Bangladesh: Democratic movement for CHT Accord not only in CHT, but also throughout the country must


    Speakers told at Kapaeeng’s discussion with new generation in Dhaka

    There is no alternative but to strengthen a democratic movement for implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Accord not only in the CHT, but also throughout the country. Though 20 years have passed after signing the Accord, but it is very upset for the country that the main issues of the Accord remain unimplemented. The main reason behind this is chauvinism of the decision-makers. As CHT problem is a political and national problem, there is a need to resolve the CHT crisis politically through implementing the CHT Accord in letter and spirit.

    Young activists and professionals said these opinions in a discussion meeting titled, “20th Anniversary of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord and the Thoughts of New Generation”. The discussion meeting was hosted by human rights organization Kapaeeng Foundation on 5 December 2017 at CIRDAP Auditorium in Dhaka. The Chairman of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council, also the President of the Bangladesh Indigenous People Forum and the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma (Santu Larma), was present as Chief Guest in the event.

    The discussion meeting, which let Bangladesh’s youth and early-age professionals to share their thoughts and experiences on the CHT Accord was addressed by Abdullah Al Kafi, Central Politburo Member, Communist Party of Bangladesh; Nazrul Kabir, journalist; Shakil Ahmed, Head of News, Ekattor TV; Golam Mortoza, Editor, Shaptahik; Biplob Rahman, writer and journalist; Dipayan Khisa, Information and Publicity Secretary, Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum; Jannat-E-Ferdousi, General Secretary, RDC; Barrister Subrata Paul, lawyer, Supreme Court of Bangladesh; Taslima Yasmin, Assistant Professor, Department of Law, University of Dhaka; Sajedur Rahman Sajib, teacher, Government and Politics Department, Jahangirnagar University; Zahed Hasan Simon, Manusher Jonno Foundation; Antara Biswas, Journalist, News 24 TV; Manabendra Dev, former President, Bangladesh Student Union; Sohel Chandra Hajong, former General Secretary, Bangladesh Adivasi Chattra Shongram Porishad; Harendra Nath Singh, President, Indigenous Youth Council; Suman Marma, General Secretary, Hill Student Council; and Chandra Tripura, General Secretary, Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Cultural Forum. General Secretary of BIPF Sanjeeb Drong delivered welcome remarks while the discussion was chaired by Pallab Chakma, Executive Director of Kapaeeng Foundation.

    Journalist Nazrul Kabir said, our present day state does not have its expected non-communal character in line with the non-communal spirit of the liberation war. Even despite a political party like Awami League being in power. The nature of the state will not change, and religious extremism and military-dependence will not disappear until the CHT Accord is implemented. Hence, there is no alternative but to continue a democratic movement for the CHT Accord not only in the CHT but also outside of this region, throughout the country. The way the character of the state is taking a religious extremist form, no good can easily be expected from it.

    Antara Biswas said the more diversity of trees is therein a forest, the richer the forest is. Hence, the rich diversity of ethnicities of the country is a resource for us. It is important to preserve this diversity. And it is important to implement the CHT Accord in order to preserve this diversity.

    Golam Mortoza, Editor of Saptahik, said the government was able to successfully divide the hill people so that they would not have to implement the CHT Accord. Different groups have emerged as a consequence. The new generation must understand that there is an attempt to foil the CHT Accord through this politics of division.

    Student leader Suman Marma said, we see the effort of terming all the citizens of Bangladesh as “Bengali”. Even the constitution mentions that the citizens of the country would be recognized as “Bengali”. But we are not Bengali. I am a Marma, someone else is a Chakma or Tripura. I believe the new generation has to bring the process of CHT Accord implementation forward even at the cost of bloodshed.

    Shakil Ahmed, Head of News, Ekattor TV, said the battle that took place 20 years ago in the hills was for peace. It has been reflected through the Accord. But the Accord is not being implemented. The main reason behind this is chauvinism and mistrust. There is a need for research work and legal fight for implementation of the CHT Accord.

    Journalist Biplab Rahman said, while working as a journalist during the armed struggle in the CHT, I witnessed Longadu massacre in 1989 and Naniyachar massacre 1993. When Kalpana Chakma was abducted in 12 June 1996 and four indigenous youth were killed while protesting against Kalpana’s abduction, I went there to collect information. I produced reports and tried to write about the CHT. Hence, I feel bad when I see still indigenous peoples have to fight for implementation of the CHT Accord. Rather than considering how many sections or subsections have been implemented, it is important to see whether the major provisions of the Accord have been implemented.

    Hill Women’s Federation Chandra Tripura said, as a hill person the CHT Accord is a recognition to me. Land is all in the life of indigenous peoples. The existence of indigenous people cannot be imagined without land. Now we see that the indigenous peoples are being evicted from their lands in the CHT. And there is no effort to preserve their culture. Hence, there is a need the resolve the CHT Accord politically.

    BIPF General Secretary Sanjeeb Drong said, 20 years is a long time for those who have been waiting for the implementation of the Accord, but those who kept waiting would like to keep them for another 20 years. We see sheer lack of sincerity and good will from the end of the government to implement the Accord. Rather than implementing the Accord, the government is creating confusion through spreading abizarre number-based information on the Accord.

    In the closing remark, Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma said that movement will continue through organized programs until the CHT Accord is implemented fully and properly. The government will have to implement the Accord. We have fought a bloody struggle for two decades before the CHT Accord was signed. And we fought two more decades since then in order for implementation of the CHT Accord. The ruling elites of the country have been trying a lot to stop indigenous Jumma peoples of the CHT. However, the Jumma peoples did not and will not let it happen.

    Santu Larma further added that, the CHT problem has not been resolved to date because CHT Accord remains unimplemented even after passage of 20 years. Moreover, the CHT situation remains instable due to anti-CHT Accord initiatives undertaken by different governments. The de facto military rule “Operation Uttaran” is still continuing in the CHT. The hill people are facing continued insecurity and marginalization. Hill people have been pushed to the margin and there is no way but to move forward. The new generation today is contemplating on the CHT Accord and I believe, it will play an important role in the implementation of the CHT Accord. He also mentioned that the 10-point non-cooperation movement declared for advancing implementation process of the CHT Accord will continue. He called on people from all walks of life including the civil society members to come forward for implementation of the CHT Accord.

    It is mentionable that on 2 December 1997 the CHT Accord was signed on 2 December 1997 between Government of Bangladesh and PCJSS (Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti), a political party of indigenous Jumma peoples in CHT region, with an aim to resolve the CHT problem through political and peaceful means. It paves way for the peace, development and opportunities to meaningful engagement of indigenous peoples in CHT. It is expected that self-determined development approach is to be developed ensuring rights to land, territory and natural resources.

    The CHT Accord provides recognition of CHT region as tribal-inhabited region, introduction of special governance system in CHT with the CHT Regional Council and three Hill District Councils (HDCs) with the authority of general administration, law and order, police (local), land and land management, development, education, health, environment and forest (except reserved forest) etc, and demilitarization of the region, resolution of land disputes, rehabilitation of returnee Jumma refugees and internally displaced persons, setting up CHT Affairs Ministry at national level etc.

    Despite having two decades passed by, the core issues of the CHT 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 and so on.

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    Source: Kapaeeng Foundation