Courtesy: New Age, Dhaka, 30 Nov 2010,
Jatiya Mukti Council holds convention on ethnic repression in CHT Staff Correspondent
A national convention on ethnic repression in the Chittagong Hill Tracts called for immediate withdrawal of restrictions on public gatherings in the hills, terminating the military’s Operation Uttaran and decreasing the number of soldiers deployed.
The convention, organised by the Jatiya Mukti Council at the National Press Club, also demanded recognition of the traditional land rights of the ethnic minority communities, ensuring the right of self-determination for all small ethnic groups, ensuring autonomy for the Chittagong Hill Tracts, ensuring basic education in their mother-tongue, and stopping the rampant acquisition of lands for the eco-park and reserve forest, and the expansion of cantonments.
The convention also demanded trial of those responsible for the abduction of Kalpana Chakma and killing of Alfred Soren, Chalesh Richhil and Piren Snal, trial of the civil-military bureaucrats involved in the attack on and burning of the homes of ethnic minorities at Baghaihat of Rangamati and in Khagrachhari town on 20-23 February.
The convention also announced a nationwide protest day on December 12 against ethnic repression across the country.
The JMC’s president, Badruddin Umar, inaugurated the convention in the morning. The United People’s Democratic Front’s president Prasit Bikash Khisha, writer Shawkat Ali, Dhaka University’s Professor Akmal Hossain, Shanti Sangma, Mohammad Rafique, poet Ahmed Ilyas, Naya Ganatantrik Ganamorcha’s convener Shibli Qaiyum, Jatiya Ganatantrik Ganamancha’s convener Masud Khan and Bangladesher Samyabadi Dal’s leader Abdul Hakim also spoke at the convention.
Several hundred representatives and observers from the hill districts were among those who attended the convention.
Badruddin Umar said that state-sponsored repression in the Chittagong Hill Tracts has been going on since colonial rule. ‘The crisis in the hills ensued from the fascist policies of the ruling class,’ he said.
He said that the ethnic minorities had contributed much to the struggle for the people’s cause in the past and were still fighting for similar causes. ‘But their struggle needs to be united with the greater struggle of the general masses of the country,’ he said.
Umar criticised the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti’s leader, Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, for surrendering to the government. ‘He now sheds tears in the forest to see the deal implemented. His activities will earn him the soubriquet of Surrender Larma,’ he said.
Prasit Bikash Khisha said that not only the people from small ethnic groups but the general Bengalis were also repressed. He said the instruction to ethnic minorities to be Bengalis by a Bengali leader had triggered mistrust among them.
Akmal Hossain demanded the awarding of the Chittagong Hill Tracts the status of a special zone. No nation-state on earth comprises a single ethnicity, he said, and suggested holding another convention involving all small ethnic groups.