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PCJSS Press Conference on the Occasion of the 19th Anniversary of CHT Accord

Press Conference marking 19th anniversary of CHT Accord

Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, President of Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) declared to continue Non-Cooperation Movement based on previously declared ten-point programs aiming at proper implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Accord, pertaining to amendment of all the other laws applicable to CHT including the Police Act, Police Regulation and CHT Regulation 1900 to make them in conformity with the Accord; devolution of the functions to the CHT Regional Council and three Hill District Councils through Executive Order; withdrawal of all temporary camps including ‘Operation Uttoron’ from CHT and formation of local hill district police force; rehabilitation of returnee Jumma refugees and the internally displaced families; proper resolution of land disputes and rehabilitation of Bengali settlers outside the CHT with due dignity.

Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma alias Santu, one of the signatories of the CHT Accord, declared it at a press conference organised by the PCJSS at Hotel Sundarban in Dhaka on the occasion of the 19th anniversary of CHT Accord. Facilitated by PCJSS Organizing Secretary Shakti Pada Tripura, the press conference was also attended by eminent columnist Syed Abul Moqsud; Sanjeeb Drong, General Secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum; Numan Ahmed Khan, Executive Director of Institute of Environment and Development; Khairul Islam Chowdhury Rupam, Associate Professor of Dhaka University et al. Full text of Press Statement is as follows:

Press Conference of the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti On the Occasion of the 19th Anniversary of CHT Accord

30 November 2016, 11:00 am, Hotel Sundarban, Dhaka

Dear media friends,

Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) extends heartiest wishes on the occasion of the 19th anniversary of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Accord 1997.

As you know that the CHT Accord was signed on 2nd December 1997 with an aim to resolve the CHT crisis. To this day, it is about to pass 19 years. Despite having 19 years passed by, the core issues of the Accord have been left unimplemented as yet. The core issues include: devolution of functions to the CHT Regional Council and three Hill District Councils; preservation of Jumma-predominant feature of CHT region; withdrawal of all temporary camps including the ‘Operation Uttoron’; resolution of the land disputes; rehabilitation of the India-returnee Jumma refugees and internally Jumma displaced peoples in their respective lands having their lands returned back to them; appointment of the permanent residents prioritizing the Jumma people in all jobs available in CHT; bringing in amendment of all the other laws applicable in CHT including the Police Act, Police Regulation and CHT Regulation 1900, in order to make them in consonance with the Accord; rehabilitation of the Bengali settlers outside CHT with due dignity and so on. Even though 6 governments comprising of 4 political and 2 caretaker governments, have hitherto ascended to power within the prolonged 19 years, however, none of the governments came forward with firm political commitment in implementing the core issues of the Accord.

Dear journalist friends,

As you are aware that prior to the British domination, the Jumma people would dwell in more extensive areas than that of the present CHT region enjoying independent entity and self-government. Later on, though the region went under the British rule, actually, the British rulers did not interfere in the internal governance system as well as internal affairs of the Jumma peoples upto certain extent of time. In 1860, though the CHT region was declared to be a seperate district with subsequent changes in the governance system, indeed, the seperate administrative status of the Jumma peoples was left unintervened.

Likewise many other districts of the then British-India, the CHT district was declared to be a scheduled district as per the Scheduled District Act 1874, at which the seperate administrative status of the region remained unaffected; and instead, it was given a compact shape through enacting CHT Regulation 1900. In fact, several provisions of the CHT Regulation of 1900 functioned as a safeguard for the Jumma peoples and it prohibited migration into the region and land ownership by non-indigenous people. Afterwards, in the Government of India Act of 1919 and 1935, CHT was awarded with the status as an ‘Excluded Area’ like many other regions. Also during Pakistan period, as per the provision relating to rights of the indigenous peoples stated under the Indian Independencee Act 1947, the CHT Regulation 1900 was in force under the constitution of Pakistan in 1956 and the Tribal Region status was kept unintervened till 1962.

However, leading life of the Jumma peoples gradually became too tough to endure due to suppression and oppression of the Pakistani rulers. The very entity of Jumma peoples was threatenned due to injustice and repression meted out by the government administration and absolute exploitation of the outsider businessmen alongside infiltration and settlement of the non-indigenous people from the plains and illegal occupation of lands. Oppression took to extreme form with devouring affect of the Kaptai Dam that was built in 1960. It is for the obvious reason, the movement in CHT under the leadership of Manabendra Narayan Larma spurred off. Yet further deterioration in the situation got deepened in the region despite emergence of Bangladesh as an independence nation-state.

In perspective of having seperate administrative history, national identity and distinct political, social, cultural and economic situation, the leaders of CHT including Manabendra Narayan Larma placed the demand for Regional Autonomy for CHT to the government of Bangladesh in 1972. But despite high demand of the Jumma peoples, nothing was included in the Constitution on seperate administrative system for CHT. On the contrary, the Jumma peoples, though being of different ethnic entities, were identified as ‘Bengali’ through adopting a provision stating: ‘the citizens of Bangladesh shall be called Bengalis’, against which Manabendra Narayan Larma launched vehement protest and walked out from the Contituent Assembly. On the other end, instead of fulfilling demand of the Jumma peoples, the government went ahead with suppressive measures one after another. In persuance to this policy, three cantonments were established at Dighinala, Alikadam and Ruma in 1973. The democratic movement of Jumma peoples turned into armed struggle when all the democratic avenues got closed following promulgation of Marshal Law in 1975. On the other hand, operations and repressive measures of the military and para-military forces against the Jumma peoples got intensified. This had prompted the armed movement under leadership of PCJSS directing to preservation of national entity and rights to lands in 1976. On part of the government, more than 500,000 of Bengali people from plain districts were brought in and settled down in the lands belonging to the Jumma peoples in a planned manner since 1979 – obviously, a mean objective to outnumber the Jumma peoples.

The armed movement though continued to exist in its course, the PCJSS, all the more kept the door open for agreeable solution to the CHT crisis through political and peaceful means. In this backdrop, the Ziaur Rahman government undertook a limited initiative for peace dialogue. Later on, the first formal talk between PCJSS and government of Hussain Muhammad Ershad was held on 25 October 1985. During the dialogue, both the sides recognised the CHT crisis to have been a national and political problem and agreed upon settling the crisis by political means. In continuation, after holding altogether 26 rounds of formal dialogues comprised of 6 rounds with the Ershad-led government (1983-1990), 13 rounds with the Begum Zia-led government (1991-1995) and finally, 7 rounds of dialogue with the Sheikh Hasina-led government (1996-1997), the CHT Accord was signed on 2 December 1997.

The main aim of the CHT Accord was to provide a political solution to the CHT crisis. To that end, the provisions determined in the accord are: introducing Special Administrative System in CHT; Preservation of national entity of the Jumma people, rehabilitation of the Bengali settlers outside the CHT region with due dignity and resolution of land disputes, rehabilitation of India-returnee Jumma refugees and the internally Jumma displaced people and ensuring the Jumma people with their economic and land rights.

Dear media friends,

As per the CHT Accord, several concerned laws were framed and some issues of the Accord were also implemented by the then government within the period of 3 years and 8 months after signing the Accord. Of them, the worthy to be mentioned are: formulation of the CHT Regional Council Act and three Hill District Council Act, establishment of Ministry of CHT Affairs, formation of the Task Force and Land Commission, repatriation of Jumma refugees from India, withdrawal of 66 temporary camps etc. But the then government did not come forward to implement the core issues of the Accord.

The then Awami League government did leave not only the core issues of the Accord unimplemented, but also did undertake many anti-accord and anti-Jumma-interest programs side by side. The followings are among them:

⦿ ‘Operation Uttoron’ was imposed by the then Awami League government (1997-2001) unilaterally. As a result of which, domination and interference of the army continued to exist in all sectors including the civil administration, law & order and development programs.

⦿ An initiative to rehabilitate the Bengali settlers in CHT identifying them as Internally Displaced People was undertaken by the Special Affairs Division under the Prime Minister’s office, which is contradictory to the provisions of the CHT Accord.

⦿ An Office Order was served on 21 December 2000 by the Ministry of CHT Affairs stating that the Deputy Commissioners of three hill districts alongside the Circle Chiefs, shall also issue Permanent Resident Certificate, which is contraditory to the provisions of the Hill District Council Act.

⦿ Without having any consultation with the CHT Regional Council, the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001 was hurriedly passed in the parliament prior to handing over powers to the Caretaker Government on 17 July 2001, wherein, many provisions of this Act contraveneing to the Accord were included.

Besides, during the tenure of the then Awami League government, four massive communal attacks were perpetrated by the Bengali settlers at Baghaihat, Babuchara, Boalkhali-Merung and Ramgarh. But so far, none of the culprits involved in those attacks were brought under trial. Alongside, the anti-accord and anti-Jumma-interest programs that had been implemented were: expansion of cluster villages of the settlers in different places with an aim to hurt the ‘Tribal-dominated feature’ of the region; inclusion of the outsiders in the electoral rolls; lands given in settlement and lease to the outsiders; fresh migration of outsiders into CHT aiming at outnumbering the Jumma peoples in CHT, etc.

Dear journalist friends,

The four-party coalition government led by Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) came to state power after wining the elections held under the caretaker government in 2001. Earlier, during signing of the CHT Accord, the BNP had stated that they would cancel the CHT Accord if they could assume the state power. But in practice, the BNP-led four-party coalition government did not cancel the Accord after returning to power. Rather, the ‘District and Upazila Office of the Youth Development’ was devolved to Rangamati and Bandarban Hill District Councils during tenure of the four-party coalition government. However, the four-party coalition government, though, did not cancel the Accord yet, it did undermine the Accord in different ways. Especially, the government undertook various programs to cripple  the Jumma-dominated feature of the region and the special administrative status of CHT. Of them, these are:

? Instead of appointing a Minister from among the Jumma people, charge of the Ministry was kept in the hands of Prime Minister.

? Instead of appointing a competent tribal as Chairman, a non-Jumma individual was appointed as Chairman of the CHT Development Board and that the anti-Jumma interest development programs were accelerated.

? In place of forming up CHT Accord Implementation Committee, the time was spent by constituting a Cabinet Committee on CHT Affairs headed by the then LGRD Minister Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan.

? A conspiracy was hatched to provide ration to more 28,000 families of Bengali settlers and to rehabilitate 10,000 outsider Bengali families in the Sajek area.

? A fanatic organization named ‘Parbatya Chattagram Sama Odhikar Andolon’ was formed with the support of the ruling party, administration and the army and that the communal activities were carried out through the said organization.

? With active support of the administration, the Rohingya refugees of Myanmar were given permanent settlements in Naikhyongchari, Alikadam, Lama and Ruma and sadar upazila of Bandarban Hill District and they were included in the voter lists.

Above all, during tenure of the four-party coalition government, infiltration of the outsider Bengalis and their settlements in CHT under deliberately planned programs were implemented through the army and civil administration with an intention to turn the Jumma-dominated region into a Muslim-inhabited region. As it had been done earlier in 2006, the electoral roll of CHT was enumerated having the CHT Accord violated through inclusion of the outsider Muslim Bengali people. In order to occupy the lands belonging to the Jumma peoples, four massive communal attacks were carried out by the Bengali Muslim settlers at Rajvilla of Bandarban district, and Bhuachari, Mahalchari and Maischari of Khagrachari district and to that end they were provided with direct support of the army.

Dear journalist friends,

The State of Emergency was declared amidst conflicting situation of the national politics throughout the country on 11 January 2007. During the period of military-backed Caretaker Government led by Dr. Fakruddin Ahmed, likewise the other parts of the country, situation of CHT also grew to be of grave concern, uncertainty and insecurity. It was during the tenure of this government, by taking the advantage of the Emergency, atrocities of arbitrary arrest, detention, oppression and harassment upon the Jumma peoples got enhanced.

During this time, more than 50 leaders and workers engaged in the movement for implementation of the CHT Accord including the members of PCJSS and its associate organizations were entangled in the conspired cases and many of them were given punishment on falsehood allegation. Settlement process of the outsider Bengali Muslims was escalated by evicting the Jumma peoples from their homesteads and lands.

The Caretaker government stepped up no effective measures in implementing the CHT Accord. The Caretaker government though had paced many bold steps at national level, yet continued to show indifference towards implementing the CHT Accord, alike the preceding political governments. By the time, while violating the CHT Accord, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 24th Infantry Division was appointed as Chairman of CHT Development Board. The non-permanent residents and the outsider Bengali people were enumerated in the CHT Electoral Roll in 2007-2008 while trampling down the provisions of the CHT Accord.

Dear media friends,

The Awami League government, one of the Accord signatories, assumed the state power in 2009. The Shiekh Hasina government, though being in the state power for almost 8 years since 2009, has undertaken no effective step in implementing the unimplemented core issues of the CHT Accord. During tenure of the present Awami League government, a few measures that have been undertaken towards implementation of the Accord are: transfer of few subjects to the three Hill District Councils, withdrawal of 35 numbers of temporary camps, laying foundation stone of the CHT Complex in Dhaka, amendment to the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001 etc. However, these initiatives have been in lacking of continuity and firm political commitment.

On the contrary, in the mean while, the government went on propagating at home and in abroad saying that, so far, ‘48 out of 72 sections of the CHT Accord have been implemented’. Indeed, it is only 25 sections out of 72 have been implemented. Such an insincere initiative in implementing CHT Accord, following dilly-dallying tactics in addressing the unimplemented core issues of the Accord, propagating untrue information on implementation of the Accord etc. indicate the fact that the government is absolutely uninterested in establishing the political, economic, social and cultural rights of the CHT residents as well as the Jumma peoples. It is for this reason, the government not only resorts to pleas but also continues to execute anti-accord and anti-Jumma-interest programs in the name of development. The followings are the genre of worth mentioning:

? Instead of preserving the Jumma-dominated feature of CHT, conspiracy to turn CHT into a Muslim-dominated region has been accelerated.

? In place of ensuring the special administrative system with the CHT Regional Council and three Hill District Councils, while maintaining ‘de facto’ military rule and supremacy of the army in the name of ‘Operation Uttoron’, the CHT Regional Council and three Hill District Councils have been made totally dysfunctional.

? In place of returning the dispossessed lands back to the Jumma peoples, a conspiracy is being hatched to uproot the Jumma peoples from their ancestral lands by establishing land port at Thega Mukh, constructing the Thega Mukh-Chittagong Connectivity Road and Border Road, establishing luxurious tourist centers by the army, declaration of reserved forest, establishment of BOPs of BGB, exploration and extraction of oil & gas in the geological structure of Kasalong and Sita Pahar in CHT, etc.

? While keeping the primary, secondary and college levels of education at the bay, in the name of expansion of education as well as on plea of implementation of the CHT Accord, the process of establishing anti-accord and anti-Jumma-interest political centers has been kept running through establishing Rangamati Science &Technology University and Medical College.

? Providing with direct & indirect support to the communal and fundamentalist forces, at least 10 communal attacks have been carried out with a view to occupying the lands of the Jumma peoples.

? The process of implementation of the CHT Accord has been interrupted by creating puppet class among the Jumma peoples.

? Instead of forming the Hill District Councils directly elected by the people, the Councils have been being run with the party-nominated members; and despite vehement opposition of the CHT people, having increased members of the interim Hill District Councils from 5 to 15, the Hill District Council Acts have been amended unilaterally in 2014 and through this, the undemocratic and party-line practices have been further strengthened.

Dear journalist friends,

Due to non-implementation of the CHT Accord, all possibilities leading to resolving the CHT crisis through political and peaceful means are about to get thwarted down. The present grand-alliance government led by Awami League is trampling down the CHT Accord in various forms and manners. Especially, dubious move is being exercised to put an end to the Jumma-dominated feature of CHT region and status of special administrative system for ever. As a result, at present, the situation of CHT, as a whole, is aptly turning to be of great concern and unsafe.

It is by merit of the ‘Operation Uttoron’, the army deployed in the CHT is exercising decision-making role in all important matters including civil administration, law & order and development, and is also creating obstructions by various means and ways in implementing the CHT Accord. It is fact that the CHT Accord was signed in 1997 at the consent of the three forces of the country. But they took U-turn later, regarding the CHT Accord. As part of such practices, on the other side, the activities against humanity that continue to exist in the name of searching for terrorists are: arbitrary arrest and detention, inhuman torture, arrest by planting arms inside victim’s house secretly, sending to jail by entangling in the false case, vandalizing the houses including PCJSS offices etc. It is reported that from January to October last, 30 members and supporters of PCJSS and innocent villagers including the Chairman of Baghaichari Upazila Parishad and one UP member were taken arrested while 89 persons were beaten up and harassed during operation of the army-BGB-police forces followed by detention for a couple of hours and days was brought upon 89 persons while 23 houses including 3 PCJSS offices were searched and vandalized.

Infiltration of outsider Bengalis and their settling down in CHT continues unabatedly aiming to turn the indigenous Jumma-dominated CHT into a Muslim-dominating region as per the well concerted plan of the communal and fundamentalist forces under sponsorship of the state machineries. In pursuance to this maneuver, earlier in 2000 and 2007 respectively, one Bodiuzzaman and Advocate Tajul Islam filed two separate cases against the CHT Accord with a view to foiling the implementation process of the CHT Accord. What more is the matter of grave concern is that the Islamic militant groups, as it is usual in other parts of the country, also have found their safe base in the Bengali settlers while utilizing the opportunity created out of ultra communal activities and military rule in CHT.

In recent days, the conspiracy leading to evicting the Jumma peoples from their homesteads and lands has got accelerated in the three hill districts through illegal occupation of the Jumma-dwelling lands, lands of religious shrines, recorded and preoccupied lands of the Jumma people. In place of ensuring the Jumma peoples with their rights to lands as per the Accord, thousand acres of lands under collective ownership and the Mouza lands are being illegally occupied in the name of establishing BGB camps, tourism centers being established by army, declaration of reserved forests areas, giving the lands in leases to the outsider businessmen, influential bureaucrats and political personalities in the name of horticulture and rubber plantation. Even after signing the CHT Accord, it was only for the cause of illegal and forcible occupation of lands, the indigenous Jumma peoples have been evicted from 30 villages and they had to flee to other places. It is due to establishing tourism centers by the army, 65 Tripura families of two villages at Ruilui in Sajek under Rangamati district, and 129 Mro families of Sepru Para (Jibannagar) of Bandarban sadar, 200 Mro families of Kraudawng hill (Dim Pahar) of Alikadam-Thanchi road, 32 Bawm families of Boga Lake of Ruma under Bandarban district are in the face of being evicted from their ancestral lands and that their life and livelihood are being hampered seriously.

The Deputy Commissioners of the three hill districts, the officers working at district and upazila levels and the Police Superintendents and Officers-In-Charge, almost all are not permanent residents of CHT. They are not sensitive to the lifestyle of the Jumma peoples and implementation of the CHT Accord. Hence, in most cases, their outlook is of anti-Accord and anti-Jumma-interest nature. Consequently, putting the CHT Regional Council Act and three Hill District Council Act in force to the needful extent is not being possible. It is only for this reason, the officers at district and upazila levels are performing their functions in respects of general administration, law & order, land & land management, development etc. by passing the CHT Regional Council and Hill District Councils violating the Accord.

The CHT Accord was though signed during the Awami League government in 1997, the local leadership of Awami League in the three hill districts are playing negative role towards implementation of CHT Accord and interest of the Jumma peoples. Reactionary and opportunist role of a certain section of Jumma peoples having themselves involved with the Awami League local branches has been making obstruction in the implementation process of the CHT Accord. The three Hill District Councils were though constituted as a part of special administrative system of CHT, yet they have been made totally dysfunctional institutions for having been transformed them into party-line and corruption dens by the local Awami League leadership. The anti-militancy program of Awami League as well as the government has though been being conducted against the Islamic militants throughout the country, but in case with CHT, the anti-militant program is being carried out against the PCJSS as well as the Jumma peoples’ movement. The Awami League leadership, with the help of the government administration including the army-BGB-police forces, has been propagating against the righteous and just movement of the Jumma peoples for implementation of the CHT Accord labelling it as terrorist activities and ultimately has been carrying out various conspiracy, repression and political harassment upon the activists engaged in the movement. As part of the maneuver, in recent times, with active support of the Awami League leadership, false case was filed against 130 members and supporters of PCJSS and its associate organisations and innocent villagers including two members of the CHT Regional Council, two chairmen of Upazila Parishad, one chairman and two members of Union Parishad and one Headman while three persons were killed and compelling more than 150 activists to flee from their respective areas.

Though the democratic, non-communal and progressive political parties and civil society of the country are more vocal on implementation of the CHT Accord at the present time, yet none of them has come forward with their own political program in support of the movement for implementation of the Accord. Till this day, the political programs of these political parties and citizen entities have remained limited to participation in the programs organised by the indigenous peoples organizations and expressing their solidarity with and support to the cause of the CHT people. For the sake of greater interest of the country and  implementation of the CHT Accord, the way that the progressive and democratic political parties and civil society of the country necessitated to have come forward, in fact, they have not been seen coming forward to that much extent. Indeed, their direct role along with their own political programs in implementation of the CHT Accord is considered to be of urgent and important.

Dear journalist friends,

The overall situation of CHT is highly delicate. Especially, the Jumma peoples of CHT are being forced to lead a life with an insecure and extremely uncertain reality. The Jumma peoples want to come out of this disgusting situation. Indeed, there is no any option other than implementation of the CHT Accord in resolving the prevailing crisis through political and peaceful means. CHT Accord, the charter of rights of the Jumma people as well as the CHT residents, was achieved through bloody struggle that lasted for two and a half decades. The situation in CHT once again is being pushed towards further complexity due to dilly-dallying policy on part of the ruling class of the country. Any conspiracy directing to thwart down the Accord implementation process and any fascist way of repressive measures designed to suppress the democratic movement for implementation of the CHT Accord can never bring wellbeing to the country. It is needless to say that the Jumma peoples will oblige to opt for alternative way in the interest of preserving their very national existence and hence, the government will have to bear the responsibility for the undesirable situation that might crop up as the outcome.

For the sake of implementation of the CHT Accord aimed at resolving the CHT problem through political and peaceful means, PCJSS as well as the Jumma peoples, all the more, are in firm conviction to resist any anti-accord and anti-Jumma-interest conspiracy and PCJSS reiterates this firm belief without any ambiguous voice on the 19th anniversary of the CHT Accord.

The PCJSS hereby declares to continue Non-Cooperation Movement based on previously declared ten-point programs aiming at proper implementation of the CHT Accord, pertaining to amendment of all the other laws applicable to CHT including the Police Act, Police Regulation and CHT Regulation 1900 to make them in conformity with the Accord; devolution of the functions to the CHT Regional Council and three Hill District Councils through Executive Order; withdrawal of all temporary camps including ‘Operation Uttoron’ from CHT and formation of local hill district police force; rehabilitation of returnee Jumma refugees and the internally displaced families; proper resolution of land disputes and rehabilitation of Bengali settlers outside the CHT with due dignity.

Sincere thanks to you all.

(Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma)

President

Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti