Refugees and IDPs in CHT

Jumma Refugees and Internally Displaced Families

Introduction:
Jumma peoples’ demand of right to self-determination under democratic norms was trampled with utter provocation and finally, it was the military Junta to leave the CHT crisis to the gun to decide in 1986. Thus a war broke out in 1986 and hence, from 1986 to 1997 CHT had been under a traumatic situation due to the unparallel war between well fortified Army of Bangladesh and the Shanti Bahini guerrillas, an armed wing of PCJSS ? the only political party of indigenous Jumma peoples in CHT. As there had been constant armed conflicts, thousands of peoples had to take refuge to the neighboring Indian states in different course of times and at the same time, thousands of uprooted peoples had to flee into the forest areas for lives as internally displaced families.

Refugees in India:
In the wake of planned combing operations in association with communal attacks by the Muslim settlers upon the Jumma villages along the North-western frontier, some 5,000 Marma indigenous families from Guimara of Khagrachari hill district obliged to take refuge to Tripura state of India in 1978. This followed by occupation of lands and homesteads left behind by the Marma indigenous communities. It took several days for the refugees to repatriate to the country. But majority of them were not given back their lands and homesteads occupied by the Muslim Bengali settlers.

In 1980’s when the suppression, torture and exploitation of successive governments rose up to the climax, a large number of Indigenous Jumma people fled to the nearby country India for shelter from time to time. Again in 1981, the army very purposefully launched a campaign along the Feni River valley. This campaign, too, was associated with organized communal attacks by the Muslim settlers upon the Jumma villages without any provocation. The attackers were involved in killing, looting and setting fire in the houses of the deserted village with active support of the security forces. This caused some 20,000 peoples flee into Tripura state of India. After a series of talks between India and Bangladesh representatives, the refugees repatriated to the country on condition that a guarantee to life might be ensured and their possessions would be returned back. However, the government of Bangladesh did not pay honor to its commitments given to the refugees.

Later on, the army activated the Eastern frontier in 1984. The army launched a campaign having hundreds of Muslim settlers equipped with fatal weapons and guns. They carried out an attack upon the Jumma villages in and around Barkal Upazila causing some 40,000 peoples flee into Mizoram state of India. After a bilateral talk between India and Bangladesh, these Jumma refugees repatriated on a guarantee of security to life, due compensation, returning of their farming lands forcibly occupied by Bengali Muslim settlers. But on their repatriation back, they found that Bangladesh government did not honor the terms of the agreement and commitments.

In 1986, the army launched another campaign in association with communal attacks throughout the northern part of CHT. The army was involved in systematic perpetration of genocides, atrocities, arson, raping, looting, breaking Buddhist temples and images to uproot the Jumma peoples from their lands and homesteads. This led more than 70,000 Jumma peoples to taking refuge to neighboring state of India under circumstantial compulsion. In 1992, the army carried out a massacre upon the Jumma people at Logang areas under Khagrachari hill district causing some 20,000 Jummas fled into Tripura state of India for life.

Chart 1

Repatriation of the Jumma Refugees
With a view to taking the refugees back, Bangladesh government entered upon Agreements with the Jumma refugee leaders on 16-point-package program in 1994 and 20-point-package program on 9th March 1997 and vowed to ensure returning of their lands and homesteads back to them including some logistical support. Following the Agreement, altogether 64,609 souls of 12,222 families repatriated to Bangladesh. The chart given below is a publication of CHT returnee Jumma Refugee Welfare Association, which provides the information on how and up to what extent the government of Bangladesh has been sincere in paying due honor the terms of Agreement:

Chart 2

According to Section – (1), Part – D of the CHT Accord 1997, a Task Force would be constituted for the proper rehabilitation of the Refugees and Jumma Internally Displace Persons of CHT. But even after returning to power for the 3rd time, the Awami League-led government has not undertaken any measure to that direction. Some 9780 Jumma Refugee families are yet to get back their lands and other logistical support as per terms of reference of the accord. As per the Accord, many repatriated Jumma refugees have not got back their government jobs and the outstanding loans fallen due have not been wiped out in.

The unimplemented points of the 20-Point Package Agreement published by the CHT Returnee Jumma Refugees’ Welfare Association in their report indicate the miserable plight as follows:

Chart 3

Section-7 of Part-D provides, “The loans which were taken by the tribal refugees from Government agencies, but could not be properly utilized on account of the state of instable situation, shall be remitted along with interest”. This provision has not been implemented properly as the applications of 642 numbers of refugees who applied for exemption of loan has not yet been settled as has been directed in the provision.

Since assumption of power by the Four-party coalition government in 2001, there have been ill attempts directing to stop supplying of ration to the Jumma repatriated refugees as planned by Abdul Wadud Bhuiyan, the ruling party MP from Khagrachari. A news item captioned “Stop ration to refugees” published in the Daily Ittefaq on 29 August 2003 narrates: “The Ministry of CHT Affairs applied to the Prime Minister for providing ration with the Jumma refugees. In response to this application, the Prime Minister Office informed that the Jumma refugees could no longer be provided with regular ration. Rather, it needs to be mooted whether or not something could be done in some way for their rehabilitation with the fund allocated by the Annual Development Program (ADP). It was also learnt from the concerned sources that the Prime Minister Office rather instructed to continue regular ration to the Bengali settlers living in various cluster villages in the CHT, and to form a committee for their proper rehabilitation in the CHT.”

It was a clear case of an inhuman and racially discriminatory step to stop ration to the repatriated Jumma refugees. However the Prime Minister Office earlier in a letter No 22.59.1.0.0.98-2003-3+4 dated 10 May 2003 to the Ministry of CHT Affairs informed that ration would continue to the repatriated Jumma refugees.

Sharp reaction of the Jumma refugees against such government stanch was published in the dailies. The “CHT Repatriated Jumma Refugees’ Welfare Association organized a road blockade program peacefully from 26 to 28 September 2003 in Khagrachari demanding continuous supply of ration, immediate implementation of the remaining points of demands, returning lands to the owners concerned and proper rehabilitation of the Jumma refugees. Various political organizations and other Jumma organizations such as, the Khagrachari Hill district PCJSS branch, Hill Students Council, CHT Youth Association, CHT Women Association, and Hill Women’s Federation supported the road blockade program. A mammoth public rally was organized in front of the Khagrachari DC’s Office on the last day of the program. After addressing the rally, the leaders of the repatriated Jumma refugees sent a memorandum to the Prime Minister. They gave an ultimatum to the government to meet their demands by 7 October 2003. In support of the ultimatum, the refugee leaders organized a silent procession on 7 October 2003 in Khagrachari, and sent another memorandum to the Prime Minister through the DC of Khagrachari Hill District. After meeting with the Prime Minister on 13 October, the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of the CHT Affairs informed the refugee leaders about continuation of ration to the refugees. Thereafter, ration to the refugees was supplied for three months. Later on, it was informed in an official letter to the effect that the ration allocated had been actually for six months. So the repatriated Jumma refugees had to pass half-fed for six months with the three-month- ration. It was a cruel farce on government side to exhibit its real face.

Internationally Displaced People
The internal displacement of Jumma peoples lay in the aggressive colonial policy of the successive governments through Islamization and Militerization ? a process directing to assimilation, occupation of lands of the indigenous Jumma peoples by way of carrying out atrocities, genocides, land dispossession, burning houses, torturing and uprooting the indigenous Jumma peoples from their lands. In the face of this design, thousands of Jumma families had to leave their villages and take shelter in the deep forest to lead a sub-human life. On the other hand, many Jumma families were forced to shift to the Cluster Villages known as Guccha Gram, Peace Village (Shanti Gram), and Big Village (Bara Gram) etc.

Sections (1) and (2) under part-D of CHT Accord 1997 reads: –

    • 1. “After ascertaining identification of the Internally Displaced Persons in all the three hill districts, rehabilitation measures shall be undertaken through the Task Force.”

2. “After signing of the Accord between the Government and the Jana Samhati Samiti and implementation thereof and rehabilitation of the tribal refugees and INTERNALLY DISPLACED TRIBALS, the Government shall, as soon as possible, commence, in consultation with the Regional Council to be constituted under this Agreement, the Land Survey in Chittagong Hill Tracts and finally determine the land-ownership of the tribal people through settling the land-disputes on proper verification and shall record their lands and ensure their rights thereto.”

Implementation Process:
According to the Accord, a Nine-member Task Force Committee has been constituted on 20 January 1998 with Mr. Dipankar Talukdar, MP as the Chairmen. However, with exception to definition of the Internally Displaced Persons, no further progress of the Task Force has taken place. The Task Force accepted definition of Internally Displaced Persons is as: –

“In the time from 15 August 1975 to 10 August 1992 (from the day of the Ceasefire) due to the conspicuous unstable and commotion situation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (Rangamati, Khagrachari and Bandarban) the tribal peoples who were compelled to abandon their own villages, Mauzas, areas and took shelter elsewhere within the country will be considered as Internally Displaced Person.”

Task Force accepted the above definition and the definition is clear to mean that it is the Jumma people who will be referred to as the only Internal Displaced Persons of CHT but the government has one-sidedly included the Bengali Muslim settlers who are illegally given settlements in CHT. The PCJSS and Jumma Refugee Welfare Association have protested against the inclusion of the 38,156 Muslim settler families as Internally Displaced Persons and as a part of the protest, boycotted the Task Force Meeting of 22 September 1999. The Government side argued that the terms of reference contained with the Task Force manual does not refer to the definition that only the Jumma people will be counted as Internal Displaced Persons. The Government’s Special Affairs Department circulated an ordinance to consider the outsider settlers as the Internal Displaced Persons on 19 July 1998 (Ref. No. S: L: B -78/98/185).

In fact the inclusion of the Bengali settlers as the Internal Displaced Persons has been a direct violation of the CHT Accord and the definition of Internally Displaced Persons accepted by the Task Force. Section-(2) of Part-D of the CHT Accord 1997, clearly states that the “INTERNALLY DISPLACED TRIBALS” will be referred to as Internally Displaced Persons the definition of which was also accepted by the Task Force.

The PCJSS and Jumma Refugee Welfare Association demanded to respect the CHT Accord 1997 and exclusion of the Muslim Bengali settlers from the list of the Internally Displaced Persons. The Muslim Bengali settlers, by no account, can be regarded as the Internally Displaced Persons of CHT. But so far, the government has not been a party to concede the logic.

It is a fact that no internally displaced Jumma people have been rehabilitated so far. The government has initiated a process of rehabilitation of all the Bengali settlers brought into the CHT under the state-sponsored program by re-identifying them as “internally displaced persons” though the Section-1 and 2 of Part D of the CHT Accord clearly states the rehabilitation meant only for the internally displaced Jumma peoples. It resulted in a serious uncertainty with implementation of the CHT Accord and solution to the CHT crisis. In protest to the continued attempts of identifying the Bengali settlers as “internally displaced persons” by the Task Force and their rehabilitation in CHT, the delegations of the PCJSS and the Returnee Jumma Refugee Welfare Association staged walk-out from the 9th round of the meeting of the Task Force held on 22 September 1999. The delegations categorically made the Task Force Chairman that they would not join the meeting until and unless the process of rehabilitation of the Bengali settlers in the CHT was stopped, and issued a joint press release to that effect.

Later, at a unilateral meeting held on 15 May 2000, the Task Force Chairman identified 90,208 Jumma families and 38,156 non-tribal Muslim Bengali settler families as “internally displaced families” and recommended a package program for their rehabilitation. The following table shows the details of the number of “internally displaced families” and package program for them in the three hill districts:

Chart 4

Package-facilities

    • 1) A grant of Taka 15,000 (fifteen thousand only) may be given to each “internally displaced family”.

2) The Jumma families displaced internally since 15 August 1975 and before 10 August 1992 (the day on which cease-fire was declared) were categorized into two groups in terms of amount of loan taken from the government. These are:

      • a) Those who took Taka 5000 (five thousand only) as agricultural loan may be exempted from the loan; and

b) Those who took Taka more than 5000 (five thousand only) may be exempted from the interest accrued of it.

3) Land-related disputes under the ownership of the internally displaced Jumma people may be settled through the CHT Land (Disputes Settlement) Commission.

4) A grant may be provided for income-generating projects. And measures may be taken to give long-term loan from that grant on flexible terms through scheduled banks for production-oriented activities.

Against this backdrop, in June 2000, a memorandum from the PCJSS with following demands was submitted to the then Prime Minister and the Convener of the CHT Accord Implementation Committee for rehabilitation of the internally displaced Jumma peoples and solution to the Muslim Bengali settlers’ issue:

    • 1. (a) To cancel the process of identification of the non-tribal outsider Muslim Bengali settlers as “non-tribal internally displaced persons” and the process of their rehabilitation in the CHT. And for this purpose, to withdraw the letter dated 19 July 1998 sent from the Special Affairs Department to the Task Force instructing rehabilitation of the so called “internally displaced non-tribal persons.”

(b) To transfer the non-tribal outsider Bengali settlers outside the CHT and rehabilitate them there.

2. (a) To accelerate the process of rehabilitation of the internally displaced Jumma people.

(b) To make a list of the internally displaced Jumma people excluded from that list made unilaterally by the Task Force on 15 may 2000.

3. To rehabilitate the internally displaced Jumma people on the basis of the package proposal made by the PCJSS rather than on the basis of 4-point package program unilaterally made by the Task Force.

In this context, it may be mentioned that the package program proposed by the Task Force for the rehabilitation of the internally displaced Jumma people was too inadequate to serve the purpose. Under no circumstance, proper rehabilitation of tribal Internally Displaced Persons could be possible with such a meager amount of package, which was too less than that of amount proposed by PCJSS during the second round meeting of the Task Force. The package proposed by PCJSS is given as under:

    • (a) To return the land including the homestead to the owners of internally displaced Jumma people.

(b) To provide Taka 15,000 (fifteen thousand) along with materials for construction of house, CI sheet and other necessary essentials to each family.

(c) To grant Taka 10,000 (ten thousand only) to each family.

(d) To provide daily essentials like oil, dal, salt etc. including ration for one year.

(e) To provide land with the landless.

(f) To arrange drinking water.

(g) To provide loan on flexible terms.

(h) To reinstate in the job and take measures for promotion on the basis of seniority.

(i) To reinstate the Headmen.

(j) To exempt from loan.

(k) To withdraw cases.

The task of the Task Force came to an end with the end of the term of the previous government on 13 July 2001. The four-party coalition government led by BNP came to power following the general elections held on 1 October 2001. The PCJSS sent a letter No. 287/PCJSS/2002 dated 30 July 2002 to the Prime Minister calling for re-constitution of the Task Force. The government has already appointed Samiran Dewan, the Chairman of that body. It is a proven fact that the Task Force would not be able to carry out its function unless the government takes appropriate steps in consistent with the CHT Accord for proper rehabilitation of the internally displaced Jumma people.