Aug 02, 2013

Chittagong Hill Tracts: Human Rights Activists Urge Peace Accord Implementation

The National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh has stepped up to the challenge of easing the distrust between the army and the indigenous people of the CHT through mediation and pressuring the government to implement components of a 1997 peace accord.

Below is an article published by the Dhaka Tribune:

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) chairman, Prof Mizanur Rahman, believes that there is an “atmosphere of mistrust” between the army and the indigenous people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).

The commission has planned to take an initiative to bridge the gap by holding discussions between them after Eid, he said Wednesday [31 July 2013] while addressing a book launching ceremony in the capital.

“An atmosphere of mistrust has been prevailing between the indigenous people and the army [in the CHT]. Eliminating such mistrust is time befitting and a must. The commission is interested to organise a meeting, particularly to reduce such an atmosphere of mistrust. Such step has become a necessity, now. I am hoping that they [army] will consider our proposal,” he said.

The event was organised by Maleya Foundation at the Cirdap auditorium. The book titled “Development, Environment and Human Rights: situation report of Indigenous peoples of Bangladesh (March 2012- June 2013)” has been compiled by the Maleya Foundation.

Agreeing with the recent remarks of Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma (aka Santu Larma), the chief of Parbattaya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS), Prof Mizanur said the outburst of incidents such as killings and abduction in the CHT was a result of non-implementation of the CHT peace accord signed in 1997.

Santu Larma, also the chairman of the CHT Regional Council, on Tuesday [30 July 2013] said the indigenous people of the CHT were aggrieved and tired since the government had done nothing to implement the accord rather than giving repeated assurances.

The accord was signed between the then Awami League-led government and the PCJSS, which led the armed group of indigenous peoples named Shanti Bahini.

The accord was done with a view to end the decades-long insurgency between the Shanti Bahini and the government forces by respecting the recognition of the CHT peoples’ rights, particularly who hold a distinct culture and identity from the Bangalee population.

“The accord is not being fulfilled because of impediments caused by various kinds of stakeholders including the army, administration, bureaucrats, and influential persons.” He said.

“The state has failed to implement the CHT accord. The present status of the accord is not satisfactory since this government was one of the parties of the accord. I am sure the implementation of the accord is fully possible even in the last four months of the current government,” he said adding: “All the prime minister has to do is to take a bold decision of implementing this accord.”

Rights activists Khushi Kabir said the government officials should go and stay with the indigenous people for at least 15 days to understand their sufferings.

Chakma Circle Chief Raja Devashish Roy called upon the government to prepare development strategies in a way that the underprivileged indigenous people get covered by those projects. He also stressed the need for focusing on the indigenous people living in remote areas of the CHT.

Tandra Chakma of Manusher Jonno Foundation and Dhaka University teacher Meghna Guhathakurta also spoke on the occasion.