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4 December, 2017 00:00 00 AM

Implementation of CHT Peace Accord

The core issue of CHT Accord for ethnic minorities to implement was disarmament that remains unimplemented by the various ethnic groups
Abbas Tarafder
Implementation of CHT Peace Accord

On 2 Dec 1997, CHT Peace Accord was signed between Government of Bangladesh (GoB) and Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) ending two era-long insurgency formally. However, a section of tribal forces did not accept the accord and later formed a tribal regional party named United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF). In 2010, PCJSS broke into two, the fractions of PCJSS are commonly known as JSS(M) for the mainstream and JSS(R) for the reformist. Very recently UPDF has also been split up; new fraction identified them as UPDF (Democratic).

After peace treaty, till 30 September 2017, these armed terrorists of JSS, UPDF and Reformists have killed 2199 people, injured 2290 and abducted 2392. Most of those killed were Bengalis. Shockingly, one third of these victims are the tribes of CHT. Although the insurgency ended formally, all the regional tribal parties have their armed wings whose prime aim now is illegal toll collections. This money extortion is always entangled by abductions, tortures, murders, robbery, and many illegal activities.

The regional political parties have basically no identical philosophical differences. Although overtly JSS wants complete implementation of Peace Accord and UPDF wants autonomy, actually they want nothing short of independence – the so called Jummaland. Here politics, conspiracy, arms cadre and illegal money-making are complementary to each other with the support of vested groups from both home and international community. On the event of 20th CHT Peace Accord anniversary, let’s check the Peace Accord implementation and other related issues.

Out of 72 clauses in 4 parts, GoB has fully implemented 55 clauses, partially/mostly implemented 09 clauses and 08 clauses are under implementation process. One of the most important issues is land settlement issue which the Commission could not work in the face of tribal parties’ non-cooperation. Many clauses, hopefully, will be implemented with land issue being resolved.

The core issue of CHT Accord for tribes to implement was disarmament that remains unimplemented by the tribal folks. Although the arms surrender took place in 1998 and reported as implemented, tribes largely eyewashed by handing over mostly unusable arms; they have not left arms for a single day. PCJSS’s Shanti Bahini is now multiplied by four parties. Tribal parties must abide by the Peace Accord by demissioning arms and all terrorist activities. While the treaty is deemed to be void if this clause remains unimplemented in time, yet the tribal leaders continue blaming the GoB for not implementing the Accord. Strong perceptions among Bangalis prevail that, if Army would not have deployed, they would have been butchered and burned down in just one week time. Earlier only PCJSS had armed group named Shanti Bahini. Now, there are four regional tribal political parties – all have armed cadres with huge arms and ammunitions having camps both in CHT and outside Bangladesh territory. Although tribal terrorists do not attack or ambush on security forces, but they often fight amongst themselves for area of dominance. Their internal clashes leave a lot of killed. In recent years, huge arms consignments with JSS(M) members were caught by police/BSF in Mizoram and Tripura states of India; there had been huge hue and cry in Indian medias.

Peace Accord was done to bring peace and stability in CHT. It is a two party obligation. GoB, with its all limitations of being a developing country, is continually working for peace and development in CHT and socio-economic development of the tribal folks. However, the tribal leaders neither ever recognise GoB’s effort nor ever talk of communal harmony between Bangali and tribes. Even more, both verbally and in writings they mention CHT Peace Accord without the word ‘Peace’ (can be verified in internet), because peace is not there in their very psyche. Rather they resorted to persistent blamegame, fiery words and want eviction of about 6 lakh Bangalis form CHT – an absurd demand which is clearly an anti-peace stand. Resettling Bangalis back to plain land is no way a practical and viable option now; their permanency in CHT is an irreversible reality and being accepted in the Peace Accord.

Adivasi (indigenous) issue has been brought up recently with ulterior ill motive around which most tribal demands and politics now revolve. This reveals how CHT tribes, especially Chakmas are have meant the Accord for as a phased objective to reach independent Jummaland, not to settle with peace and stability. Tribal folks openly express such motive in social medias.

As for land issue, absence of appropriate land management rules, tribal perception on proprietorship and use of land, multiple controlling authorities, and Bengali settlers, are some of the reasons that have complicated the issue. Land had been the most disputed and contentious issue in CHT – it is the main element of communal disharmony between Bangali and tribal folks. However, the GoB passed a new ‘The Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Dispute Resolution Commission (Amendment) Act, 2016’ even going beyond constitutional compliance and the Commission is now working with confidence of tribal leaders. The amended Act left the Bangalis in despair of losing their homestead and immovable belongings while energized the tribal folks with their hope of establish so called indigenous right on CHT land.

Tribal leaders and their allies are most vocal in blaming the GoB for so called ‘militarization’ of CHT despite Peace Accord. Army camps are to be reduced to cantonments with the improvement of law and order situation. Army camps in CHT is reduced by 51%; however, increasing security concerns like extortion, abduction, killing, firing incidences etc demand rational increase in security forces’ presence instead. All Army camps could have been withdrawn should tribal terrorist would not have terrorised the hilly area. If militarization would be true, practices of democracy and franchise would have been hampered. All three parliamentary seats belong to tribal MPs and 75 UP chairmen out of 110 seats ie, 68% belong to tribes. Such strong practices of democracy in CHT are a proofs ‘militarization’ claim to be false.

Illegal money extortion and abduction by tribal parties are a sore concern. In CHT, Not a single person, other than members of security forces, is spared from tribal extortion. For every single event, for every occasion, from every business entity and monetary sources, armed terrorists of tribal parties coercively collect rated extortion money. This amounts more than 400 crores taka every year. In 2016, total 127 abductions took place where 52 Bangalis and 75 tribes were abducted – all by tribal arms terrorists. Bangalis are essentially abducted for ransom while tribes are mostly abducted for inter-party and internal party clashes. Tribal propagandists waging a stout hate campaign against GoB, Bangladesh Army, Bangali folks and also against sovereignty. A Google search of ‘Chittagong Hill Tracts’ will show the volume of such heinous hate campaign by the tribal folks and their designers home and abroad. Having scope for anonymity in the internet, tribal folks freely opines for separation, so-called ‘independent Jummaland’. Through internet and social medias, they spread out designs of flag, emblem and coins of Jummaland.

A new anti-Peace Accord issue being brought forward – the so-called ‘indigenous’ or ‘আদিবাসী’ issue. In 2008, much later than the Peace Accord was signed, the baseless, fake issue was raised to foment the separationist Jummaland movement and destroy communal harmony. There are distinct difference between indigenous and tribe. Indigenous are essentially the sons of soil while tribes are not. Definitions by ILO Convention 169 also differentiate the two on the account of ‘descent from the populations which inhabited the country or a geographical region to which the country belongs, at the time of conquest or colonisation’. Indigenous people are to inhabit in the area before the mainstream population (Bangalis) which is not a case in CHT. CHT was an integral part of Chittagong ie, the then Subah Bangla where the tribal folks migrated from Myanmar and Indian states of Tripura and Mizoram in 14th to 16th century. Chakmas, largest tribe migrated from Myanmar on approval of the then Sultan from 15th century onward. Relating to the ethnic minorities of CHT, the definition of ‘tribe’ can only be applied to CHT ethnic groups; ‘indigenous’ identity has no historical and anthropological basis.

The non-Bangali population in CHT are known as tribal (wrong use of ‘tribe’; উপজাতি in Bangla) in general since British colonial rule. For their habitation in hill tracts, they are also known as ‘Pahari’. Our constitution and the Peace Accord signed in 1997 also identified them as tribes. But since 2008, all of a sudden the tribal leaders led by Chakma circle chief Barrister Debashish started claiming their identity as ‘Indigenous’ rejecting their century-long tribal identity. Ever since the demand of CHT tribes’ autonomy started in 1973, they never claimed their identity as indigenous before nor did they rejected or disliked their tribal identity any time. The definitions of the words (indigenous, tribe, aborigine) were not distinguished clearly before; sometimes they were used in amalgamation. Although the CHT’s ethnic minorities used to be officially known as tribes since British period, in some exceptional cases they were labelled with other terms as well. In 2007, UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted declaring some definite rights for the indigenous people. Mention worthy that, Bangladesh is a signatory of ILO Convention no. 107 only and has not ratified ILO Convention no. 169 and UNDRIP for some definite reservations.

The writer is a security and political analyst. He can be reached at: [email protected]



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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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