(The opinions and statements contained in the article are those of the author Mr. M.F. Ahmed and do not necessarily reflect the views of DeshCalling. Similarly DeshCalling is not responsible or accountable for any allegations or accusations contained in the piece. All queries or objections should be referred to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org)
With the motive of getting Nobel Prize, Sheikh Hasina, the then Prime Minister of Bangladesh, signed an anti-state treaty with the armed separatist group named PCJSS (Parbotto Chottogram Jono Shonghoti Samity) of CHT (Chittagong Hill Tracts) on the 2nd December of 1997 by surrendering the govt’s legitimate rights and citizenship rights of Bangladeshi people on CHT which is one-tenth portion of Bangladesh. This treaty has established PCJSS on the ruling seat in CHT and deprived Bangalee inhabitants from their basic citizenship and human rights. Racist attacks, killings, abductions, kidnappings, torture, collection of tolls, threat of eviction etc continues against helpless CHT Bengalis and tribals who oppose terrorism and racism conducted by JSS leader Shantu Larma.
The country’s security and sovereignty is now at stake because of the immature and anti-state policy of Hasina govt. The whole region is now being controlled by JSS armed gangs compelling people to live in a suffocating situation.
The High Court has given verdict declaring Regional Council as unconstitutional and illegal but the Govt has obstructed the implementation of the verdict by submitting an appeal. This paper will briefly highlight the post-treaty situation and Human Rights violation in CHT.
Wrong claim against CHT Bangalis:
Bangladesh being world’s most densely populated country (area only 1,44000 sq km) of more than 164 million people; CHT, which is one-tenth portion of the country cannot be reserved for only 5 lac tribals. There are about 13 different tribes who have migrated to this area from various parts of India and Myanmar and settled here, they are now accepted as citizens of Bangladesh. Surprisingly, some racist tribals term Bengalis as ‘infiltrators’, settlers, bohiragoto etc. which is fabrication of truth aimed at misleading the foreigners. No citizen, in his or her own country, can be termed as ‘settler’.
Shantu Larma is not a true representative of CHT people:
The vital question is- Is Shantu Larma a legitimate representative of all people living in CHT area? Is he an elected person or has he ever participated in any kind of election to show his popularity in CHT ? Do the 7 lac Bengalis living in CHT also support him as their true representative? No. If so, how, in the treaty, he was accepted as a representative of all people of CHT? Through this treaty Awami League govt surrendered many legitimate rights of the country to JSS and deprived Bangalees from all sorts of rights in CHT. Mind it, how many people does Shantu represent ? 7 lac Bengalis do not support him, again, out of 5 lac tribals more than 50% do not support him. So, he cannot be imposed on CHT people as their true representative. In any two of the plain area Upazillas of Bangladesh, more people live than the total population of 3 districts of CHT.
Illegitimacy of signatories of the treaty:
Again, Awami League leader Mr Abul Hasnat Abdulla, Chairman of CHT Affairs National Committee, signed the treaty as a representative of Bangladesh Govt. Question is, does a committee formed by a Govt be termed as a National Committee when the opposition party(s) did not recognize it as a national committee representing whole nation? Deduction is, the so called CHT Peace Treaty was signed between these two illegitimate parties, one is PCJSS (not representative of all CHT people) and another is termed National Committee.
Absurdity of entering into a treaty:
only 1300 Shanti bahini members surrendered depositing only 600 unusable arms and where Shanti bahini could not capture even a single inch land of CHT, so how can a govt enter into such an anti-state treaty with such a negligible group and with such an illegitimate leader when govt maintains a vast security forces and whole nation is against such treaty?
Terrorism by Shantibahini:
By conducting armed insurgency since 1985, achievement of Shantibahini was that it killed more than 30,000 CHT Bengalis, raped hundreds Bangalee women, burnt hundreds of Bangalee villages, kidnapped hundreds of Bengalis, tortured thousands, bayoneted pregnant Bengali women and extracted tolls from every person living in CHT by terrorizing people with weapons. Around 5 lac Bengalis were internally displaced, some took shelter in Guchcho gram, more than a lac fled from CHT. They also succeeded in driving away one lac tribals as refugee to India to create pressure on Bangladesh by showing refugees.
Reasons for JSS’s surrendering weapons:
JSS started this armed separatism to gain ruling power on CHT. By this treaty, absolute ruling power is given to JSS and all clauses of the treaty framed to ensure systematic eviction of all Bengalis from CHT. The staged drama of surrendering weapons did not prevent JSS from taking up arms again and continue their killings and kidnappings on CHT Bengalis. Moreover, now it has become easier for Shantu Larma to conduct insurgency sitting at Regional Council Office itself. Those who opposed JSS are now demoralised and brought under control of JSS. Areas which were under domination of Security Forces have come under JSS domination once the Security camps have been withdrawn. They could successfully include in the treaty how many security camps will be there in CHT; thus govt’s legitimate right of establishing security camps – could be denied. Hundred crores of Taka allotted by govt for CHT and huge amount of tolls collected from CHT people – have become a big source of earning for JSS. Thus, armed insurgency in CHT- is a very big profitable business. All these power and facilities given to JSS now being used to establish Chakma dominated Jummoland.
Some detrimental clauses of the treaty:
a. Deprivation of Bangladeshi citizens from citizenship rights on CHT:
It is an irony of fact that Bengalis being the original sons of the soil are deprived of their legitimate citizenship rights on the area of CHT which is one-tenth portion of Bangladesh. Any Bengali living in CHT has to collect certificate from tribal Headman/Chairman and Circle Chief to be able to get a Citizenship Certificate and be included in the voter list. Thus CHT Bengalis have been made dependent and subordinate to tribals through the treaty.
b. Restriction on Bangladeshi citizens imposed by CHT Treaty:
Considering Bangladesh as a densely populated country of more than 16 crores people, in average 1.6 crore or 160 lacs people should live in CHT. But now by signing the treaty, Awami League Govt imposed restriction on all Bangladeshi citizens regarding settling, buying land or taking lease of land in CHT without permission of tribal Regional Council. Thus, a country within a country has been created by this treaty.
c. All vital posts are reserved for tribals making Bengalis as second class citizens in own country.
By this treaty, all major posts like Regional Council Chairman, 3 Dist Council Chairmen, CHT Affairs Minister, CHT Development Board Chairman, Circle Chiefs in 3 dists, Refugee Rehabilitation Chairman etc are reserved for only tribals and Bengalis are totally deprived from all these posts.
What is the justification of maintaining an Army of 1.5 lac strength?
If our govt has to surrender one-tenth portion of the country to such an anti-state mini armed group like Shani Bahini (around 400 armed members only), why our nation should feed an Army like this if the Army cannot suppress such a minor separatist group ? Fact is- that our Security Forces fought valiantly and successfully contained the Shanti Bahini for many years; they could not totally eliminate JSS because Shanti Bahini took shelter in neighbouring country where they got training and material support. Many Shanti Bahini members surrendered to our Security Forces including Central Committee members of JSS. Preeti group of JSS surrendered to our Army along with hundreds of it’s members and arms on 29 April 1985. It was expected that very shortly- all members of Shanti Bahini would surrender and leave JSS, but Awami League govt failed to appreciate the ground reality. If the govt has to surrender 1/10th portion of the country to a group of only 400 armed cadres, what will the govt do if another party of more than 4000 armed cadres starts an insurgency?
Neglect to our Intelligence Organization’s assessment:
Awami Govt without assessing the situation, surrendered CHT to JSS sitting at the dialogue table. Even Awami Govt has not taken any intelligence assessment from country’s Security Forces (Army, DGFI) and did not ask for any assessment/recommendation from them; thus Awami govt neglected the dedication and sacrifices of our Security Forces who have been fighting terrorism for more than a decade and contained it successfully.
Deprivation of Bangalees from jobs, education and loans :
Though 5 lac tribals of CHT do not constitute even 0.50% of the total population of Bangladesh (160 million plus), in spite of that- 5% jobs are reserved for tribals. Every year hundreds of tribal students are given admission under Tribal Quota into all Cadet Colleges, Universities, Engineering University (BUET), Engineering colleges etc; but no Bangalee student of CHT is given such quota which is a clear discrimination.
Unending demands of Shantu Larma:
In spite of above, now again, Shantu Larma demands 3 MP posts reserved for tribals. Is Bangladesh a Moger Mulluk ? Can any govt give lease this country to a terrorist group?
Who is Shantu Larma?
Shantu Larma is an anti-Bengali racist person and leads an armed separatist group called Shanti bahini (armed wing of JSS). He conducted armed terrorism in CHT with support from outside the border. He maintained several camps outside Bangladesh border. Though he signed a treaty with Awami govt on 2nd December of 1997, he has not abandoned his separatist ideology, he is now reorganizing once dissolved Shantibahini in another name.
Shantu Larma who is behind genocide and armed terrorism in CHT. Shantu Larma’s hand is wet with blood of more than 32000 CHT people of whom maximum are Bengalis. Through the treaty, he gained the post of Regional Council Chairman and still continuing this post illegitimately without any election though this council has been declared illegal by the High Court. His present propagation is to ensure withdrawal of all Security Forces from CHT and bring CHT under full control of his armed wing. He developed a vast network abroad to mislead international Human Rights organizations including UNO. He spreads continuous racial hatred against CHT Bengalis and plans to evict all CHT Bengalis. In the name of full implementation of the treaty, Shantu Larma is pressurizing the govt to give him more power and authority.
Shantu Larma’s armed wing extracts tolls from every shopkeeper, contractor and businessman worth hundred crores of Taka per year. He is a mass murderer, a known terrorist, racist and foreign agent whose cruelty does not even spare any tribal; Kina Mohon Chakma was eliminated by JSS for opposing the racial ideology of Shantu Larma.
Kina Mohon Chakma, an ex Shanti bahini member, was killed by JSS on 1st December 2006 at Rangamati, his body was mercilessly disfigured. Question is- how far Awami League will be allowed to go against the Bangalees and national interest. How long the nation will tolerate and Awami League supporters will support this Awami regime in going against Bengalis and national interests? How long Shantu Larma will be allowed to spread anti-Bengali racist sentiment and dominate CHT by his armed cadres ? The killing of 28 woodcutters at Langadu of Rangamati dist by chopping up, mass killings at different Bengali villages bears the testimony of the barbaric racism of JSS led by Shantu Larma.
JSS’s propaganda against Security Forces:
JSS activists always propagate that Army soldiers are killing them, torturing them and raping their women but they cannot show any evidence in favour of their claims. One thing that JSS hides is – the massive development activities being conducted in CHT by Security Forces. Hundreds of primary and secondary schools, dozens of colleges, student hostels, religious Kiangs, cultural centres have been established by Security Forces. Lacs of tribal students received scholarships from Army. Hundreds of engines for boats, power tillers and huge relief materials and cash worth crores of Taka donated to tribals by the Security Forces. Hundreds of roads and culverts have been constructed by Security Forces in CHT facilitating the communication and transportation system of CHT. But JSS never lets the foreigners to know this fact rather misleads them with fabricated propaganda.
Deprivation of CHT Bengalis:
On the other hand, Army has not done anything significant for CHT Bengalis. More than 95% donation and assistance given by Army went to tribals. Army even showed reluctance in finding the killers and kidnappers of Bangalee victims. CHT Bengalis are NOT even entitled to compete for the posts of Dist Council and Regional Council Chairman posts. No CHT Bangalee student has access to student quota for admission into university and medical colleges. No quota for CHT Bengalis in govt jobs. Thus the inhuman discrimination against CHT Bengalis is going on and on including threat of eviction. In own country, CHT Bengalis have become a second class citizen due to this illegal treaty and discriminatory policy of Security Forces and Administration.
JSS’s plan for a Jummoland comprising Mizoram and CHT:
JSS has a master plan of establishing Jummoland for Chakmas comprising India’s Mizoram and CHT area. It is to be noted that around 5 lac Chakma living inside Mizoram who are not accepted as citizens of India. As per JSS plan, all other tribes will be driven away to Mayanmar and India once they can establish so called Jummoland.
Partiality of Amnesty International and some section of the UN to JSS:
Learned readers will note that recent Human Rights report of Amnesty International has accused Bangladesh Security Forces but kept mum about the killings and kidnappings being conducted by JSS and UPDF. The reporter of Amnesty International is either biased or influenced by JSS who did not hesitate to term CHT.
Bengalis as ‘Settlers’. He did not feel to respect the citizenship rights of every citizen of Bangladesh; irrespective of tribal or Bangalee’ to live, settle or purchase land anywhere of Bangladesh. CHT being an integral part of Bangladesh, should any international organization show their biasness towards any group of people disrespecting rights of others?
May we humbly ask Amnesty International to collect reports on how many killings and kidnappings so far conducted by JSS since the treaty and how the CHT Bangalees are deprived from Human Rights by this treaty?
Biased recommendation of Lord Eric Avebury of the UK:
Human Right is not for any particular community rather it is for all human kind. But unfortunately, Lord Avebury, being such a knowledgeable person showed his partiality towards JSS demands. He also termed CHT Bengalis as Settlers and proposed to the govt to relocate all CHT Bengalis from CHT and stop their ration. If Amnesty International and Human Rights activists such as Lord Avebury abandons the 7 lac CHT Bengalis who are subjected to endless killings, kidnappings and torture in the hands of JSS armed terrorists; should human right have a separate definition? May we also appeal to Lord Avebury to see the inhuman life-condition of crores of poor Bengalis of plain area or of at least all slum dwellers of Dhaka City ? That will give him a wider view of Human Rights in Bangladesh.
Violation of the CHT Treaty by JSS itself:
Though JSS was supposed to abandon all sorts of terrorism but since the treaty it has killed more than 700 people and kidnapped more than 1300 people in CHT. There are severe armed camps maintained by JSS and there have been several fire exchanges between the Security Forces and JSS, many arms recovered. Threat of eviction against Bengalis continued by Shantu Larma. Racial violence instigated by armed JSS cadres in Khagrachari, Rangamati etc. More than 100 security camps abandoned by Army are now being dominated by JSS armed cadres. There have been several armed clash between the Security Forces and armed group of JSS and UPDF, many arms and ammunition have been recovered by Army and dozens of armed terrorists have been captured. Dozens of Army soldiers including Officer got injured and killed in these clashes. Thus JSS itself has violated the treaty.
Post-Treaty situation and terrorism by JSS:
Since signing of the treaty, Shantu Larma’s armed group and UPDF (United People’s Democratic Front) killed more than 700 persons and kidnapped more than 1300 persons in CHT of whom maximum are Bengalis. JSS also instigated several violence between tribals and Bengalis. CHT Bengalis facing deaths and kidnappings almost every day in the hands of JSS and UPDF terrorists. Since the treaty, several tribals also have died due to power clash between JSS and UPDF. Gun fight between JSS and UPDF is a regular incident in CHT as both of them wants to control huge toll collection and area domination.
In order to establish justice for both tribals and Bengalis, followings are the proposal to Bangladesh Govt:
1) All anti Bangalee and anti state clauses must be cancelled from the treaty. Equal rights of all CHT people, irrespective of Bangalee or tribal, must be ensured.
2) CHT must not be called Tribal Area but Hilly Area.
3) Verdict of the High Court regarding the Regional Council has to be respected and implemented.
4) All tribal and Bengali persons must be given freedom to buy land, settle anywhere and take lease of land anywhere in Bangladesh including CHT.
5) For equal distribution of population, at least one crore people should be facilitated to settle in CHT. There must not be any restriction on settling in CHT by any Bangladeshi citizen.
6) JSS must be tried for mass killings, rape, abduction, taking arms against the country and all other terrorist crimes. General Amnesty given to JSS should not be considered as a free licence to conduct further killings and kidnappings in CHT which they are continuing.
7) CHT Regional Council Chairman post must be given to both tribal and Bangalee people; for example: one term tribal Chairman and next term Bangalee Chairman.
8) A Vice Chairman of Regional Council must be formed, one term from tribal and next term from Bangalee. But at the same time only one post for each group.
9) Another CHT Dist Council to be formed in Kaptai region by declaring Kaptai as a dist. So all posts in 4 dist councils to be distributed equally among tribals and Bengalis. But in each council, if a tribal is a Chairman, then a Bangalee should be the Vice Chairman and vice versa.
10) None should be evicted from his/her land. All CHT Bengalis should be allowed to return to their land outside the cluster villages. All tribals and Bengalis should be allocated with land. Land disputes should be solved by legal way. But 50% land of CHT must be kept in govt’s hand to distribute to increased population in future. All internally displaced Bengalis must be rehabilitated in their earlier places.
11) No discrimination regarding job and educational quotas between tribal and Bengalis. Education rate must be brought to equal to both groups. Equal number of student hostels for Bengali students have to be established.
12) Cultural Centres to be established for CHT Bengalis in all Dist and Upazilla level. Presently, there are only ‘Tribal Cultural Centres’ in every dist town where CHT Bengalis are excluded by the racist name of the institution itself. Alternately, existing tribal cultural centres’ may be renamed as Cultural Centre Rangamati, Khagrachari, Bandarban, Kaptai etc to facilitate access of all types of people.
13) Circle Chiefs to be formed for Bengalis in all dists. Or, there should be 2 tribal Circle Chiefs and 2 Bangali Circle Chiefs and one Vice Circle Chief in each dist where if the Circle Chief is from tribal then Vice Circle Chief should be from Bangalee and vice versa.
14) Security Forces cannot be withdrawn from terrorist-dominated CHT so long racial violence and separatist armed groups are operational in CHT. Positioning of Security Forces must not be a part of the treaty as it is the legitimate right of the govt to site security camps as per country’s security requirement.
15) CHT Treaty must be amended and Bangalee representatives from all dists must be included to represent their people.
16) No racist ideology of Shantu Larma to be tolerated. He should be brought to justice for violating the treaty and restarting armed terrorism in CHT including killing and kidnapping CHT people. All crimes against humanity conducted by JSS must be brought to justice.
17) CHT Affairs Minister and Deputy Minister to be appointed- one from Bengalis and one from tribals, not two posts to one group at a time and it should be rotated.
18) CHT Tribal and Bangalee Conscious Committee should be formed who will discuss and settle their issues. Govt to act as a moderator or referee. Any decision on CHT must not be taken unilaterally and without inclusion of CHT Bangalee representation.
19) Zilla Parishod (Dist council) Vice Chairman posts to be formed in all dists, one Chairman from tribal and one Vice Chairman from Bengalis and vice versa. By declaring Kaptai as another dist, there should be two Zilla Parishad Chairmen from Bengalis and tribals in any two of the dists. The position to be changed cycle-wise between Bengalis and tribals so that no community is deprived from leadership.
20) Security for both tribal and Bengalis in CHT must be ensured. Security camps need to be rearranged based on the armed groups trail and activities. All anti-state activities of JSS and UPDF has to be monitored and necessary action taken to prevent further escalation.
21) Border of CHT must be sealed to prevent infiltration of any foreign groups.
22) Election should be held immediately in CHT for electing Dist Council,Chairmen and Regional Council Chairmen in 4 regions (Khagrachari, Rangamati, Bandarban and proposed Kaptai); unelected persons must not be imposed on CHT people to rule them.
Above is just a glimpse of the situation in CHT. The High Court has already declared the Regional Council as unconstitutional, illegal and anti-state. The govt should pay respect to the verdict of the High Court by dissolving the present JSS dominated Regional Council and ensure equal rights of every Bangalee or tribal citizen living in CHT.
May we also expect that all international organizations and Human Right organizations will talk and act impartially without taking side of JSS? As the biasness of any of their representatives will seriously hamper their organization’s credibility and acceptability as neutral organization, we hope that Amnesty International, UN and Lord Avebury will reflect on the damage done by the biased recommendations of their representatives and review their role respecting the security, sovereignty of Bangladesh and equal citizenship rights of all tribal and Bangalee communities living in CHT. None of their recommendations should spread communal violence and instigate racism in CHT.
All killings and kidnappings conducted since the treaty- must not be left without trial. Crimes against humanity must not be left spared. CHT, being an integral part of Bangladesh; any citizen of Bangladesh must be free to settle in CHT and Bengalis must not be made second class citizens in CHT.
All terrorist camps must be demolished and CHT people must be protected from armed terrorists. Border with India and Myanmar must be sealed to prevent infiltration of armed terrorists and illegal foreign migrants who come to settle in CHT.
All Bangalee and tribal victims of JSS and UPDF violence – must be compensated and rehabilitated.
All sorts of discrimination against CHT Bengalis and peace-loving tribes in education and employment must be stopped. There should be a survey on education and employment opportunities and equality must be brought based on population of each tribe and Bengalis.
CHT people must be freed from the rule of un-elected illegitimate rulers.
I strongly believe that above measures will ensure justice, equality, brotherhood and development for both tribals and Bengalis living side by side in CHT and bring lasting peace for all.
a. Prathom Alo, 28 March 2011.
b. Amar Desh 18 April 2011.
c. Noya Digonto 22 May 2011.
d. Amar Desh 23 May 2011.
e. CHT Treaty between Awami leader Abul Hasnat Abdullah and Shantu Larma.
f. Discussion with several tribal and Bangalee inhabitants of CHT.
Filed under: Bangladesh, Bangladesh and India, Bangladesh Defence, Featured, Politices Tagged: | Asia, Bangladesh, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Human Rights and Liberties, Irish Land Commission, Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti, Rashed Khan Menon, Sheikh Hasina