find the new government cohesive towards peaceful solution to the CHT crisis and hence PCJSS declared unilateral Cease-fire on 10 August 1992 forcing the government for entering into negotiation. Khaleda Zia government formed a 9-member Parliamentary Committee on CHT headed by Oli Ahmed, the then Communications Minister and the CHT Liaison Committee headed by Mr. Hangsadhwaj Chakma was reorganized. As a result, the dialogue with Khaleda Zia government was held. The first dialogue was held on 5 November 1992. During negotiation the PCJSS submitted an amended five-point charter of demands including regional autonomy with a regional council excluding demand of provincial autonomy with a legislature to the government on 4 December 1992. 6 round of dialogues with the Parliamentary Committee and 7 round of dialogues with its Sub-Committee were held till March 1996. Nevertheless, no solution was obtained due to lack of well intention of the government though 13 round of dialogues were held.
3. Dialogue with Sheikh Hasina Government:
In June 1996 Sheikh Hasina became the Prime Minister of the country. A 12-member National Committee on CHT Affairs headed by Chief Whip of the parliament was formed. From 21-24 December 1996 to 26 November and 2 December 1997, 7 round of dialogues were held between the National Committee on CHT Affairs of government and PCJSS. The discussion was held on modified five-point charter of demands including regional autonomy with a regional council. It was during her regime on 2 December 1997 the CHT Accord was signed with much fanfare between the government and the PCJSS ending more than two-decade old armed struggle for self-determination.
Main Features of CHT Accord:
On 2 December 1997 the National Committee on CHT Affairs on behalf of Government of Republic of Bangladesh and the PCJSS on behalf of residents of the CHT signed the CHT Accord at International Conference Hall of Prime Minister’s Office in Dhaka, capital of the country in presence of the Prime Minister, other cabinet minister and officials. The Accord is named “Accord between the National Committee on Chittagong Hill Tracts formed by the government and the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti”. The Accord is divided into four parts, such as, A. General, B. Hill District Local Government Councils, C. The Chittagomg Hill Tracts Regional Council and D. Rehabilitation, General Amnesty and Other Matters. The main features of the Accord are as follows:
(1) The CHT region has been recognized as a tribal-inhabited region and the need of preserving the characteristics of this region and attaining the overall development thereof. To preserve the characteristics of tribe-inhabited region, the following provisions were made in the Accord-
(a) Definition of non-tribal permanent resident has been determined by which a non-tribal person would not be permanent resident who has not lands of lawful entitlement in the hill districts.
(b) No land and premises, including the leasable Khas lands, within the territorial limits of the Hill Districts shall be transferable by Ijara (lease), settlement, purchase or sale except with the prior permission of the Council.
(c) Only the permanent residents of the CHT shall be entitled to be considered as legally eligible for enlistment in the voters’ list.
(d) A land commission would be formed for settlement of land disputes due to forcible land grabbing by the Bengali settlers and unlawful entitlement and acquisition.
(e) Responsibility of issuing permanent resident certificate was bestowed on traditional Circle Chiefs.
(f) All the posts of officers of all ranks and employees of different classes in government, semi-government, local government and autonomous bodies of the CHT, the permanent dwellers of the CHT shall be appointed, subject to priority being given to the Jumma people.
(2) Provision for formation CHT Regional Council with the aim of making CHT a unique political and administrative unit. This Regional Council was bestowed upon the power of supervising and coordinating to the subjects transferred to three Hill District Councils (HDCs), law and order, general administrations, development, CHT Development Board, traditional and social justice etc and the power of giving license for heavy industries. In making any law in connection with CHT, the Government shall enact such law in consultation with the Regional Council.
(3) Provision for more strengthening of power and functions of three Hill District Councils with 33 transferable subjects, such as, supervision, maintenance and improvement of the law and order, general administration, police, land and land management, primary and secondary education, youth welfare, environmental protection and development, local tourism, agriculture etc.
(4) Provision for establishment of Ministry for CHT Affairs where a cabinet minister would be appointed from among Jumma people and an Advisory Committee shall be constituted to lend support to this Ministry.
(5) In order to restore normalcy in the CHT region and, to that end, in respect of rehabilitation, general amnesty and allied issues, both the parties have been arrived at the following consensus and agreed to undertake programs as follows:
(a) Withdrawal of all the temporary camps of the army, the Ansars and the Village Defence Party (VDP), excepting the Border Security Force (BDR) and permanent army establishment (being those three at the three district headquarters and those at Alikadam, Ruma and Dighinala), from CHT;
(b) Rehabilitation of returnee Jumma refugees, internally Jumma displaced families and returnee members of the PCJSS;
(c) Rehabilitation of landless Jumma families providing land settlement;
(d) Allocation of additional finance on priority basis for the implementation of increased number of projects towards developments in CHT;
(e) Quota reservation for the Jumma people in respect of government service and in institutions for higher studies.
(f) Provision for formation of an Implementation Committee in order to monitor the process of implementation of the Accord.
(6) A 3-member Accord Implementation Committee with a Convenor to be nominated by the Prime Minister will monitor implementation of the Accord. The Accord will come into effect from the date of its signing and execution and will remain valid until completion of all tasks to be performed by both parties, as stipulated in the Accord.
Problems with Implementation for the CHT Accord
The CHT Accord had ended the decades long fierce armed conflict between the Jumma people and government of Bangladesh. This Accord was hailed and welcomed by not only the Jumma people of CHT and democratic and progressive political parties of Bangladesh but also by the United Nations, European Union and many democratic governments of the world and many national and international organizations and agencies and personalities as well.
On the contrary, some political parties of Bangladesh those are fundamentalist and extreme Bengali nationalist rejected it, arguing that the Accord is unconstitutional, endangers the sovereignty of the country and fails to safeguard the rights of the Bengali Muslim settlers. They have filed so far two writ petitions challenging the constitutional legality of the Accord as well as CHT Regional Council and three HDCs in order to spoil the political achievement from the CHT issue.
However, it is very painful that though the government of Bangladesh, in particular the then Awami League government, signed the Accord, but she has no sincerity to implement the Accord. The BNP led present coalition government is also following the same policy. As a result, though more than five years have been passed after signing of the Accord, most of the provisions, especially the main issues of the Accord, such as, formation of Land Commission for settling the land disputes, rehabilitation of returnee Jumma refugees and internally Jumma displaced families, withdrawal of temporary camps of security forces and military administration, preparing voter list only with the permanent residents of CHT, effective enforcement of the three HDCs and CHT Regional Council Act, rehabilitation of the Bengali settlers outside CHT and etc. have either left unimplemented or partially implemented.
There are not only lack of government sincerity in implementing the Agreement, but a vested group of the government, military and civil administration in CHT, Islamic fundamentalist groups have been trying to make impediments to it from the very beginning. The vested group of the government is carrying out anti-agreement activities through using government power and civil administration in one hand. With an aim to fulfilling its vested interest, this group is assisting the anti-accord UPDF through providing financial and logistic support and giving shelter to keep the overall situation unstable on the other. The military authorities also are actively involved in above-mentioned activities, particularly in assisting of the anti-accord UPDF. The discrete aim of the army is to keep the CHT situation unstable through consolidating the activities of the anti-accord factions so that they can legitimize their presence in CHT.
At present, the process of the implementation of the Agreement is totally stopped. The main causes for non-implementation of the Accord are:
1. Machiavellian Double Standard
The idiosyncratic mindset of the Bengali Muslim ruling elite, intelligentsia and bureaucrats deeply affected by a chauvinistic mentality is largely responsible for the total non-implementation of the Accord even after the elapse of 5 years of its signing. Moreover, the government’s Islamisation policy is the major obstacle to the implementation process. This is why the government is following a double standard policy. On one hand, it has taken a delaying tactics of giving only lip service to the Accord without any further implementation and on the other, it is relentlessly going on with a vigorous Islamisation policy very secretly. Moreover, a vested quarter very often raises question of unconstitutionality of the Accord as a measure for pressure-tactics.
2. Dilly-dallying Tactics and Non-cooperation of the Government
The Chittagong Hill Tract Regional Council Act, 1998 has clearly defined the authority and functions of the CHT Regional Council which is supposed to be the apex body supervising and coordinating almost all affairs in the Region. But the Chairmen of three Hill District Councils who belong to the ruling party, Chairman of the CHT Development Board and all units of civil administration such as Deputy Commissioners of the districts, UNOs of the sub-districts, District Superintendents of Police and Officer-in-Charge of Police Stations are performing their duties independently ignoring the supervisory and coordinating authority of Regional Council over them. It is a known fact that almost all of the functionaries are outsider Bengali Muslim people who have a deep-rooted anti-Jumma bias. Further, the Ministry of CHT Affairs has added a lot to this problem. The Ministry does not care much for the supervising and coordinating authority of the Regional Council. The Ministry very often bypasses the Regional Council and it communicates directly with the Hill District Councils, Development Board and other agencies etc. treating the Council as an in between unnecessary body.
The bureaucrats have a common and non-sense plea that the CHT Affairs Ministry is not their parent Ministry at all, they are serving under different line Ministries and so they are not bound to follow the instructions of CHT Affairs Ministry, Regional Council and three Hill District Councils. It is a clear case of sabotage on the part of the government to buy time for Islamization. Under the circumstances, chaos and confusion reign supreme instead of peace and normalcy in the region.
3. Continuation of Militarisation
The Jumma people are still under military rule through the Operation Uttoron (Upliftment). Under this Operation Uttoron the army personnel can commit any kind of atrocity with impunity. In the recent past, they, in collaboration with the local administration and police and the Bengali Muslim settlers committed large-scale atrocities even during post-Accord period at Baghaihat, Babuchara, Chhotomerung and Ramgarh. The military authority continues to be final policy making and law enforcing authority in the CHT. So very often the military authority is charged with whipping up of communal violence against the Jumma people. Again, the military authority is aiding, abetting and instigating the Bengali Muslim settlers for the forcible occupation of more and more Jumma peoples’ land. Even the military authority itself is acquisitioning more and more Jumma’s land on one pretext or another. The Jumma people have no redress against this injustice. Further the military authority still receives over 10,000 metric tons of food grains every year for Pacification Program to rehabilitate more and more Bengali Muslim settlers as counter-insurgency-cum political measures.
Clause 17 of part Gha of the Accord stipulates demilitarization that all military, para-military, Ansar and Village Defense Party shall be withdrawn. So far the government is not willing to do this. As an eye-wash, so far the government has withdrawn only 31 less important army camps out of more than 500 camps. This is a clear violation of the said provisions of the Accord. Above all, it is an open secret that the military authority has already spawned a fifth column quisling outfit named the United Peoples’ Democratic Front (UPDF) under its patronage to eliminate the PCJSS members and pro-Accord people. Therefore, the demilitarization as per relevant provisions of the Accord is a must for the peace and progress of the region.
4. Non-stopping and Non-withdrawal of Bengali Muslim Settlers
Still the infiltration of the outsider Bengali Muslim settlers is continuing. The recent infiltration cases of Longadu, Dighinala, Barkal, Nakkyangchari, Lama, Alikadam, Mohalchari, Matiranga, Manikchari and many other places are glaring examples. So, the cases of illegal land grabbing by the settlers have recently come to a dangerous pass. The government civil functionaries with the active support of military authority are patronizing this expansionist program with funds allotted under so-called “Pacification Program”, NGO Program and various other covert and overt programs.
Therefore, immediate stopping of new Bengali Muslim settlement as well as rehabilitation of all Bengali Muslim settlements outside CHT is a must. The Bengali Muslim settlers should be sent to their original homeland in the plains.
If this is done with right earnest, the work of the CHT Land Dispute Disposal Commission will be much easier and at the same time the controversies centering round the inclusion of outsider Bengali Muslim settlers in the voter list as well as the issuance of the permanent resident certificate of the CHT by the Deputy Commissioner will be resolved easily.
5. Paucity of Land and Development Issue
Experiences show that all development programs do not mean really a development for the Jumma people. The total land area of the CHT region is 3,259,520 acres. There are 2,686,000 acres of forest in CHT which amounts to 82% of the total land of the region. Out of which 799,550 acres are reserved forest, 32,250 acres are protected forest and 1,854,200.00 acres are unclassified state forest. So the Jumma people have only 18% of the total land of the region for their survival.
It is to mention here that land suitable for cultivation is only some 100,000 acres or about 3.2% of the CHT’s total land. So, this small amount of cultivable land is inadequate for survival of 700,000 Indigenous population. Moreover, 625,000 Bengali Muslim settlers, state-sponsored political migration to the region from the plains of Bangladesh, have put more than enormous pressure on the survival of the Indigenous people of the region.
The rest of the CHT land is suitable only for horticulture, forestry and shifting cultivation, which cannot sustain the livelihood of over 1.325 million populations. In addition, the government has undertaken lot of measures and policies to exterminate the Indigenous people of the region through capturing thousands acres of their recorded land in the name of pulpwood and rubber plantation as well as building military infrastructure for Army, Navy and Air Force.
In the past, some development programs caused serious harm to our ecology, ethnicity and traditional ethos. In the name of development programs, such as Kaptai Hydel Project, the Karnaphuli Paper Mills, the Karnaphuli Rayon Mills, Pulpwood Plantation, Expansion of Reserved Forest, Social Forestry Program and Private Rubber Plantation etc. the Jumma people had to part with their ancestral land, hearth and home and property. In exchange of these developmental programs, the Jumma people got nothing significant.
Root Causes of the CHT Problem
1. Right to Self-determination
It is very clear that the Jumma people had all along enjoyed a kind of self-rule during pre-British and British era. But subsequently, it had been systematically and gradually destroyed by the successive governments of Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Jumma people have a strong fear that their very existence has been under serious threat because of the governments’ hostile policies. Finding no other alternative and being ignored by the governments for a political solution within framework of the Constitution, they had to wage more than two decade-long armed struggle for the right to the self determination. But the governments had always been tried to portray it as a separatist movement.
2. Encroachment on Land Right
From the very beginning of the Pakistan regime, the encroachment on the land rights of Jumma people had been started and it has been continued by the successive governments till now. To this end, the government had enacted CHT (Land Acquisition) Regulation, 1958 and made several amendments to CHT Regulation, 1900 destroying the interest of the indigenous Jumma people. The governments have already acquired thousands of acres of land in the name of various development programs by evicting the indigenous people from their hearth and home without proper rehabilitation and adequate compensation.
3. Islamisation Policy through Transmigration of Bengali Settlers
History shows that the CHT region once a predominant non-Bengali Muslim area is fast becoming a Bengali Muslim area by Islamisation policies of the governments. The influx of outsider Bengali Muslim settlers into the CHT region had been started since the creation of Pakistan. Later on Bangladesh government’s vigorous Islamisation policies had made the situation worse than ever before. The following statistics proves the facts.
By now the ratio has been farther aggravated with 51% Jumma people and 49% Bengali Muslim settlers. Moreover, the Bangladesh Military have been using the Bengali settlers as human shield and unofficial frontline civil force as ethnic cleansing measures. In addition, these Bengali settlers have been participating in many ethnocides, land grabbing activities and ethnic violence under direct support of the Bangladesh military with impunity. Still, 27,702 families of the transmigrated Bengali Muslim settlers have been getting free government ration and other facilities since 1979 who have made problems more and more complicated.
Meanwhile, the Islamisation policy of the government has swiftly changed the demographic balance. The Bengali Muslim population, which was only 1.5% of the total population of the CHT in 1947, has swung to a high 49% by now; whereas the Jumma population during the same period constituted 98.5% of the total population has now dwindled to a low 51%. It is crystal clear that the Jumma people are going to be a minority in their own homeland very soon, because of successive Islamic governments’ prolonged and sustained Islamisation policy. All these were done so that the non-Bengali Muslim Jumma people cannot have any political clout either in a vast sea of Islamic Bangladesh.
4. Military Solution for a Political Problem
From the very beginning the governments have been trying to solve the political problems in CHT with military might. However, the efforts for the military solution for political problem have been miserably failed and ultimately the government has signed the CHT Accord with the PCJSS in 1997 for political solution of CHT issue.
In spite of that the government did not withdraw the temporary camps of security forces from the CHT as per provisions of the CHT Accord. Actually the military in the CHT are still acting as armed guardians of Bengali Muslim settlers and blocking the implementation of the Accord at every step.
5. Non- indigenous Hostile Bureaucracy
Almost all civil and military functionaries of the CHT region are outsider Bengali Muslim people from the plains of Bangladesh. They are more sympathetic and bias towards the outsider Bengali Muslim settlers because of their ethnic and religious affinity with them. Moreover, they have a strong anti-Jumma mindset. So they are always working against the political solution and the implementation of the Accord. Therefore, an indigenous bureaucracy in the CHT is a must without which self-rule for the Jumma people of the CHT tends to impossibility.
6. Lack of Good Governance and Decentralisation of Power
The CHT is one of crucial regions in the country in terms of ensuring peace and development and good governance. The permanent residents of this region, especially indigenous Jumma people are deprived of development rights for long time. The region remained outside the mainstream of development assistance for more than 25 years due to an insurgency which ended with the signing of the CHT Peace Accord in December 1997. The implementation of the CHT Accord is considered to be central to sustainable development and good governance in the region.
7. Non-recognition of the Entity of the Indigenous Jumma People in the Constitution.
The indigenous peoples in Bangladesh including Jumma people are not recognised to the Constitution of Bangladesh. All ruling government parties of Bangladesh have lacked sympathy towards the social and economic systems of the indigenous peoples, and this has been exacerbated by the disruptive policies of internal colonization. The state itself is liable for the destruction of indigenous communities within the country. The Bangladesh Government has yet no policy for the development of indigenous peoples. Neither does it recognise “Indigenous Peoples” as indigenous peoples. The main demand of indigenous peoples in the country is for constitutional recognition and the right to self-determination.
Solution to the CHT Problem
One of the main causes behind the non-implementation of the agreement is the state policy of Bangladesh. The state policy of Bangladesh regarding CHT is to make CHT into a Muslim dominated region. The government is implementing its policy through rehabilitating the settlers in CHT and compiling the electoral list with the non-permanent Bengali Muslims. Although the present government signed the Agreement for resolving the CHT problems, no change in state policy with regard to CHT is observed.
Continual delays in the implementation of the Agreement throw into doubt the Bangladesh government’s real commitment to its proclaimed wish to establish a lasting peace in CHT. Due to the non-implementation of the Agreement, it is observed that the situation in CHT is far from peaceful, it is becoming more and more complicated, and the common people are becoming gradually violent against the government policies. So if the Agreement is not implemented properly, the situation of CHT may turn into new directions in future. Needless to say that it will harm the greater interest of Bangladesh and South-East Asia as well. For the solution of the CHT problem, the following recommendations can be undertaken:
1. Immediate implementation of the CHT Accord in letter and spirit;
2. Demilitarisation of the CHT region;
3. Stopping of Bengali Muslim outsider infiltration into the CHT and immediate withdrawal of the Bengali Muslim settlers from the CHT region to their original homeland (plains of Bangladesh) for their proper rehabilitation;
4. Proper rehabilitation of the repatriated Jumma refugee and Internally Displaced Jumma families on their ancestral land and properties, which have been forcibly and illegally occupied by the Bengali Muslim settlers with direct support of military;
5. Proper rehabilitation of the PCJSS ex-combatants as per the Accord;
6. Immediate functioning of Land Dispute Disposal Commission for speedy return of land property that has been illegally occupied by the Bengali Muslim settlers;
7. An indigenous civil bureaucracy at all levels in the CHT region is a must;
8. A comprehensive voter list must be prepared only with the permanent residents of the Region and on the basis of that voter list election of Hill District Councils and Regional Council should be held immediately;
9. The government must take positive steps for the effective functioning of the CHT Regional Council and three Hill District Councils;
10. Constitutional recognition of the indigenous peoples and the CHT Accord.
It is the responsibility of the government to implement the CHT Accord whereas the government is very much reluctant to implement it timely and properly. Until the handing over of arms and ammunitions the government seemed to be very much committed towards the implementation of the Accord but gradually it is proven that the government has come to sign the Accord with a mindset not to implement it but used the Accord to take away the arms in order to crush the Jumma people’s resistance movement. Therefore, PCJSS strongly feel, support from national and international community is urgently needed. In order to conflict resolution and peace building for the indigenous Jumma people of the CHT, PCJSS has realized that –
(1) Integrity and commitment of the government as well as of the national policy makers are needed;
(2) Support and influence from national and international communities are required;
(3) Involvement of international mediation is necessary;
(4) Role and influence from the UN and donor communities are important for achieving rights and implementing the Accord;
(5) Exercise of might is very important for the recognition of the rights as well as enforcement of it.