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PCJSS Press Statement on the occasion of 18th Anniversary of the CHT Accord

Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) woes to take resort to stiff to stiffer programs, if the government fails to attach importance to the sense of deprivation of the Jumma peoples and their hopes & inspirations. PCJSS also says, if the government continues to use the state machineries and power to suppress the democratic movement of the Jumma peoples instead of taking effective and visible measures for implementation of CHT Accord, no point will be left for the Jumma peoples to return. It reiterates that Jumma peoples are determined and care little for self-sacrifice in defence of their national entities and territories. The government will stay responsible singularly for any undesirable situation that might crop up. The PCJSS expects that the government would demonstrate political wisdom in comprehending rightfully the reality of CHT.

As it is the case with any other nations, the Jumma people do not want to see extinction of their national entity. They do not want to be evicted and driven out from their lands and territory. They want to live as proud citizens of this country with their national identities, fundamental rights and self-dignity while dwelling in their ancestral lands and territories. It is through signing the CHT Accord, the Jumma people have re-asserted their willingness to live in the country as citizens with their own identity and uniqueness. Taking of time in implementing the historic CHT Accord and above all, the ill-venturing by the government as well as the ruling class to carry forward the anti-Jumma-interest conspiracy can never yield anything good.

PCJSS reiterated the warning in a press conference organised on 28 November 2015 at 11:00 am at Hotel Sundarban in Dhaka on the occasion of 18th anniversary of CHT Accord signed between the Government of Bangladesh and PCJSS.

Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, President of PCJSS, read out written statement in the press conference while Mangal Kumar Chakma, Information and Publicity Secretary of PCJSS conducted the event. Besides, Pankaj Bhattacharya, president of Oikya Nap; Syed Abul Maksud, eminent columnist and researcher; Sanjeeb Drong, General Secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum; Numan Ahmed Khan, Executive Director of IED and Prof. Mesbah Kamal of Dhaka University were present in this press conference. Full text Press Statement is as follows:

Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti’s Press Conference on Implementation of CHT Accord on the occasion of 18th Anniversary of the CHT Accord

28 November 2015, Saturday, 11:00 am, Hotel Sundarban, Dhaka

Dear media friends,

The Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS), on the occasion of 18th anniversary of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Accord of 1997, extends its true and sincere wishes to all.

As you know, the CHT Accord of 1997 signed between the Government of Bangladesh and PCJSS is poised to step into its 18 years of existence since its signing. The Government keeps on claiming that 48 out of 72 provisions of the CHT Accord have been implemented. But as a matter of fact the ground reality bears out that only 25 provisions of the CHT Accord were implemented as of now. While the core issues of the Accord relating to political and constitutional, economic and land rights, withdrawal of all temporary military camps including de facto military rule ‘Operation Uttoron’ and rehabilitation, were left out from being addressed. In consequence, the Special Administrative System embodying the CHT Regional Council and the three Hill District Councils could not be evolved narrowing eventually the scope for mass peoples’ participation in the management of administration as well as the chances for political and peaceful solution to the CHT crisis.

The core issues of the CHT Accord include, among others, preservation of tribal inhabited-features of the CHT region; transfer of all subjects and functions, as envisaged to be under the jurisdiction of the CHT Regional Council and the three Hill District Councils, and their enforcement thereof; holding of elections to these councils; resolution of land disputes after inserting necessary amendments to the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001 in line with the CHT Accord; rehabilitation of internally displaced persons and India returnee refugees to their respective homesteads with restitution of their lands to their rightful ownership; dismantling of all temporary military camps including the de facto military rule ‘Operation Uttoran’; cancellation of land leases given to the non-residents; appointment of permanent residents to all services available in the CHT on priority basis; effecting necessary amendments to the CHT Regulation 1900, Bangladesh Police Act and all other relevant laws in accordance with the spirit of the Accord; rehabilitation of the Bengali settlers outside CHT with due honor and dignity. However, these issues remain to be implemented.

During the previous term of the Grand Alliance Government (2009-2013), five subjects, namely, Jum Cultivation, Secondary Education, Statistics of Birth & Death and others, Money lending business and Tourism (Local) in addition to 7 functions under the subjects/departments which were transferred much earlier before the Accord was signed, were handed over to the three Hill District Councils. However, the other important subjects, such as, Supervision, preservation and promotion of Law & Order; Land & Land Management; Police (Local); Development & Preservation of Forests which are not under the reservation of the government; Preservation and Development of Environment; Improvement Trust and other institutions relating to local administration, other than Municipality and Union Council; primary education through mother tongue, etc. have not been transferred to the three Hill District Councils as of now. Furthermore, the subjects/functions/institutions transferred to the Hill District Councils were also not flawless as demanded by the rule. For instance, on 28 August 2014, Tourism (Local) was transferred through an agreement between the Hill District Councils and the Ministry of Tourism. But the placement of Tourism under the Hill District Council was not done properly. Under the agreement, the jurisdictional authority of the Hill District Councils on Tourism is minimal as Ministry of Tourism, Tourism Corporation, different government agencies, including private sectors are allowed to promote business in this sector independent of the sanction of the Hill District Council. It stands to violate the relevant provision of the Accord.

Dear journalist friends,

Instead of undertaking effective and visible initiative to implement the CHT Accord, the Government is resorting to propaganda claiming that ‘The Accord is being implemented’ or ‘The government is sincere in implementing the Accord’ or ‘80% of the Accord has already been implemented’ and even sometimes goes as far as saying that ‘90% of the Accord will be implemented during the present term of this government’. The government continues to maintain absolute indifference and is extremely passive as far as the implementation process of the Accord is concerned. In fact, the implementation process of the CHT Accord is totally stalled.

As an instance, land problem can be cited as one of the major aspects of the CHT crisis. The major obstruction in resolving the CHT issues, in accordance with the Accord, lies in the lack of will on the part of the government to bring necessary amendment to the contravening sections of the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act, 2001. As a way out, a 13-point amendment proposal of CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act, 2001 was adopted in a meeting attended by Dr. Gawher Rizvi, Advisor to the Prime Minister; Chairman of the CHT Regional Council and representatives of PCJSS and the representatives from Ministry of CHT Affairs on 9 January 2015 at the Chittagong Circuit House. The 13-point amendment proposal was also approved by the CHT Accord Implementation Committee in its meeting held on 20 January 2015 at the office of Deputy Leader of Parliament and a high-level inter-ministerial meeting organized by Ministry of CHT Affairs on 28 January 2015 in Rangamati. It was also decided unanimously to place the Amendment Bill of the said Act before the parliament during the Winter Session going on by then. But it is to be noted that even though several sessions of the Parliament including the budget session were held after end of the winter session, the Act, in the amended form, could not be passed till today. Despite having repeated consensus over the issue, the dilly-dallying tactics of the government in bringing amendment to the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act is a manifestation of its lack of political will and sincerity in resolving the CHT crisis.

Furthermore, it is to be mentioned that as per the decision taken in the meeting held at Prime Minister’s office on 18 February 2015 between the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Chairman of CHT Regional Council who is also the President of PCJSS, the 18-page Report titled: “Statement on the Unimplemented Issues of the CHT Accord” attached with 16 supporting documents as annexure was handed over to the Prime Minister on 1 April 2015. But no progress has been made in this regard to this day.

Dear journalist friends,

The Government now seems engaged in carrying out Anti-Accord and Anti-Jumma programs on the plea of implementing the CHT Accord. Despite tremendous opposition, the Government, by virtue of its sheer majority in the parliament, has amended the Hill District Council Act raising the number of the Interim Council from existing 5 to 15. This unilateral action, at the same time, has helped in turning the Hill District Councils into the den of anti-Accord activities and corruption.

To add to the woes, while the primary, secondary and college-level education is in doldrums, the rights and existence of the Jumma people is endangered, the political situation is unstable, and above all, the CHT Accord implementation process is brought to a complete halt, the government seems to be bent upon to advance its University of Science & Technology and Medical College projects in Rangamati, in spite of popular demand to hold the project for the time being until a consultation process is initiated to assuage the apprehension of the local people. But defying popular demand for a dialogue, the authorities of these institutions have started taking classes under twenty four hours police and army protection. This is a step considered by the local people as an attempt to divert the implementation process of the CHT Accord to a different direction. The commencing of the academic programs of Rangamati University of Science & Technology and Medical College, ignoring strong popular demand, promises nothing gainful in future.

In order to thwart the CHT Accord implementation process, the communal, fundamentalist and ultra-nationalist forces have intensified their communal and terrorist activities in the three Hill Districts. Using the CHT region as their hinterland, they are expanding their terrorist activities throughout the country. While spreading communal venom, they are conducting communal attacks one after another on the Jumma people from time to time. In pursuance of this trend, at least 10 communal attacks were carried out including the one which saw Jumma students in Rangamati Government College assaulted on 17 October 2015 and the Jumma passengers aboard a motor launch, providing non-stop service, were attacked on 14 November 2015 at Gulsakhali under Longadu upazila of Rangamati. Tourism centers under the military ownership and control are being established in the mouza and Jum lands of the Jumma peoples disregarding the customary rights of the Jumma people. The Jumma people are getting evicted from their homesteads and lands owing to granting of hundreds of acres lands in lease to outsiders coupled with the practice of declaring vast tracts as reserved forest by the forest department without following proper legal procedures. In such an incident, forcible occupation of lands took place very recently on 21 October 2015. Instead of taking legal measure against the land grabbers, police arrested the Karbari (village head) of Rupasi Puraton Para under Lama upazila in Bandarban district who protested against the land grabbing. Around 19 acres of recorded lands of two Jumma villagers of Poli Para under Naniarchar upazila has been forcibly occupied by the Bengali settlers with the support of army posted there. In recent days, there has been an attempt to construct 8 houses by Bengali settlers at Korolyachari of Kyangghat mouza under Mahalchari upazila.

Dear journalist friends,

Despite strong protest at home and abroad, the government has been implementing the anti-Accord and racist directives of the Ministry of Home Affairs that include imposing restrictions on foreigners’ visit to the CHT and on talking with the Jumma people by the persons from foreign/national organizations without presence of persons from administration and BGB/army, transferring the Jumma police personnel to the plains from CHT and entrusting the overall responsibility of coordination of law & order upon 24 Infantry Division of Chittagong. In recent days, the army has intensified search operations, arrest, detention, political intimidation, etc. in the CHT. In August 2015, 8 PCJSS members in Bilaichari upazila were arrested by the Barthali army Camp Commander and severe physical torture was carried out on them while in detention. The army personnel at Ruma Zone arrested 7 innocent villagers including member of Barthali Union Council and Karbari (village head) upon calling them to the camp on the alleged abduction of three tourists on October 2015 etc. They were severely tortured before they were sent to jail. Besides, in Kaptai upazila, one innocent Jumma was killed while another one sustained severe injuries caused by the Forest Department personnel.

Besides, suppression and oppression of the indigenous peoples and minority communities including communal attack, killing, rape, and abduction aimed at grabbing their lands are on the increase throughout the country. Especially, in the recent times, the danger of violence on indigenous women and children has increased to an alarming state. A staggering figure of 55 incidents of violence against indigenous women and children has been attributed to a period beginning from January to November 2015. Altogether 69 indigenous women and children became victims of violence and abduction. Of them, 36 victims were from the CHT while 33 were from the plains land. There is an allegation of involvement of many powerful influential persons of ruling party in forcible grabbing of lands belonging to the indigenous and minority communities.

Following the non-implementation of the CHT Accord, the situation in the CHT, as a whole, has become highly volatile/sensitive. Presently, instead of implementing the CHT Accord, the following anti-Accord and anti-Jumma programs are being implemented?

⦿ Conspiracy to turn the CHT into a Muslim dominated region, instead of preserving its Jumma-inhabited character, has been intensified.

⦿ Military continues to play dominating role, through ‘Operation Uttoran’, in the CHT while the special administrative system embodying the CHT Regional Council and the three Hill District Councils were kept dysfunctional;

⦿ Instead of restituting the alienated lands of the Jumma people, lands belonging to them are being illegally occupied and they are continually being evicted from their ancestral lands and homesteads;

⦿ In the name of development and with the plea to implement the CHT Accord, anti-Jumma-interest programs, such as, establishing University of Science & Technology and Medical College in Rangamati, tourism centers, expansion of reserve forest, setting up of new security camps, giving lands in lease to the outsiders, etc. are being carried out;

⦿ The Accord implementation process is being obstructed by providing covered or overt support to the communal, fundamentalist and ultra-nationalist forces and creating puppet groups among the Jumma peoples;

⦿ The Jumma peoples are under compulsion to lead a life in insecurity and uncertainty due to communal attacks, eviction, killings, rape, killing after rape, abduction, political harassment, persecution, military search and operation, infiltration of outsiders etc.

 Dear journalist friends,

In pursuance of the PCJSS declaration made public through the Press Conference on the occasion of 17th anniversary of CHT Accord held in Dhaka on 29 November 2014, the Non-Cooperation Movement is going on, since 1 May 2015, aimed at advancing the Accord implementation process and resisting and resolving the government programs having negative impact on the Accord and the Jumma interest. In the meantime, programs such as mass demonstration, market boycott, black-flag procession, class boycott and strike in the educational institutions, student-youth assembly, symbolic hunger strike, office boycott, submission of memorandum, demonstration and protest rally in protest against commencing classes in the University of Science & Technology and Medical College, etc. have been successfully observed with spontaneous support and participation by the masses. Defying the popular sentiment, the government with its ultimate fascist role has been exhibiting passive attitude towards implementing the CHT Accord. Furthermore, the government has been abetting the conspiracy of ethnic cleansing by allowing implementation of anti-Accord and anti-Jumma programs.

As it is the case with any other nations, the Jumma people do not want to see extinction of their national entity. They do not want to be evicted and driven out from their lands and territory. They want to live as proud citizens of this country with their national identities, fundamental rights and self-dignity while dwelling in their ancestral lands and territories. It is through signing the CHT Accord, the Jumma people have re-asserted their willingness to live in the country as citizens with their own identity and uniqueness. Taking of time in implementing the historic CHT Accord and above all, the ill-venturing by the government as well as the ruling class to carry forward the anti-Jumma-interest conspiracy can never yield anything good.

The government is escalating the use of law enforcement and security forces day by day targeting to thwart the Jumma peoples’ movement of resistance against programs which are in conflict with the Accord and the Jumma interest. If the government fails to attach importance to the sense of deprivation of the Jumma people, their hopes & inspirations, and continue, instead, to use the state machineries and power to suppress the democratic movement of the Jumma peoples, no point will be left for the Jumma peoples to return. The Jumma peoples will be forced by circumstances to take resort to stiff to stiffer programs. Jumma people are determined and care little for self-sacrifice in defence of their national entities and territories. The ruling class will stay responsible singularly for any undesirable situation that might crop up. The PCJSS expects that the government as well as the ruling class would demonstrate political wisdom in comprehending rightfully the reality of CHT.

Dear journalist friends,

The CHT crisis is both a national as well as a political problem. In fact, the CHT Accord was signed to resolve the CHT crisis politically and nationally in the interest of the nation. Hence, for the greatest interest of the country and nation, there is no alternative but to fully implement the CHT Accord. Unfortunately, the government has totally stopped doing anything to facilitate the implementation of CHT Accord. Under the circumstances, and for the greater interest of the State, merely expressing solidarity with the movement for the implementation of the CHT Accord is not enough, but it should be joined in by forces that belong to democratic, secular and progressive political parties, organizations and societies, with supportive programs. Therefore, the PCJSS appeals to these forces to build up a movement, at the national level, in support of implementing the CHT Accord. PCJSS also calls upon the present grand alliance government to come forward to ensure speedy, proper and full implementation of the CHT Accord prioritizing the followings:-

 1. Declare a time-frame based work plan or roadmap aimed at proper implementation of the CHT Accord immediately;

2. Undertake effective steps to implement the unimplemented issues of the Accord giving priority to devolve all powers and functions on the CHT Regional Council and three Hill District Councils, withdrawal of all temporary camps including ‘Operation Uttoron’ that legitimizes military domination over civil administration, resolution of land disputes by amending the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act, rehabilitation of Jumma refugees and IDPs, amendment of concerned laws and regulations including CHT Regulation 1900 and Bangladesh Police Act;

3. Undertake legal and administrative steps to preserve the Jumma-inhabited feature of the CHT region;

4. Rehabilitate the Bengali settlers with dignity and honor outside CHT;

5. Stop programs of anti-Accord and anti-Jumma cause immediately;

6. Postpone operation of the Rangamati Science and Technology University and Medical College programs until proper and full implementation of the CHT Accord and undertake measures for the students already admitted in these institutions to merge them in various public universities and medical colleges of the country.

Dear journalist friends,

You must have been informed by this time that as part of the current Non-Cooperation Movement, a mass gathering will be held at 10:00 am, on Wednesday, 2 December 2015, at Rangamati Gymnasium premises on the occasion of 18th anniversary of CHT Accord. National political leaders and eminent personalities from the civil society will deliver speech in the assembly. A declaration on the new program for the current Non-Cooperation Movement of PCJSS will be made in the gathering. Besides, various programs in observance of the day have been chalked out by PCJSS and civil society in different places of the three Hill Districts including Dhaka and Chittagong. It is through you all media friends, I would call upon the countrymen and the hill people to join these programs spontaneously.

Heartiest thanks to you all.

(Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma)

President

Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti