The Human Rights Situation of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), as a whole, has reached to a highly sensitive and fragile phase. The overall situation of CHT has become extremely suffocating and explodable owing to, especially, for not having properly implemented the CHT Accord that was signed to resolve the CHT crisis politically and peacefully even after passing 25 years; putting the implementation process of the Accord to a halt at a stretch for over a period of last 14 years by the Awami League-led government, the signatory party of the Accord, since 2014; and in addition, down pouring of the programs designed as anti-Accord and counter-interest to the Jumma people one after another. To say, likewise the pre-Accord era, at present, too, the government atrocities include: unabated aggression upon the Jumma people, forcible occupation of lands, eviction from ancestral lands and homesteads, suppressive and oppressive military campaigns, killing, enforced disappearance, entangling in false cases and sending to jail, expansion of settlers’ cluster villages under government patronization, infiltration, marginalization of the Jumma people, communal attack, violence against (and rape of) women, etc. (which are) anti-humanity activities and the process of ethnic cleansing of the Jumma people.
It is where the obligations of the Accord were supposed to have already implemented that contains: establishment of special governance system and preservation of the tribal-inhabited feature in CHT, ascertaining the rights to lands of the Jumma people including all other permanent residents through resolution to the land disputes, bringing an end to the de facto military rule named ‘Operation Uttoron’ including withdrawal of all the temporary camps and rehabilitation of the India-returnee Jumma refugees and internally displaced Jumma families in their own lands and homesteads, holding elections in the three Hill District Councils and Regional Council by having prepared a electoral roll enumerating the permanent residents. Even though the Accord confers the obligation of letting the CHT Regional Council coordinate, supervise and direct the general administration, law & order and all development programs through introduction of special governance system, none of theses has happened yet.
Recently, in the 22nd Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) held on 17-28 April at UN Headquarters in New York, the then Secretary of Ministry of CHT Affairs, Mossamat Hamida Begum and Chairman of CHT Development Board Nikhil Kumar Chakma presented untrue information at such a global forum like the United Nations by saying: “From among the 72 clauses of the Accord, 65 clauses have already been implemented.” Whereas, there only 25 clauses out of 72 have been implemented, the actual figure of which have also appeared in the findings of research conducted by various independent and impartial researchers and institutions. In consequence of government reluctance to implementation of the Accord, two-third clauses including the core issues of the Accord have hitherto, either been partially implemented or left totally unimplemented. It is considered that the contradicting gap on implementation issue of the Accord maintained by the government and Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) could be resolved through the CHT Accord Implementation and Monitoring Committee. It is worthy to be mentioned that the Report adopted in 22nd session of the UNPFII called upon Bangladesh to make further efforts towards full implementation of the Accord. But, it is painful and true that the government of Bangladesh has not responded to the call of UNPFII in implementing the Accord whereas, there is an international obligation to show respect to such call of the UN entity.
The 7th meeting of the CHT Accord Implementation and Monitoring Committee was held at Kuakata on 9 March 2023. But in the 7th session, it has been noticed that likewise the resolutions adopted in the earlier meetings, no development of the Committee’s decisions was found to have been initiated for implementation. Consequently, the CHT Accord Implementation and Monitoring Committee has got turned into a dysfunctional body due to non-cooperation and dilly-dallying attitude on part of the government.
At one end, the government and security forces continue to criminalize the Jumma people including the leaders and activists of PCJSS by lebelling them as ‘terrorists’, ‘separatists’, ‘armed miscreants’ and ‘exrorionists’, etc. with an intention to null the movement for implementation of the CHT Accord. To that end, the fascist and anti-humanity measures that have been being meted out upon the right activists and Jumma people including the PCJSS engaged in the movement, among other, include planned illegal arrest, extrajudicial killing, holding up by planting arms, searching houses and destroying house-hold articles without warrant, beating, harassment, etc.
On the other end, the government, especially, the army including the DGFI and other intelligence agencies are engaged in forming up one after another armed terrorist groups with the opportutnists, brokers and indisciplined elements from among the Jumma people and inciting them to act against the people who are in favor of the Accord and engaged in the movment for implementation of the CHT Accord. Ironically, the government and security forces, with rearing and providing support to the domesticated armed terrorist groups, have been creating formidable environment and driving suppressive roller upon the Jumma people including PCJSS while imposing the responsibility of all such terrorist activities upon the PCJSS.
It is not only so, the government and army themselves, on plea of development and security (concern), are engaged in devastating programs, such as, construction of border roads and link roads, establishment of luxurious tourist centers and new camps for army, BGB and APBN, declaration of forest areas of the traditional cultivation lands, eviction of natives by giving away their traditional lands to the non-residents in leases by which they are crushing the economic backbone of the Jumma peoples and destroying the biodiversity and natural environment to a large extent. It is the fact that in place of ensuring the Jumma people with their rights to their traditional lands and the lands already under occupation as per the Accord, all the time, they are being made fall prey to the development aggression that goes against the Accord and interest of the Jumma people.
Under the circumstances as mentioned above, the Jumma people’s human rights, political, administrative, social and cultural rights and rights to land have been being trampled down and that their national entity and existence of their birth land have got endangered. Thus, the life style of the Jumma people has become almost stagnant.
The CHT region, within the span of time from January to June 2023 only, has witnessed 113 human rights violations committed by security forces, law & order forces, Intelligence agencies, the army controlled and sheltered terrorist groups, communal and fundamentalist quarters, Bengali Muslim settlers and land grabbers, and in those incidents, 1,392 Jumma people had fallen prey to human rights violations with destruction, arson and plundering of 80 houses and crops in hundred acres of lands also got destroyed by Local Government Engineering Department (LGED).
A. Persecution by administration and security forces
As mentioned earlier, from January to June 2023, out of 113 incidents, 60 were committed by security forces and law enforcement agencies, resulting in 311 human rights victims. Among them, 18 people were arrested, 15 people were temporarily detained, 122 people were beaten and injured, 40 people were victims of false cases, military operations were conducted in 27 villages, more than 100 unarmed and innocent Jumma villagers were used as human shields during military operations against KNF (Kuki-Chin National Front), 17 families were evicted and more 9 families were under threats of eviction, initiatives to set up 2 new camps, etc. have taken place. Here are some notable events:
One of these incidents is the conduct of a 16-day harassing military operation from December 21 to January 6, 2023 by the Bangladesh Army in various areas including 13 villages of Jurachhari Upazila adjacent to Bilaichari Upazila. In this campaign, the army personnel harassed the local Jumma people, searched their houses, and took away cows, goats, chickens and rice from the Jumma villagers without giving them money to eat these during their raid.
On February 4 and 5, 2023, the Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Chandraghona police station under Kaptai upazila of Rangamati district has extorted money from the families of four local activists of PCJSS who were victims of a false case. The said OC was alleged to collect a total of 61 thousand takas from the four families.
On February 6, 2023, Captain Maruf and Subedar Md. Ahmed of 26 Bengal Engineering Corps of Gachban Army Camp in Farua Union under Rangamati District ordered 9 Jumma families along with Karbari (village head) of Gachban Para area of Farua Union to leave their homes and village within 15 days and move elsewhere with their belongings. Captain Maruf said that during his visit of the border road construction project in Bilaichari-Barkal area on January 30, 2023, Chief of Bangladesh Army, General SM Shafiuddin Ahmed, ordered the 9 Jumma families to be evicted from their village. It is learnt that the army took initiative to evict the villagers to set up a tourist center at this place. It is also alleged that during the construction of the border road and the link road, the army are taking possession of the attractive places adjacent to the road for the purpose of setting up tourist centers by placing signboards.
Two leaders of Pahari Chhatra Parishad (PCP), released on bail from Bandarban jail, were allegedly re-arrested by the army from the jail gate on March 15, 2023 at around 7:30 pm. The two victimized student leaders are PCP Central Committee’s Vice President Thuimong Prue Marma and Central Member Thuinumong Marma.
It is reported that the military personnel of the army camp built in premises of Shijakmukh Sarbajanin Buddhist Vihar under Sarboatali Union of Baghaichari Upazila were withdrawn on March 25, 2023. However, the army handed over the site of the withdrawn army camp to Shijakmukh BGB camp under 37 BGB Rajnagar Zone without informing the Management Committee of Buddhist temple.
On April 2, 2023, Cox’s Bazar Battalion (34 BGB) arrested three Tanchangya women on false allegations of cow smuggling and at least 40 villagers were beaten up indiscriminately. Three of the beaten villagers were seriously injured. The problem was resolved by the BGB’s promise that no case would be filed against the villagers. But despite this, a false case was filed against 30-40 unidentified villagers including mentioning names of 9 Tanchangya villagers by BGB JCO 9749 BM Rezaul Karim and 4 people were handed over to the police entangling with this case.
On May 16, 2023, after two army soldiers were killed and three others were injured in an ambush by KNF, it was alleged that the army were taking common Jumma villagers as porters from various villages of Ruma, Thanchi and Rowangchari upazilas and using them as human shields in armed clashes. So far, more than 100 Jumma villagers have been taken by the army as porters.
B. Activities of military-backed armed terrorist groups
Of the 113 incidents from January to June 2023, 29 were perpetrated by military-backed armed terrorist groups, and 1,030 people and residents of 23 villages faced human rights violations. Among them, 15 people were killed, 6 people beaten up, 11 people kidnapped, 22 people detained, 2 people handed over to the police after being detained, 195 families Bawm and Marma community evicted from their villages and residents of 17 villages were harassed and threatened to evict in various ways. Among them, some notable incidents mentioned below are-
On January 11, 2023, the army and army-backed UPDF (Democratic) terrorists apprehended an innocent Jumma from Thalipara of No. 1 Khagrachari Union of Khagrachari Sadar Upazila and handed over to the police putting up arm with him.
Around 170 Marma villagers from at least 45 families were evicted from Mualapi Para of Paindu Union and took shelter in Ruma Sadar on January 28, 2023 due to threat of KNF known as Bawm Party. Besides, residents of 12 villages of Ruma, including Prangsa Para, Ili Chanda Para, Kaktai Para, and Kronkhyong Para were forced to leave their village and take shelter in the surrounding forest in fear for 3 days.
Residents of 10 Jumma villages in Gangaram area of Sajek Union of Baghaichari Upazila had been ordered to leave the village by the anti-Accord UPDF terrorists on May 3, 2023 after they organized a meeting at Karalyachari in Baghaihat area.
The most dreadful incident of the military-backed armed terrorist group is the shooting death of 8 Bawm villagers by the Reformists and UPDF (Democratic) as per agenda of the army in Khamtang Para of Rawangchari Sadar Union bordering Ruma and Rawangchari upazilas on April 6, 2023. Then, on May 8, 2023, in the reserve area of Ward No. 6 of Paikhyong Para of Rowangchari Sadar Union, three people of Bawm community were shot dead on the spot and another one injured when the UPDF (Democratic) terrorists fired indiscriminately.
C. Attack and encroachment of land by settlers
Out of 113 incidents from January to June 2023, 12 were committed by communal and fundamentalist groups, Muslim Bengali settlers and land grabbers, and 18 families and 130 Jumma people were victims of human rights violations. Among them, 2 persons were killed, 1 person was beaten up, land of 2 Jumma villagers was seized and 18 houses were set on fire. A few incidents are given below-
On January 2, 2023, more than 150 outsiders, including workers of the Lama Rubber plantations, led by Delwar, Nuru and Mohsin of Lama Rubber Industries, set fire, attacked, vandalized and looted 9 houses of Mro villagers in Rengen Karbari ward of Sarai Union of Lama Upazila. At least 30 villagers of Mro community were subjected to assault.
On April 26, 2022, 350 acres of Jum-farming land, plantations and village common forests of the residents of Langkam Mro Karbari Para, Joychandra Tripura Karbari Para and Rengyen Mro Karbari Para of Sarai Union of Lama Upazila of Bandarban were set on fire by Lama Rubber Industries. Since the 26 April 2022 attack, at least more than a dozen attacks were made and 4 conspiracy cases were filed against the indigenous villager. In these cases, victims of attack and land grabbing, Langkam Mro and Mothi Tripura were rather jailed. The National Human Rights Commission and investigation team of Bandarban Hill District Council along with the civil society of the country, have recommended to provide security to the three Jumma villagers of Sarai union and protect their land. No effective action has been taken so far by the administration. Rather from the administration and security forces were seen playing a role in favor of Lama Rubber Industries in place of taking action against the land grabbers.
In January 2023, land including fruit garden of a Jumma villager was forcibly expropriated by Muslim Bengali settlers in Bhushanchara Union of Barkal Upazila. Bengali settlers have already built several houses on the expropriated land. The victim of land grabbing is Pranamoy Chakma (42), s/o Amar Kanti Chakma, from Pandit Para of Bhushanchara Union. It is to mention that about 7/8 years ago, Pranamoy Chakma bought the land from his uncle Jatin Chandra Chakma with a plan to create a fruit plantation. Soon after the purchase, he developed a fruit plantation and built a house on the site and settled it with his family. But a settler of Bhushanchara area, Md. Jahangir, s/o Sarowa with his group forcibly occupied the land. When the Jumma villagers along with the original owner of the land, Pranmoy Chakma, protested against, the expropriator, Md. Jahangir showed various fake documents claiming to be the owner of the land. After that, Pranamoy Chakma put objection to Bhushanchara Union Parishad Chairman to resolve this land dispute. The UP chairman organized an arbitration with both parties. At that time, the chairman ordered to maintain status quo.
D. Sexual harassment, violence, rape and murder
From January to June 2023, out of 113 incidents, 12 incidents of violence against Jumma women and girls were committed by state and non-state actors and 11 women were victims of human rights violations in these incidents. Among them, one person was killed, 6 women and girls raped, 3 women and girls attempted to be raped and 2 women and girls were abducted and tried for trafficking.
In the last six months, 11 indigenous Jumma women and girls were victims of murder, abduction and sexual violence, but out of the 12 incidents, the police arrested the accused in only 2 cases. At least 24 accused persons in the remaining 10 incidents are out of arrest of police. It is to be noted that none of the incidents of violence against Jumma women and girls have been properly prosecuted. Due to this lack of justice, criminals get away and commit such incidents again and again. As a result, Jumma women and girls today are forced to live in extreme insecurity.