Aug 08, 2016

Chittagong Hill Tracts: PCJSS Decries Government’s Lukewarm Commitment to Peace Process

Photo Courtesy of: Collected 2016 @The Daily Star

According to Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samity (PCJSS), the political association of the indigenous Jumma people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts and member of UNPO, the Bangladeshi government does not show sincere commitment to the implementation of the 1997 peace accords. PCJSS President Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma in particular lamented the continuing problem of land grabbing and concomitant forced evictions and human rights violation committed by forces of the central government.


Below is an article published by The Daily Star: 

Government's inaction has left the implementation of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Peace Accord uncertain, according to leaders of the indigenous community.

“We have been seeing the reflection of government's lack of interest in implementing the peace accord for the last 19 years,” said Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, president of Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samity (PCJSS).

The government is taking initiatives one after another, which go against the peace accord and interest of indigenous people, said Larma, popularly known as Santu Larma, also president of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum.

He was addressing a press conference organised by the Forum at a hotel in the capital ahead of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples to be observed on Tuesday [9 August 2016].

This year, the day will be observed globally with the theme “Indigenous peoples' right to education”.

However, indigenous people in Bangladesh will observe the day with the theme “Indigenous peoples' rights to education, land and life”.

The PCJSS, an organisation of indigenous people of the Hill Tracts, signed the accord in 1997 with the then Awami League-led government.

The government has not performed the way it should have been to implement the peace accord, said Santu Larma while reading out a written statement.

The unresolved issues include land dispute in the CHT, cancellation of all leases granted to outsiders, rehabilitation of Bangalee settlers outside the region and amending laws that contradict the peace accord, he said.

The government's move to set up a medical college as well as a science and technology university in Rangamati will create political problems there. Because of language barrier, indigenous children are lagging behind in education and so, indigenous teachers should be appointed at schools in specific regions where indigenous people live, Larma said.

Influential people have been grabbing land of indigenous people. The government, in many cases, directly or indirectly helps them instead of protecting rights of indigenous people, the PCJSS leader said.

Pointing to continued repression of hill people, he said 15 indigenous people were killed, 84 houses vandalised and 45 evicted from their pieces of land last year. Until June this year, 29 indigenous women and children fell victim to sexual violence.

Different government bodies in the name of development projects or “reserved forest” are forcing indigenous people to leave their land, Larma said.

He placed an 11-point demand that includes an announcement by the government of a roadmap to implementing the peace accord, effective steps to protect indigenous community's rights to land, education and the state recognition of International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples.

Addressing the function, noted columnist Syed Abul Maksud said the government should give a written explanation as to how much the accord had been implemented and why the remaining portion could not be implemented yet.

Bangladesh Adivasi Forum General Secretary Sanjeeb Drong and veteran left politician Pankaj Bhattachariya also spoke at the function.

Meanwhile, the Adivasi Forum and some other organisations have sketched out a four-day programme from today to mark the World's Indigenous Peoples day.