Militarisation in CHT

n order to suppress the Jumma people, the CHT has been very heavily militarized. The military has been linked at the highest level rallying to the civil administration. The “Operation Dabanal” (Operation Wildfire) was re-established in the name of “Operation Uttoran” (Operation Upliftment) by which the Bangladesh military juntas want to solve the CHT crisis militarily through imposing military maneuvers superseding the local civil administration.

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 warfare, more than 545 base (temporary) camps of army, BGB, Ansar, APB and VDP.

It is estimated that near about 150,000 personnel belonging to army, BGB, APB, BRP, Police, Ansar and VDP forces have been deployed in different strategic points of CHT. After assassination of Ziaur Rahman, 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 CHT continued.

The CHT Commission has given an estimation of the security personnel of the CHT:

It was a program of ruthless Islamization 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.

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. Though it has been stated in the CHT Accord that:

“After the signing and execution of the Agreement between the Government and the Jana Samhati Samiti and immediately after return of the members of Jana Samhati Samiti to normal life, all the temporary camps of the army, the Ansars and the Village Defense 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), shall be taken back by phases from Chittagong Hill Tracts to permanent cantonments and the time limit shall be fixed for its purpose. In case of deterioration of the law and order situation, in time of normal calamities and for similar other purposes, Army forces may be deployed under the authority of the civil administration in adherence to Law and Rules as are applicable to all the other parts of the country. In this respect, the Regional Council may, in order to get the required or timely help make requests to the appropriate authority.”

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.

But after the long two years of the signing of the Agreement no time limit was fixed. As an eye-wash, only 31 temporary military camps out of more than 545 have been withdrawn so far. This is a clear violation of the said provisions of the Accord. The army still holds the supreme authority and control over the general administration. The army still carries out human rights violation activities on Jumma through killings, torturing, rape etc. In fact, the military rules over Chittagong Hill Tracts are yet to be ended. The government continues military interruptions under Operation Uttoron (Operation Upliftment).

According to a letter received by the PCJSS from the government, out of more than 500 camps, only 31 have been withdrawn over the past six years. On the contrary, the government claimed that 71 camps have been withdrawn so far. The camps withdrawn, according to the letter, are as follows:

Military interference with and dominance over the civil administration, tribal affairs, forest resources etc. are still continuing. In the name of “Operation Uttoran”, the military, in the previous style during the period of insurgency, still continues to interfere with the functions of the general civil administration, such as law and order, construction and repairing of roads, control over admission of the Jumma students to higher educational institutions etc. on one hand, and on the other, they continue to actively support the outsider Bengali settlers in expanding and establishing newer cluster villages in the CHT through “Shantakaran Prokalpa” (Pacification Program) and “Ashrayan Prokalpa” (Shelter Program) projects.

The military continues to conduct operations in the villages and to check and control public transports like bus, car, boat etc. by setting up newer military check posts throughout the CHT. Human rights violation by the military continues unabated. In fact, they are vigorously going for a combined program of militarization and Islamization through establishing more and more outsider Bengali Muslim settlements in the CHT region. In short, it is an ill design leading to gradual ethnic cleansing of the Jumma peoples living therein.

Clause 17 (b) provides, “The lands and premises abandoned by the cantonments, the camps of the military and Para-military forces shall be made over to their real owners or to the Hill District Councils”.

So far this provision has not been as meticulously followed by the military authority as it has been laid down in the CHT Accord. No such lands from which the temporary camps were withdrawn were returned either to the original owner of the land or to the concerned Hill District Councils.

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 communal attacks even during post-Accord period at Baghaihat, Babuchara, Boyalkhali-Merung, Ramgarh, Buiyachari and Mahalchari. 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 lands on one pretext or another. The Jumma peoples 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 a measure to cleanse out the ethnic peoples.

The Indigenous Jumma peoples of CHT are in great danger of eviction from their ancestral lands. Recently primary survey for acquiring of 54 thousand acres of land for the purpose of army and air force training center has been started in Bandarban district. It is worth mentioning that during the period of 1983-84 more than 11 thousand acres of lands were acquired forcibly by the military for the purpose of artillery training center in the same district. This is a clear violation of the CHT manual of 1900 and the violation of the hill district council act and CHT Regional Council act.

The army is still involved in the activities of civil administration. There is one military representative in identifying the Internal Displaced Persons (IDPs) and it has strong impact on providing logging permission to the logging traders in CHT.

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 perennial peace and progress of the region.