Jul 19, 2005

Chittagong Hill Tracts: Chakmas complain of Bangla Muslim settlements

The Chakma leader said the Bangladesh government tries to evacuated the Buddhists from the region gradually and populate it with Muslims
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Chakma tribe members of Tripura and Chittagong Hill Tract (CHT) of southern Bangladesh raised a voice against the Khaleda Zia-led administration following steps to resettle Muslims from the plains in the tribal-dominated CHT area.

The Chakmas have sought the interference of Japan government in the issue and intimated it to New Delhi too, as they apprehended fresh influx and ethnic conflicts on the Indian side of Tripura border if Bangladesh executed the task.

Chakma activists discussed the matter last week with a Tokyo-based Buddhist NGO, Jumma Peoples Network (JPN), at Shinjuku Buddha temple. Subsequently the representatives of the NGOs and two other organisations of Jumma working for the tribals of Chittagong Hill Tracts met the Japanese Foreign Ministry officials and apprised them of the situation.

Srotaranjan Khisa, a Chakma leader of Tripura and also a member of the JPN, said besides JPN representatives, Australia-based Jumma People’s Network in Asia Pacific (JPNAP) officials also met Japanese Foreign Ministry officials and urged them to take up the issue with the Bangladesh government.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, Mr Khisa said the Muslim settlers, backed by the Bangladesh army, had started grabbing tribal land by force and perpetrating atrocities on the tribals. The new areas of resettlement in the Sajek range is close to the eastern border of Tripura, which will force the Chakmas to settle down in Tripura.

Of late about 28,000 Muslims from the plains had been resettled in hilly parts of the CHT in Rangamati-Sajek range. Earlier, 10,000 people were resettled in Khagaracherri and Bandarban districts of the region, he said.

Free ration

He said the Begam Zia government had planned to evacuated Buddhists from the hill tracts, as they did with the Hindus earlier. It was giving free rations and transportation to the Muslims from the plains.

The Chittagong Hill Tracts had a tribal population of 97.5 per cent at the time of Partition when it was supposed to be included in India. But Pakistan army occupied the hill tracts on August 20, 1947.

Despite repression during the Pakistani rule, the tribals managed to survive, but after the outbreak of insurgency by Sahanti Vahini in the mid-70s’ the then president Zia-Ur Rahaman started resettling Muslims from the plains. By 2001, the tribal population had gone down to 55 per cent, he added.