At present, the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) has decreased in some extent. But the political and human rights situation in the CHT is still deteriorating. Due to the fact that the CHT Accord has not been fully implemented even after 23 years, the groups opposed to the Accord and against the interests of Jumma people have become active in an extremely reactionary manner. Above all, the Awami League government led by Sheikh Hasina, which signed the Accord itself, has been in power for 12 consecutive years but has not taken any initiative to implement the Accord. Hence the anti-Accord and anti-Jumma conspiracies have intensified as implementation process of the Accord is fully stopped. In particular, the government has not only stopped the implementation of the Agreement, but also handed over the CHT region and the present and future of the Jumma people to various state forces under the leadership of the army instead of resolving the CHT crisis peacefully and politically through implementation of the Accord. Hence, at present, the military forces are directly and indirectly managing all matters including general administration, law and order and development of the CHT.
In this situation, the government and the army are trying to thwart the movement for full implementation of the Accord by destroying the leadership of Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) who signed the Accord with the government, arresting its leaders and workers, implicating them in false cases, killing them and threatening to kill them. As before the signing of the Agreement, state forces are disrupting normal life of Jumma people by conducting house-to-house searches, interrogations, detentions and harassment in Jumma villages. In addition, army-backed Reformist and UPDF (Democratic) terrorists have established a reign of terror, including the destruction of Jumma people by inciting fratricidal conflict. On the other hand, confiscation of lands belonging to Jumma people has intensified in the name of expansion of garrisons and setting up new camps of the army and the BGB, setting up luxury tourist centers, and the eviction of Jumma lands by Bengali settlers and various outsiders. At the tip of the administration’s nose, a class of vested interests is carrying out various destructive activities including looting and smuggling of natural resources. The conspiratorial conversion of poor Jumma people to Islam is going on with the support of the administration.
This reality is creating deep crisis, stagnation and uncertainty in the economic activities and social and cultural life of the indigenous Jumma people. This situation has pushed the Jumma people to the brink of national extinction in one hand, this situation has also put the Jumma people in a tougher and deadly struggle for survival, on the other.
In November 2020, the army beaten up 3 innocent Jumma vegetable sellers severely taking them to the camp, searched 11 houses and ransacked the belongings, and threatened to shoot one person to kill. 4 innocent people including the UP chairman and teachers were detained by the army and sent to jail on false charges. Despite the protests of the villagers, a new army camp has been set up in Kaukhali of Rangamati district by destroying the fruit and teak plantation of Jumma people and the army has been accused of collecting harassing information from Jumma families in different villages in Farua of Bilaichhari. There were also allegations of attempted molestation of a Jumma woman by an army commander in Farua.
This month, two Jumma people were abducted and kidnapped by army-backed Reformist and UPDF (Democratic) terrorists, and 6 Jumma villagers were abducted and kidnapped by ALP terrorists. Besides, Reformist leader and chairman of Baghaichhari Upazila Parishad Sudarshan Chakma has been accused of occupying lands of 14 Jumma villagers in Sajek of Baghaichhari.
Despite massive protests by the people and multiple operations by the administration, there are allegations of smuggling of valuable timbers and illegal extraction of stones and sand from various streams, springs and rivers under the shelter of ruling party members in different upazilas of Bandarban district.
A. Repression by the security forces
Three innocent Jumma villagers were beaten by the army, 11 houses were searched and belongings of the houses were vandalised, one person was threatened to be shot dead, four innocent people including the UP chairman and a teacher were arrested and sent to jail on false charges. There are also allegations of setting up a new army camp in Kaukhali of Rangamati district, destroying fruit and teak plantation of Jumma villagers, and collecting harassing information from Jumma families in various villages by the army at Farua in Bilaichhari.
- On 5 November 2020 in the morning, three innocent Jumma banana traders were beaten by the army in Kaptai of Rangamati district. The victims were identified as 1. Debalal Tanchangya (27), 2. Khushilal Tanchangya (29), and 3. Chandra Mohan Tanchangya (32). On that day, they were beaten up by the army taking them to Kaptai army zone while they came to Kaptai from Toktanala in Farua union of Bilaichhari upazila for selling bananas and later they were released around 9:00 pm.
- On 6 November 2020, a group of army from Bandarban Sadar Army Zone (Shanit 26 Bir) conducted a search at the house of 9 Jumma villagers in Kuhalong Union of Sadar Upazila under Bandarban district. The army also threatened to shoot a Jumma villager in crossfire. The owners of the houses searched are- 1. Rupayan Chakma (50), 2. Alochandra Chakma (39), 3. Jammajit Chakma (40), 4. Suralal Chakma (55), 5. Amritalal Chakma (72), 6. Nihar Bindu Chakma (42), 7. Satya Ranjan Karbari (35), 8. Subamoy Chakma (28) and 9. Nihar Bindu Chakma (32). During the search, army snatched a mobile phone from the wife of Nihar Bindu Chakma, 42, and threatened to shoot Nihar Bindu Chakma dead in crossfire if found.
- On 9 November 2020 at around 11:00pm, group of the army from Kaptai and the police from Chandraghona police station of Rangamati district arrested Chingsajai Marma (50), acting headmaster of Moidang Government Primary School in Raikhali and implicated him in a false case. Chingsajai Marma was called out of the house by the members of the joint forces while he was sleeping. He was then picked up in a vehicle and taken to the police station.
- On 15 November 2020, a joint force of 40-50 personnel from Jibatali Army Zone and Gabghona Army Camp of 23 East Bengal in Rangamati Sadar Upazila cordoned off the house of Niron Chakma (28) of Panchhari Para in Jibatali Union. At that time, the army did not find Niron Chakma at home, but they conducted a massive search of the house, ransacked the valuables and harassed the people of the house by asking various questions.
- On 17 November 2020, the army and fanatic groups forced the indigenous Mro people with threatening to join a human chain at the Bandarban Sadar in favour of a five-star hotel under construction by the army. It is to be noted that this so-called human chain has been organized to cover up the protests and condemnation by the conscious people at home and abroad against the construction of five-star hotel and amusement park in Chimbuk hill.
- On 16 November 2020 at around 1:00 am, a group of army from the Gabaghona Army Camp under the 23 East Bengal Army Zone in Rangamati Sadar Upazila cordoned off the house of Nigara Moni Chakma (36) in Dhanpata Natun Bazar area of Magban Union. The army searched for Nigara Moni Chakma at home. Though Nigara Moni Chakma was not found, the army members harassingly conducted a massive search of the house and took away Nigira Mon Chakma’s fish business and other necessary documents.
- From 22 November 2020, army have taken initiative to set up a new army camp by brabbing the land of indigenous Jumma villagers in Dobakaba-Navanga area under Ward No. 7 of Fatikchhari union in Kaukhali upazila of Rangamati district and cutting down their bamboo and teak plantation. The army with 15/16 Bengali settlers forcibly cut down trees of Niten Chakma and Sunirmal Chakma’s gardens and started setting up army camps. In protest on 24 November 2020, the landowners submitted a memorandum to an army captain overseeing the construction of the new camp by cutting down the plantation in Jumma people’s land.
- Throughout the month of November, Toktanala Army Camp, Alikhyang Army Camp, Faruya Bazar Sub-zone and Shukkorchhari Army Camp in Farua Union area of Bilaichhari Upazila under Bilaichhari Army Zone are conducting door-to-door campaign to collect harassing information from Jumma families. This has created various worries and fears among the people. For the purpose of gathering information, the army also provided a form containing various questions to each family. These questions include family population, names of family members, age, address, their list, national identity card number, occupation, etc.
- On 20 November 2020 in the morning, a joint team of army and police from Chitmaram Union area of Kaptai upazila arrested an innocent Jumma villager named Hlasuiu Marma (38) from his house in Agapara area. After the arrest, Hlasuiu Marma was sent to Rangamati district court around noon on false charges of being an extortionist.
- On 27 November 2020, a group of army from the Kaptai Army Zone arrested UP Chairman Khyaisa Aung Marma (55) and UP member Singthowai Marma from the Chitmaram Union Parishad (UP) office in Kaptai Upazila in a conspiratorial false case. It is learnt that the army later handed them over to the Rajasthali police as accused in the false case.
B. Activities of the army-backed armed terrorist groups
In November 2020, 2 Jumma people were kidnapped by Reformist and UPDF (Democratic) terrorists and ransom was collected from them and the lands of 14 Jumma villagers were occupied by Reformist leader and chairman of Baghaichhari Upazila Parishad Sudarshan Chakma. There are also allegations that ALP terrorists kidnapped six Jumma people and collected ransom from them.
- On 3 November 2020, a group of army-backed UPDF (Democratic) terrorists stationed at Jibtali in Rangamati Sadar Upazila abducted a Jumma pepper seller named Bijoy Chakma Leppe from Kaptai Bazar area of Kaptai Upazila. Bijoy Chakma Leppe, a resident of Kalabanchhara village in Dumdumya union of Jurachhari upazila, was abducted from Kaptai bazar while he came there for selling raw chillies from his field. The terrorists demanded Tk. 250,000 as ransom and later snatched Tk. 55,000 from his handbag. On 5 November 2020, the kidnappers released Leppe from the Wagga area.
- On 10 November 2020, army-backed Reformist armed terrorists abducted an innocent Jumma villager named Swapan Chakma (Paltan Bap) from Khagrachhari Sadar area. It is learnt that Swapan Chakma was abducted when he went to a market in Khagrachhari Sadar for some shopping. The abductee’s house is at No. 1 Prokanpa Gram of Perachhara Union in Khagrachhari district.
- On 17 November 2020, six indigenous Marma villagers were abducted by army-backed Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) terrorists in Galengya Union of Ruma Upazila. Later, the kidnappers released the villagers in exchange for a large ransom. The 6 victims of the abduction were identified as 1. Chuihlamong Marma (45), elected member of Galengya Union Parishad; 2. Kohla Aung Marma, 3. Anumong Marma, 4. Aungsuenong Marma, 5. Mongkiting Marma, 6. Mongchingnu Marma.
- Reformist terrorists and Baghaichhari Upazila Parishad Chairman Sudarshan Chakma was accused of occupying the lands of 14 Tripura villagers with the help of the army at Ruilui area of Sajek Union in Baghaichhari Upazila. It is learnt that Sudarshan Chakma bought 1.0 acres of land at Ruilui village a long time ago but now he is claiming ownership of about 5.0 acres of land belonging to 14 Tripura villagers. The 14 victims of Ruilui village whose lands are occupied are: Moni Tripura, Ward Khisa Tripura, Rabi Kumar Tripura (former UP member), Hridoy Master, Biju Master, Purna Ranjan Tripura, Pulen Sen Tripura, Tupinjay Tripura, Moti Ranjan Tripura, Dalen Tripura, Sudarshan Tripura, Sagar Tripura, Raj Hala Karbari and Manasa Tripura.
C. Violence against indigenous women and children
- On November 11, 2020 in the evening, the Commander of Toktanala Dakshin Para Army Camp, Senior Warrant Officer Md. Ramzan Ali offered to buy a 17-year-old Tanchangya girl for Tk 10,000 while he went to a cultural event organized at Toktanala Dakshin Para Buddhist Monastery on the occasion of Kathin Chibar Dana. At one stage, in the middle of the day, said warrant officer forcibly tried to take the girl to the camp, but the people resisted and got involved in a scuffle with the people. The girl later fled the scene and took refuge in a relative’s house.
D. Continuous trafficking of natural resources by outsiders and vested interests
- Trafficking in valuable timber: Despite massive protests by the people against the smugglers, multiple raids by the police administration, evidence of illegal timber smuggling has been found again in Thanchi upazila of Bandarban district. In fact, many leaders and activists of the ruling party and some persons of the administration are involved in this trafficking. Many have complained that this environmentally destructive and illegal trafficking of natural resource has been going on for a long time. On 5 November 2020, at around 9:00 am, the Forest Department and the BGB raided Mrawa Jhiri in Yangnong Para of the remote Remakri Union of Thanchi and seized 1028 cubic feet of illegally stored rare Gorjon timber. The estimated value of the timber is around 15 lakh takas. A business syndicate, including some members of the ruling Awami League of Bumu Bilchhari Union, has long been involved in smuggling 70-year-old valuable trees.
- Illegal stone extraction: It has been alleged again that the incidents of indiscriminate illegal stone extraction and smuggling from different upazilas of Bandarban have not stopped. As a result, the stone is being depleted quickly. Its effect is falling over the biodiversity and nature. Many people are worried that as a result of stone extraction, the district’s streams and springs are drying up. In mid-November 2020, such complaints were received again from the locals.
It has been learnt that indiscriminate quarrying of stones is going on in Lama, Alikadam, Rowangchhari and Thanchi upazilas of Bandarban district without heeding the government regulations. 25/30 workers are lifting stones indiscriminately from Barbharimukh, Chhotabharimukh, Mangerjhiri and Kalajhiri of Alikadam upazila. The excavated stones are smuggled to Nayapara by truck. Later the stone is broken down with a stone breaking machine. There are piles of old stones as well as newly excavated stones on the side of Bagher Jhiri and Bharbharimukh roads.
It is learnt that hundreds of workers are illegally digging stones and rocks at various places of Yangcha mouza including Harinjhiri, Paikjhiri, Kapjhiri, Keranijhiri, Shilerjhiri, Chinirjhiri and Bankkhali canals of Sangu mouza of Lama upazila. Jumma villages are facing severe water crisis due to depletion of water sources following the excavation of rocks in Jhiri and hills.