On the occasion of the 24th anniversary of the CHT Accord, the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti published a supplement on the national daily Samakal on 2 December 2021 on the status of implementation of the CHT Accord and the overall situation in the CHT. The supplement is given below for widely circulation-
Supplementary of PCJSS on 24th Anniversary of CHT Accord
2 December 2021
A few words from the President
On the 24th Anniversary of the historic Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Accord, I would like to extend good wishes and congratulation to all the country people including the permanent residents of both Jumma and Bengali people.
The CHT Accord was signed in 1997 vowing to resolve the CHT crisis by political and peaceful means. After signing the Accord, though some sections and sub-sections were implemented yet two-third sections of the Accord have not yet been implemented.
The present Hasina-led Awami League government that had entered upon the CHT Accord with the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) in 1997, is though in the state power for 13 years since 2009, has not paced forward to implement the core issues of the Accord to this day. Even during the tenure of the present government, the process and activities for the implementation of the CHT Accord have been stopped. Even though placing demand for many times, no declaration has made public stating a time-line-based planning (roadmap) directed to implementation of the Accord.
Instead of resolving the CHT problem through political and peaceful means, the present government has adopted the policy of resolving the CHT problem following the methods of the previous dictators. Consequently, the CHT problem is turning more and more complicated let alone attaining the desired political solution in 24 years.
In this critical situation, I fervently call upon the Jumma students and youths, with more vigor, to plunge into the greater movement of Jumma people directed to implementation of the Accord as well as realization of the right to self-determination. At the same time, I would call upon all the democratic, non-communal and progressive individuals and organizations to employ more efforts on the issue of implementation of the Accord, for greater interest of the country.
Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma
Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti
The Implementation Status of CHT Accord and Present Situation
The historic Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Accord signed in 1997 between the Bangladesh government and Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) aiming at resolving the CHT crisis by political and peaceful means is all about to pass 24 years. But the CHT Accord has not been implemented properly and precisely. As a result, let alone attaining the desired political solution to the CHT crisis during the last two and a half decades since the signing, the situation has turned from bad to worse. Awami League government, the signatory party of the Accord, has remained in the state power over 13 years since 2009. Yet the government did not step forward in implementing the core issues of the Accord within such a long span of time. That the government did not undertake any effective measure towards implementation of the Accord is a fact, moreover, it has been ceaselessly spreading untrue information in Goebbels’s manner. Intending to conceal their failure in implementing the Accord, the government has been disseminating cooked and one-sided information to the effect that from amongst the 72 sections of the Accord, 48 sections have been fully implemented and 15 sections have been partially implemented while the implementation process of the remaining 9 sections is underway. According to the PCJSS, the counterpart signatory of the Accord, it is only 25 sections out of 72 have been implemented and 18 sections have been partially implemented. The remaining 29 sections have been left completely unimplemented and the government is violating those terms of the Accord all the time.
Having the existing ground reality of CHT highlighted, an 18-page report titled: “Statement on the unimplemented issues of the CHT Accord” dated 01 April 2015 with 16 annexures as supporting documents has been submitted to the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, on part of the PCJSS President. Once again, another report on opinion of PCJSS was submitted to the government in response to the government’s latest statement titled: “CHT Accord Implementation and Progress” placed by the Secretary of Ministry of CHT Affairs (MoCHTA) in the CHT Accord Implementation and Monitoring Committee meeting held on 20 October 2019. Despite being so, the government has been spreading ill-propagation and carrying out anti-Accord programs as earlier.
The issues among other unimplemented subjects are –
- To take legal and administrative step to preserve the tribal-inhabited feature of CHT;
- To devolve political, administrative and economic powers & functions including the subjects of General Administration, Law & Order, Police, Land & Land Management, Forest & Environment, Tourism, Development of Communication System, etc. to the CHT Regional Council and the three Hill District Councils;
- To hold elections in the CHT Regional Council and the three Hill District Councils having the Election Rules and Electoral Roll Rules formulated and voter lists with the permanent residents enumerated accordingly;
- To withdraw all temporary camps and ‘Operation Uttoron’;
- To return the illegally occupied lands to the Jumma people by settling through the Land Dispute Resolution Commission;
- To rehabilitate the India-returnee Jumma refugees and Internally Displaced Jumma families in their respective lands after having returned to the original owners;
- To cancel the leases given to the non-resident individuals;
- To appoint the permanent residents in all the jobs available in CHT with priority to the Jumma people;
- In order to make consonance with the CHT Accord, to bring amendment to all the laws applicable to CHT including the Police Act 1861, Police Regulation, Forest Act 1927 and CHT Regulation 1900;
- To rehabilitate the Bengali settlers outside CHT with dignity and honor, etc.
Special Administrative System of CHT
The CHT Accord contains a provision of introducing a Special Administrative System in coordination with the CHT Regional Council and three Hill District Councils. The provision states that the Hill District Councils shall implement all development programs at district level and the CHT Regional Council, as the apex body of special administrative system of CHT, shall supervise and coordinate the development programs.
To that end, 33 subjects or functions including the Law & Order, Land & Land Management, Forest and Environment, Tourism, Development of Communication System, etc. have been entrusted upon the three Hill District Councils. On the other side, the functions of supervision and coordination of the subjects devolved and the subjects that fall under jurisdiction of Hill District Councils, all development programs run under the CHT Development Board and the programs of local government bodies including municipalities, general administration, law & rrder, all development programs, NGO activities including disaster management & relief program, tribal laws and community adjudication and prerogative in formulation of laws, etc. have been entrusted to CHT Regional Council.
The administrative power and functions including the general administration, law & order, police, land & land management, forest & environment, development of communication system have not been developed to these councils. Consequently, the institutional effective form of the Special Administrative System could not have embodied in CHT. Even though the present government being in the state power at a stretch for 13 years, no initiative has ever been undertaken to hold elections in the councils. In 2000, having formulated, the drafts of Hill District Electoral Roll Rules and Election Rules of Chairmen and Members of Hill District Councils have been submitted to the Ministry o CHT Affairs on part of CHT Regional Council. But the government has not yet finalized the said draft Rules. On the contrary, as a result of running all the three Hill District Councils through appointing the non-elected and nominated partisan members, the three Hill District Councils have got turned into dens of corruption, irregularities and anti-people mal-practices and instead of working in favor of implementation of the Accord, the institutions have found themselves in flattery and anti-Accord role just for their narrow interest.
The administration and law & order authorities at district and upazila levels including the Deputy Commissioners, Superintendents of Police and the army, have been directing the general administration, law & order, forest & environment, relief & disaster management, development, etc. programs while side-lining the Regional Council and the Hill District Councils under connivance and indulgence of the government.
The absence of participatory role of people in the administrative system has been spreading dreadful negative impact on national entity of Jumma people and existence of their birth land, their culture and livelihoods and the natural environment and bio-diversity of this region. This administrative system has been set upon the permanent residents of the hills including the Jumma people as heavy as the most oppressing stone. These authorities have been executing the conspiracy counter-productive to the Accord and interest of the Jumma people as to destroy the entity of Jumma people forever. As a result, the Jumma people are heading towards an insecure and uncertain future.
Land Dispute Resolution in CHT
The land problem comprises one of the components of CHT crisis. The land problem of CHT appeared to be more complicated with rehabilitation of more than 4 lakhs outsider Bengalis in CHT and forcible occupation of lands belonged to the Jumma people, lands taken in acquisition by the government authorities in an illegal manner and beyond procedural formalities, and lands given in illegal leases to the military and civil bureaucrats and influential individuals. Even though having the provision in the Accord to resolve the land disputes of CHT in accordance with the law, customs and practices through organizing a Land Commission, but not single land dispute has been settled during the last two and half decades. After waging the movement for prolong 15 years, the contradictory sections of the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act were amended in 2016. But afterwards, the government kept the process of formulating the Rules of the Land Commission hanging more than 5 years. It is due to not having the Rules formulated, hearing of land-dispute-related cases or starting the judicial work of land disputes cannot be made possible. On the other hand, though the CHT Land Commission has been formed, the Commission does not have necessary manpower and fund. Although the head office of the Commission has been set up in Khagrachari district and branch offices of the commission have been set up at the offices of Rangamati and Bandarban Hill District Council, those offices have fallen into disrepair. Thus, how the government, itself, has been obstructing the functions of CHT land dispute resolution.
Relevant to be mentioned that in place of settling the land disputes in CHT, the government is witnessing the ceaseless events that involve giving settlements and leasing lands to the outsiders, fresh infiltration of outsiders to outnumber the indigenous Jumma people, launching organized communal attacks and blazing villages after villages to evict and drive the JUmma villagers away, etc. anti-Jumma people programs. Thousands of acres of lands are being taken in acquisition and illegal occupation on pleas of forestation and expansion of settlers’ cluster villages, establishing army camps and training centers and their expansion. and development of tourism. Instead of rehabilitation of the settlers outside CHT properly with due honor and dignity, the programs involving expansion of cluster villages and fresh migration of people from the plains is continuing ceaselessly. With an aim at illegal occupation of lands and eviction of the Jumma people, during tenure of the present government, at least 20 organized communal attacks including 11 communal attacks took place during the post-Accord period.
The latest illustration of illegal land occupation and forcible eviction of the Jumma people is the event that involves construction of luxurious Tourism Complex including Five-Star Hotel in the lands of Jumma people at Nilgiri of Chimbuk Hill under initiative of the army. As a result of construction of the complex, four villages of the indigenous Mro people will fall under direct affect and 70 to 116 villages will be indirectly affected while causing approximately 10,000 Jum cultivators to fall under threat of eviction. Despite strong mass opposition, the army is carrying out the construction work of the hotel without giving pause.
Rehabilitation of the Returnee Jumma Refugees and IDPs
As per the 20-point Package Agreement signed between the government and refugee leaders, altogether 64,609 Jumma refugees of the 12,222 families returned from Tripura state of India. The returnee refugees were given optimal economic facilities through the Task Force, as per the agreement. But two-third families of the returnee refugees have not gotten back their disposed lands in last 24 years. The 40 villages, homesteads and lands of returnee Jumma refugees are still lying under absolute occupation of settlers in the areas of Matiranga, Manikchari and Ramgarh upazillas under Feni valley of Khagrachari hill district, Dighinala of Maini valley, Mahalchari Upazila of Chengi valley, Longadu upazila of Maini and Kachalong valley under Rangamati hill district. Extreme tension arising out of land disputes often springs up between the settlers and returnee Jumma refugees. Many of the returnee Jumma refugees are being obliged to pass a sub-human way of life for not getting back their villages and lands.
In addition, about 54,000 refugees returning from refugee camps in the state of Tripura on their own initiative and under the 16-point package agreement are deprived of rations. Though discussions were held at the meeting of the Task Force on Rehabilitation of India-Returnee Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to provide rations to these refugees, no effective steps were undertaken in this regard.
The Task Force was formed as per the Accord to rehabilitate the Jumma IDPs by identifying them. But approximately, one lakh IDPs have not seen the face of rehabilitation even after 24 years. They have not enabled to go back to their lost homesteads and lands as yet. At present, most of the internally Jumma displaced families are being forced to live in inhumane conditions in reserve forests, traditionally-managed Jum land and mouza lands, homesteads of relatives’ etc.
Withdrawal of temporary camps from CHT
The temporary camps, as per the Accord, were supposed to be withdrawn to their respective permanent barracks, but the time-line therefor has not yet been determined. With exception to the posts of Border force (BDR now BGB) and 6 Cantonments (being those three at the three district headquarters and those at Alikadam, Ruma and Dighinala), more than 400 army, Ansar and Village Defense force camps have not been withdrawn to the permanent stations. After signing of the Accord, from among the 500 temporary camps, only 70 camps were withdrawn from 1997 to 1999 and 35 temporary camps were withdrawn from 2009 to 2013. It is only during COVID-19 pandemic, 20 camps have been re-established. At present, the withdrawal process of temporary camps has been put to a total halt.
It is noteworthy, instead of ‘Operation Wildfire’, the then government promulgated ‘Operation Uttoron’ (Operation Upliftment) on 1 September 2001. It is by merit of this ‘Operation Uttoron’, the army have been controlling all significant affairs including the administration, law & order, judiciary and development. The army have been creating various obstructions even in the implementation process of the Accord including creation of communal tension through the settlers, providing shelters and indulgence to the armed terrorist groups and forcible land occupation. Such activities comprise one of the obstacles in introducing democratic and public represented special administrative system and establishing peace in CHT.
Human Rights Situation in CHT
Today, the human rights situation, as a whole, has become extremely critical in CHT. The present government, instead of solution of political and peaceful means to the CHT crisis, has been following the policy of using military means like the earlier despotic rulers. To that end, more than 20 camps have been re-established during COVID-19 pandemic and military campaigns in fascist manner are being conducted upon the innocent Jumma people, in nook and corners of CHT. Wide-scale ill-propagation and conspiring programs are being carried out intending to identify the individuals and organizations including the PCJSS activists and supporters engaged in the movement demanding for implementation of the Accord, as ‘terrorists’, ‘extortionists’ and ‘armed miscreants’ etc. The present government has persistently employed its efforts to destroy the PCJSS, the party that had signed the Accord with the government. The anti-humanity and anti-Jumma programs including military campaigns upon the Jumma people, searching houses, arbitrary arrests, extra-judicial killings in the name of cross-fire, filing up fabricated cases, violence against women, infiltration, forcible land occupation, ant-Accord propagation, etc. have been escalated.
The CHT has been turned into a de facto blockade area by imposing restrictions on freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, and publication of news of human rights violations. Many news-portals related to CHT have been closed. Consequently, the news on atrocities of the army and para-military forces remain unexposed to the national media and country people.
On the other end, in order to obstruct the implementation process of the CHT Accord, to turn the movement for implementation of the Accord toward different direction, and over all, with an intention to make ethnic cleansing of the Jumma people, a reign of anarchism has been established through unleashing the UPDF, JSS (MN Larma) known as Reformist gang and UPDF (Democratic) armed terrorist groups created by the army and the local ruling party leadership, and the army-sponsored Mog Party, RSO and ARSA armed terrorist groups by inciting them in killings, extortions and other terrorist activities. Atrocities upon the Jumma people including the PCJSS activists and supporters are being meted out by deploying the Reformist group and UPDF (Democratic) at Subalong of Rangamati, Tintila of Longadu Upazila, Babuchara of Dighinala and in various places including Jibtoli of Rangamati Sadar Upazilla while engaging the Mog Party at Powaitu Para of Rajasthali Upazila. Alongside, these terrorist groups are carrying out extortion drives of lakhs of Taka under indulgence of the administration and security forces.
Towards the end of 2019, a new organization of the Muslim settlers named ‘Parbatya Chattagram Nagorik Parishad’ (Chittagong Hill Tracts Citizens Council) was formed while dissolving all other organizations of ultra-national and ultra-communal forces under patronization of the state forces. The Muslim settlers, ultra-nationalist and ultra-communal groups are being ceaselessly incited against the Accord. As soon as getting formed, the CHT Citizens Council had initiatives to gherao the CHT Land Commission Meetings held in Rangamati in December 2019 and in Bandarban in February 2020. In Bandarban hill district, tribal neo-Muslim settlements have also been established under the organizations, namely, ‘Tribal Muslim Ideal Association,’ Tribal Muslim Welfare Organization’ and ‘Tribal Ideal Association Bangladesh,’ etc. and programs of conversion of Jumma people to Islam are being conducted through these organizations. The continuous infiltration of the Muslim people including infiltration of Rohingyas is taking place in the three hill districts unabatedly under indulgence of the administration. The three hill districts are about to get turned into a paradise of the Islamic militant groups. To that end, once again, there has been the evidence that came to limelight through the arrest of three JMB members from Cox’s Bazaar Rohingya camp and during interrogation they confessed that they had received training in Bandarban hill district.
At present, all subjects of CHT have been handed over to the hands of local army and intelligence authorities. The Jumma people are now being ruled, exploited, deprived and oppressed under colonial system. Indeed, the back of the Jumma people has already touched the wall completely. No way is left for them to march back any further. The Jumma people have waited the implementation of the Accord over the last 24 years. Having the political and peaceful policy towards solving the CHT crisis dropped while trampling down the CHT Accord, any form of conspiracy in the name of solving the CHT crisis cannot bring in auspicious fruition to the greater interest of the country.
Historical Background of the CHT Crisis
Till the British colonization, the Jumma people used to live under freedom and self-governing system in the region far wider region than that of today’s CHT. Later on, the region had though fallen under the British domination, actually, the British rulers did not interfere the self-governance system or internal affairs of the Jumma people. In 1860, after declaration of the CHT region as a district, even though there had been a change in the administrative procedure, the separate administrative status of the region was retained intact.
Alike many other district in British India, the CHT region was declared as a scheduled district under the Scheduled District Act and kept unhurt the separate administrative status of the Jumma people’s region, which, in later years, was made permanent through introducing the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regulation 1900. The Regulation contained prohibition on entrance and establishing permanent settlements of outsiders without permission. Later on, in the Government of India Act of 1919 and 1935, like many other regions, CHT was awarded the status of ‘Excluded Area.’ Also during Pakistan period, the CHT Regulation 1900 was in force under constitution of Pakistan in 1956 as per the provision of indigenous peoples’ rights provided under India Independence Act 1947 and the Tribal Area status of the region was kept unhurt till 1962.
But due to exploitation and oppression of the Pakistani rulers, the life of Jumma people became very hard to bear with. In perspective of injustice and oppression of the government administration and extreme monopoly exploitation of the business community coming from outside, entrance of the plain-land inhabitants and establishment of settlements and occupation of lands, the existence of Jumma people became endangered. In 1960, the gravity of oppression took extreme form following construction of Dam at Kaptai. Due to valid reason, movement under leadership of Manabendra Narayan Larma began to grow. With independence of the country in 1971, the situation declined to further extent.
In 1972, the leadership of CHT including Manabendra Narayan Larma placed the demand for Regional Autonomy in perspective of separate administrative history, national identity and separate political, social, cultural and economic situation of CHT. But even though strong demand of the Jumma people, nothing had been included in the constitution of 1972 on separate administrative system of CHT. On the contrary, it was through adaptation of constitutional provision stating that the citizens of Bangladesh shall be identified as Bengalee, by merit of which the different races of the Jumma people had been identified as Bengalee – the provision against which Manabendra Larma raised vehement protest and walked out the National Assembly session. Alongside Bengalization, the task of Islamization became forceful through adding ‘Bismillar-Ar-Rahman-Ar-Rahim’ to the constitution as the beginning phrase in 1977 and declaration of Islam as the state religion in 1988.
On the other side, in place of fulfilling the demands of Jumma people, the government began to adopt oppressive policies one after another. To that end, in 1973, three cantonments were established in Dighinala, Alikadam and Ruma. As the martial law was promulgated throughout the country in 1975, all avenues of democratic movement got closed. On the other hand, military and para-military campaigns and atrocities upon the Jumma people got escalated. Afterwards, the armed movement under leadership of PCJSS grew up aiming at preservation of national existence and right to lands of the Jumma people in 1976. With a view to turning the Jumma people into minority population, since 1979, more than 5 lakhs outsider Bengali Muslim people from plain districts were rehabilitated in the lands of Jumma people under government planning.
Even though the armed movement continued, the PCJSS had always kept the way open for settling the CHT crisis by political and peaceful means. In this regard, the then Ziaur Rahman government had a limited initiative for peace discussion. Later on, PCJSS had its debut formal dialogue with Hossain Mohammed Ershad government on 25 October 1985. During the dialogue, both the parties identified the CHT crisis as political problem and were in consensus to resolve the crisis politically. Dialogue with General Ershad government from 1983-1990 was held for 6 rounds, with Begum Khaleda Zia from 1991-1995 held for 13 times and taking the 7 rounds held with the Sheikh Hasina government into account, in consequence of holding altogether 26 rounds of dialogue, the CHT Accord was signed on 2 December 1997, which primary aim is to resolve the CHT crisis by political and peaceful means. But as the solution to the CHT crisis could not be solved by political and peaceful means even after passing 24 years since signing of the Accord, the situation of CHT has become unstable as it had been during pre-Accord era.