The CHTs Accord provided
for withdrawal of all non-permanent camps of the security
forces. According to the JSS, so far only 35 out of 500
camps have been withdrawn. The government also established
more new camps at Milachari under Bandarban district and
at Ghagra in Rangamati district. The army had closed down
the local primary school in Ghagra to use it as accommodation
while the camp was being established in July 2004. A Buddhist
monastery in Barkal, Rangamati district, was also forcibly
pulled down to make way for a camp for the Bangladesh Rifles.
In a related development, there have been increasing reports
of the presence of armed insurgent groups from neighbouring
countries operating in the CHTs. It is alleged that the
Bangladesh army have adopted a policy of publicizing the
presence of these foreign insurgent groups as a further
justification for their continued and expanding presence.
Approximately one-third of the Bangladesh military is deployed
there and the government reportedly spends an estimated
US$125 million per year for the continued presence of the
military in the region.
In a latest incident on
31 March 2005, the Deputy Commissioner of Khagrachari served
acquisition notices to the indigenous Jumma landowners in
respect of acquiring 45 acres of land in Babuchara under
Dighinala Thana in Khagrachari district for the purpose
of constructing a battalion headquarters’ office of the
Bangladesh Rifles. At least 74 Jumma families in three villages–
Jatna Dhan Karbari Para, Gobinda Karbari Para and Hengottya
Karbari Para will be displaced. An additional one hundred
families will have to ultimately vacate their lands once
the construction of the camp compound is completed. Most
of these Jummas were uprooted after the construction of
the Kaptai Hydro Electric Project in 1960s. In 1986, all
these families had to flee to Indian state of Tripura where
they lived as refugees until the Chittagong Hill Tracts
accord was signed in 1997.
The establishment of the proposed battalion headquarters’
office of the Bangladesh Rifles is nothing but a ploy to
terrorize the Jummas and grab their land in the guise of
public interest. The nearest border point from the proposed
site is situated at a distance of 40 miles away in the north.
Moreover, there is already an army camp adjacent to the
proposed site of the proposed headquarters of the BDR.
The Bangladesh army has
sought to establish new camps near Bandarban, which will
lead to the displacement of 25,000 indigenous peoples.
Continued implantation of plain settlers:
In addition to continuous trickling of plain settlers
into the CHTs, the government of Bangladesh is also reportedly
planning to implant another 65,000 plain settlers’ families
in a vast area between Baghaihat and Majolong in Sajek Union
under Rangamati Hill district. Military officials have been
regularly visiting the area for the last two months. The
security forces have reportedly been clearing jungles for
a temporary helipad to enable the visit of senior military
officers. The military has been engaged in construction
of a road from Baghaihat to Sajek to facilitate the transport
of the plain settlers.
The settlement of such a large number of Bengali settler
families will have devastating effect on the indigenous
peoples. With the transfer of half a million plain settlers,
indigenous Jumma peoples have already been reduced to minority
in their own land. The Pankua indigenous peoples, who profess
Christianity, will be forcibly evicted from these areas.
The suppression of protests:
On 23 May 2005, police reportedly raided the office
of UPDF office at Swanirbhar Bazaar in Khagrachari district
and arrested 16 of its members including its district coordinator
Sachib Chakma, Pradipan Khisha, Ranjan Moni Chakma, Pulock
Chakma, Ronnie Tripura, Kerington Chakma, Anil Bikash Chakma,
Apu Chakma, Soumitra Chakma and Natun Kumar Chakma. Police
also picked up Hill Women’s Federation President Sonali
Chakma and General Secretary Antarika Chakma. They were
holding a meeting to prepare their peaceful demonstration
on 7 June 2005 in Khagrachari to protest the ongoing land-grabbing
spree of the government of Bangladesh.
The UPDF in a press statement stated that the arrests
were part of the government’s attempt to foil the peaceful
rally on 7 June 2005.
In the midst of such destruction of a people, internecine
conflict has once again prevailed over. The UPDF members
alleged that members of the Jana Samhati Samiti on 22 May
2005 tore off UPDF’s posters announcing the proposed June
7th rally in Khagrachari town.
Continued arrest and detention:
The members of the UPDF
have been reportedly facing the repression from the government
of Bangladesh. Hundreds of its activists have been arrested
on fake charges by the police and military personnel to
weaken their protests against the policies of the government
On 15 March 2005, Natun Kumar Chakma and 36 other
UPDF members were arrested in Chittagong. They were detained
for a day and freed later.
On 26 April 2005 Lieutenant
Colonel Momin Khan, Commanding Officer of Lakshmichari zone
under Khagrachari district, picked up two Pahari Chattra
Parishad activists - Sushil Chakma and Kaladhan Chakma at
Boroitali village in Bermachari union. Both were beaten
up mercilessly and taken to Ghagra camp in Rangamati. Later,
on 29 April 2005, they were released from Bannyachola army
Common Jummas too face numerous
repression. Since 23 April 2005, the military from Ghagra,
Lakshmichari and Sindukchari camps have been reportedly
carrying out massive operations in Lakshmichari, Kawkhali
and Kudukchari areas. They are frequently raiding Jumma
villages, beating and interrogating innocent villagers and
arresting people on suspicion of being members of the UPDF.
Undoubtedly the survival
of less than one million indigenous Jumma peoples depends on their unity in a country with virtual 160
million homogenous population. Yet, the Jana Samahati Samiti,
the political party that signed the Accord and the party
that holds power in the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional
Council has so far failed to take any visible measure or
make any public appeal to sit for dialogue with the UPDF
to stop the internecine conflict except calling for UPDF’s
extinction or calling on UPDF to dissolve itself. Certainly,
it cannot be considered "democractic" by any standard
but it certainly shows the level of democratic tolerance
in the CHTs!
Sense and sanity in the serene hills of the CHTs have
been replaced by modern day cannibalism.
Unless the internecine conflict can be brought to an end,
little intervention can be made by international community
to save the indigenous Jumma peoples. For the indigenous
Jumma peoples - the internecine conflict that has claimed about
500 lives and maimed equal numbers in addition to daily
kidnapping and extortion, has been more agonising than two
decades of conflict with the Bangladesh government.