Chittagong Hill Tracts: PCJSS Statement on 20th Anniversary of CHT Accord
On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the unimplemented Peace Accord, the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) released a general call to raise awareness on the ongoing situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). The conflict dates back to when Bangladesh was the eastern wing of Pakistan. At the time, over 100,000 natives were forcibly displaced and never received any compensation. During the 1970s, Bengali people started to settle in the CHT and paid little interest to indigenous populations. The violent resistance movement were opposed by Bangladeshi military forces, who turned the CHT into a militarised zone. The 1997 Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord was signed between party representing the interests of tribal peoples (PCJSS) and the Sheikh Hasina government to grant the CHT relative autonomy. The Peace Treaty is, nowadays, still not fully implemented.
The following statement is a press release made by the PCJSS:
Dear Media Friends,
Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) extends heartiest wishes on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Accord 1997.
This day marks fulfilment of two decades since signing of the CHT Accord on 2 December 1997 aimed at resolving the CHT crisis through political and peaceful means. But it has now become an issue of high concern that within so prolonged span of time, two-third core issues of the CHT Accord has remained unimplemented as yet. Soon after assuming the office in 2009, the present Sheikh Hasina-led government made it public that it had no opportunity to forge ahead the implementation process of the CHT Accord for 7 years i.e. for having been passed 5 years under four-party coalition government and 2 years under Caretaker Government led by Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed. Hence, the Awami League-led grand alliance government reiterated its commitment saying that the CHT Accord would be implemented in letter and spirit invariably. But it is to be noted that despite being in the power during the last 9 years, the present Sheikh Hasina government has not stepped up any effective initiative to implement the core issues that have been being ignored since the beginning. Consequently, the implementing state of the core issues of the CHT Accord has remained unmet. Furthermore, what causes to give rise to heightening concern is that the Sheikh Hasina government has not only left the core issues at the bay, on the contrary, it has been executing the anti-accord and anti-Jumma-interest programs one after another. As a result-
- The CHT problem has not yet been solved out.
- Preservation of the Jumma (tribal) inhabited feature in the region as well as entity of Jumma peoples has not been ensured.
- In order to make the laws applicable to CHT in consonance with the CHT Accord, none of the laws has yet been amended.
- CHT Regional Council and the three Hill District Councils have not yet been developed into an institutional form.
- The CHT Regional Council and three Hill District Councils have not been constituted through holding elections based on the right to direct franchise of the permanent residents of Jumma and Bengali people.
- The functions of General Administration, Law & Order, Police (local), Land & Land Management, Forest & Environment, Tourism, Secondary Education, Development, etc. have not yet been devolved to the three Hill District Councils.
- CHT Regional Council Act has not yet been put into force. CHT Regional Council has been kept dyfunctional.
- Illegal occupation of lands by the Bengali settlers, non-resident individuals and companies, authorities of army and other government institutions has not been made stop and that the land disputes in CHT has not been resolved.
- Military rule in CHT has not been put to an end by withdrawing all the temporary camps including de facto military rule ‘Operation Uttoran’.
- The India-returnee Jumma refugees and internally displaced Jumma families have not been properly rehabilitated having their lands and homesteads back to them.
- Appointment of the permanent residents in all the jobs available in CHT has not been ensured with priority preference to the Jumma people.
- The Bengali settlers have not been rehabilitated outside CHT with due honour.
Dear Media Friends,
The work of land dispute resolution has not yet started despite passing more than one year after having amended the contradictory sections of CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001. Article 18 of the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act reads, "The Government may, for achieving the objectives of the Act, formulate rules as soon as possible". Accordingly, the draft Rules of Land Dispute Resolution Commission was submitted to the Land Ministry on 1 January 2017. But the government has not yet finalized the draft as of this day. It is due to not having the draft Rules finalized, starting of hearing or judicial process relating to the resolution of land disputes of the Commission is not being made possible. It is worthy to be mentioned that though the Land Commission was formed, the Commission lacks of necessary manpower and fund. The head office of the Commission was though established in Khagrachhari district, no branch offices have been established in Rangamati and Bandarban district to this day. It is to be mentioned further that the tenure of retired Justice Anower-Ul-Haque as Chairman of the Land Commission has though expired on the last 6 September 2017 but the government has not yet undertaken any initiative to appoint a competent person (Retired Justice) as Chairman of the Commission.
Though the CHT Accord contains the obligatory provision to withdraw all the temporary camps, there are still more than 400 temporary camps in CHT. Meanwhile, de facto military rule was imposed through promulgation of 'Operation Uttoron' to assert the military dominance in the CHT. Now, it is by merit of the ‘Operation Uttoron’, the army has been playing the decision-making role in all the affairs including the general administration, law & order and development sectors and has been doing its best to hinder the implementation process of the CHT Accord by various means and ways. It is due to de facto military rule, the army is conducting military operations elsewhere involving searching, arrest, torturing, meting out repressive measures and interference in the rights to freedom of speech and expression and freedom of association. As a part of the repressive manoeuvre, the army is carrying out clubbing actions upon the supporters and members of PCJSS and its associate organizations engaged in the democratic movement by terming them extortionists, armed miscreants, terrorists, separatists, etc. and filing fabricated cases, searching houses, apprehending, detaining in the camps and meting out physical torture and sending them to jail, etc.
Dear Media Friends,
The government does not have any initiative to execute the unimplemented issues of the CHT Accord. The government is rather seen playing a very vibrant role in materializing the anti-accord and anti-Jumma interest program, as a whole. On pleas of implementation of the Accord, the government is bringing ultimate ruins to the diverse culture and national existence of the Jumma peoples, and continuing the mechanism of infiltration of the outsiders, illegal occupation of lands and homesteads of the Jumma peoples as to uproot them from their ancestral territories and alongside ultimate destruction is being brought upon the natural and forest resources. For instances-
Despite mounting continued demand to undertake initiative to bring necessary amendment to the laws applicable to CHT including the Police Act 1861, Police Regulation, Forest Act 1927 and Chittagong Hill Tracts Regulation 1900 in consonance with the CHT Accord, the government has taken no effective measures. Whereas the government was swift enough to bring amendment to the three Hill District Council (Amendment) Act 2016 and to enact the Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board Act 2014 and get them approved in the house in no time so as to accommodate the vestest interest of their party. The project titled “Construction of CHT Regional Council Head Office, Residence and Related Work Complex” has been left hanging for the last two decades on plea of ‘grant and land acquisition process’ is underprocess. The process of land acquisition for the CHT Regional Council Complex and land transfer to CHT Regional Council has not been completed even after 20 years. Whereas despite strong opposition of the Regional Council and CHT inhabitants, the Rangamati Science & Technology University and Rangamati Medical College are being directly established. In context of the prevailing sensitive situation in CHT, the government, instead of paying attention to address the poor and disarrayed academic scenario at primary, secondary and college levels, has headed for so-called promotion of higher education the move of which on part of the government may be accounted for a deep conspiracy and of ulterior political motive. The subject ‘Tourism (Local)’ is though one of the functions under jurisdiction of three Hill District Councils yet it was devolved to these Councils defectively and in incomplete form on 28 August 2014. This has undermined the jurisdiction of Hill District Councils on Tourism to the barest minimum level by which the Hill District Councils are left with the only provision of having authority over the self-supported tourism initiatives – not over the other tourism programs. On the other end, Tourism Centres are now being established and managed by the army, various government agencies and business institutions having the terms of the CHT Accord violated. Bangladesh Tourism Corporation has been entrusted with the main authority of Tourism in CHT, which is totally illegal as per the law. A wide range of lands is being illegally and irrespectively occupied for establishment of Tourism Centres in CHT without having consideration on tradition, lifestyle & livelihood, land right of the Jumma peoples, environment and bio-diversity in the CHT, let having consultation with the CHT Regional Council and Hill District Councils alone. The lands that are being occupied are the Mouza lands and traditional Jum lands (lands for shifting cultivation) of the Jumma peoples. The right of the Jumma peoples to forest, lands and natural resources is being robbed and that they are being prevented from developing orchards, Jum cultivation and growing seasonal farms in those areas. Consequently, the life & livelihood of the Jumma peoples, their food security, environment and bio-diversity have landed in grave danger. Section 1 of the Part A of the CHT Accord recognizes the CHT to be a tribal-inhabited region and the need of preserving the characteristics of this region and attaining the overall development of this region. But so far, no legal and administrative measure has ever been undertaken on part of the government to that regard. On the contrary, rehabilitation of Bengali settlers, expansion of cluster villages of the settlers, inclusion of the outsiders in the electoral roll of the CHT, issuing of ‘Permanent Resident Certificate’ to the outsiders and extension of job opportunity and other facilities to them by the Deputy Commissioners, giving lands in settlements and leases to the outsiders, causing fresh infiltration as to make the tribal population to an absolute minority, etc. are the combination of design to thwart the ‘tribal-inhabited-region’ feature of CHT down, the main goal of which is to turn the CHT into absolutely a Muslim-inhabited region. In place of rehabiliting the Bengali settlers outside CHT with dignity, migration process of the people from plains is continuing under patronization of the administration. The Bengali settlers are active in occupation of lands, violence against women, carrying out communal activities and opposition to the CHT Accord under indulgence of the state machineries as before. As part of the evil trend, similar to the earlier governments, a total of 20 communal attacks during the post-accord period including 11 during the tenure of the present government had been carried out – all of which have been designed with an ultimate objective to uproot the Jumma peoples from their ancestral lands and thereby to materialise ethnic cleansing blue-print. As per Section 34 of the Part B of the Accord, the ‘Land & Land Management’ falls under the jurisdiction of the Hill District Council. Section 26 under this part imposes prohibition over land settlements, selling and buying of lands, transfer of land ownership and acquisition of lands without prior approval of the Hill District Councils. But the subject has not yet been transferred to the Hill District Councils. On the other side, the Deputy Commissioners are doing with illegal transfer of land ownership, acquisition of lands, giving lands in settlements and leases on plea of Chittagong Hill Tracts Regulation 1900. Alongside this, the illegal acquisition of thousand acres of lands in the name of afforestation, expansion of cluster villages of settlers, establishing army camps and training centres and Tourism development continue to exist the process of which is a direct violation of the CHT Accord. An appeal was made with the Appellate Division of Supreme Court in April 2010 against the verdict pronounced by the High Court over a conspiring suit filed against the CHT Accord, CHT Regional Council and Hill District Councils. But no remedial solution has been brought in this appeal. Consequently, the CHT crisis, in place of getting resolved, is gradually turning to more complex and uncertain. Various government authorities including the Ministry of CHT Affairs have been spreading a lie that goes: “Out of 72 sections of the Accord, meanwhile 48 sections have been fully implemented; 15 sections have been partially implemented while 9 sections are underprocess for implementation.” It needs not to say that it is only 25 sections out of 72 have been implemented and two-third provisions of the Accord has remained unimplemented. Having extolled the realistic state of implementation of the CHT Accord, an 18-page report titled “Statement of the sections of the Accord, which have not been implemented” along with supporting documents containing16 annex was submitted to the Prime Minister on 1 April 2015, on part of the President of PCJSS. Despite being so, the government has been rendering untrue information on implementation status of the CHT Accord in the manner as Goebbels had done in the past. As per the CHT Accord, the responsibility of coordination and supervision of all development programs has been entrusted with the CHT Regional Council. But the government has been implementing the development programs by-passing the CHT Regional Council the act of which is a direct violation of the CHT Accord. The top-down development approach continues to exist till this day. In place of introducing the special administrative system in combination with CHT Regional Council and Hill District Councils in an institutional form, all these councils have been kept in dyfunctional. The three Hill District Councils have been virtually turned into district branch offices of the ruling party and have already turned into the centres of institutionalized corruption. Boundless irregularities and corruption have long before cropped up centring employment of 3rd class and 4th class employees including the primary school teachers. Despite being so, the government stepped up no effective measures against this mal-practices and corruptions, rather indulgence is being showered upon the institutions. Though there is legal provision in the Accord by which the CHT Regional Council is to coordinate and supervise the general administration, law & order and development programs, the Deputy Commissioners in the three hill districts including the other officials at district and upazila (sub-district) level and Superintendant of Police and Officials-In-Charge of the police administration are violating the given provision of the Accord. It is to be noted that these officials are not inhabitants of CHT. Their mindset stands against the CHT Accord and interest of the Jumma peoples. Consequently, the officials at district and upazila levels are rendering their services in general administration, law & order, land and land management, development, etc. by-passing the CHT Regional Council and the Hill District Councils, the trend of which has turned the overall situation of CHT further uncertain. The intelligent agencies, law enforcement and armed forces deployed in CHT have been playing anti-accord and anti-Jumma interest role with direct cooperation of the ruling party. Having the justified movement for rights of the Jumma peoples labeled as terrorism, they are doing with propagation, suppression and oppression throughout the region. By taking the advantage of ‘Operation Uttoron’, the army has been interfering in all affairs including general administration, law & order and development programs in CHT following colonial manner. It needs not to say that many army commanders deliver their anti-accord speeches in the different gatherings and publish their anti-accord write-ups on the dailies. Above all, the army publicly threaten the Jummas not to support PCJSS and not get involved in PCJSS activities. As a result, this has given rise to insecurity in life and livelihood of the Jumma peoples.
Dear Media Friends,
The overall situation in CHT is highly anxious and delicate. The residents of CHT, especially, the Jumma peoples, are being forced to lead a life with an insecure and extremely uncertain reality. The Jumma peoples are in firm determination to wriggle out from this suffocative situation. In sum and substance, there cannot be any alternative to implementation of the CHT Accord in settling the existing CHT crisis politically and peacefully. The CHT Accord, the charter of rights of the Jumma peoples as well as the CHT residents, was achieved through bloody struggle that lasted for two and a half decades. The situation in CHT once again is being pushed towards further complexity due to dilly-dallying policy in implementing the CHT Accord on part of the ruling class of the country. Any conspiracy directing to thwart down the Accord implementation process and any fascist way of repressive measures designed to suppress the democratic movement for implementation of the CHT Accord can never bring wellbeing to the country. The back of the Jumma peoples has already touched the wall and that they are left with no space for a back march. Hence, for any undesirable consequence arising out of this situation, the government shall have to bear the responsibility.
For the sake of proper implementation of the CHT Accord, the Jumma peoples are in firm conviction to resist any design that stands counter to the CHT Accord and interest of Jumma peoples with all might. On this day of 20th Anniversary of the CHT Accord, PCJSS, once again, solemnly declares that –
To continue to forge ahead the Non-Cooperation Movement based on the 10-point program declared in 2016. To resist all those programs that stand counter to the CHT Accord and interest of the Jumma peoples. To organize greater movement to implement the CHT Accord.
Alongside, PCJSS calls upon the democratic, non-communal and progressive political parties and civil societies to play effective role for implementation of CHT Accord for the sake of greater interest of CHT as well as the country.
Thank you all.
(Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma)
Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti