25 Sept 2010
Honorable James F. Moriarty
United States Ambassador to Bangladesh
Embassy of the United States
Madani Avenue Baridhara
Dhaka Bangladesh 1212
Subject: Memorandum on the state of CHTs Region of Bangladesh
Dear Mr. James Moriarty,
We are highly pleased and thankful to you for your recent visit to our ancestral land – Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHTs) Region of Bangladesh. We are also impressed on your precise remarks on the current issue of this region.
Truly speaking, it was a very scenic place with peace loving inhabitants in the whole region of undivided India with the status of ‘Special Administrative Area’ during British rule. At that time, people could sleep safely at night keeping the door open and properties unguarded till 1950’s. Those days are now like fairy tales. It became more beautiful in 1960’s during Pakistan time when a Kaptai Lake was created at the cost of peaceful and prosperous life of Indigenous Peoples of the region. It was a Hydro-electric Project built for providing light to the people of the then East Pakistan living in the planes throwing the indigenous Jumma peoples out of the area to darkness.
Because of this lake, almost all portion of populous, developed and habitable land including most fertile agricultural field of Chittagong Hill Tracts went under water driving away the Jumma population from their ancestral land where they were dwelling in for centuries together. About 65,000 families, more than half of the total population, were displaced at that time and took shelter in the hills and jungles, and started their new struggle for survival in traditional ways with or without documents. About 35000 people had to cross the border to India finding no alternatives in that period and who are still living there without citizenship status.
The life of these peoples was disturbed again during the Liberation war of Bangladesh and became the victims of torture especially in border areas.
Again the most miserable journey begins since mid 70’s when massive land grabbing started by the influx of Bangalee settlers from plane land under the sponsorship of government scheme-‘Uttaran’ mainly managed by Armed Forces. Because of deadly atrocities from time to time, they lost their lands, property, dwelling houses, sanctity and life. During such dreadful violence, indigenous peoples have to evacuate their lands to save their life; and then evacuated lands are occupied overnight by the settlers. Once these lands are occupied, there is no way to get it back. Even these people had to became refugees in India several times to save their life from such violent incidents.
Where there was only 2 percent non-indigenous population in whole CHTs region in early 1960’, now it stands up to 50 percent. As a consequence, according to government estimate, nearly 85 thousand Jumma families are living as floating people (Internal Refugee) in inhuman conditions.
Moreover, lands are being taken away continuously from the grip of indigenous people in the name of building camps for Army, BDR, Armed Police Battalion, Police, offices for government agencies, and various projects for NGOs and private companies letting more indigenous families to become destitute incessantly.
Where there is closely 40 percent of the indigenous population is directly caught up with such devastating effect, there is no doubt that the whole population is affected by this volatile situation. As a result, the state of their social, cultural, and religious functions might have been jeopardized, and above all their existence might be at stake.
It was greatly expected that this land dispute would be solved after CHT Peace Accord signed by the then Prime Minister, who is also the present Prime Minister, Hon. Sheikh Hasina in 1997. More than a decade passed, no light of hope is in sight yet rather going to be darker day by day. Even the implementation of CHTs Peace Accord is now in delay-dally condition.
In these circumstances how could it be possible for peaceful coexistence as a precondition of development?
Maung Thowai Nu Ching, President
Debashis Chakma, General Secretary