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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

CHT politics takes a new turn after GoB hard-line, worry democratic forces

A CHT Voice report

A group of women protesters at Baghaichari Upazila headquarters on 9th Aug to disdain the recent 15th constitutional amendment, organised by Baghaichari PCJSS Thana committee. Mr. Tatindra Lal Chakma, Member-Secretary of the PCJSS was the Chief guest of the public meeting.

With the Government's hardstand now the CHT has taken a new turn which worries the key figures of the national civil scoiety and the experts on the CHT. Mr. Santu Larma, Chair of the CHT Regional Council advised the Govt of Bangladesh (GoB) today, at a seminar organised by ALRD, a national NGO, at LGED Bhaban, Dhaka to learn from the past bloody CHT history, which was generated after forcing the Jummas to be called Bengalis. Mr. Larma also claimed that the successive GoBs have been engaged to Islamizing the CHT.

In the same function Advocate Sultana Kamal, eminent human rights figure and former BD Adviser of the immediate past Caretaker Govt and other civil society figures, however, claimed the GoB is acting to safeguard the interests of the civil and military bureaucracy and the multinational companies. Sultana Kamal warned that the GoB and the nation of 140 millions have to pay a lot again for the Government’s wrong CHT policy.

Dr. Abul Barakat, renowned economist and known for his research on Jamat’s religion based economy criticised Awami League (AL) today, in a separate discussion meeting in Dhaka, for sidetracking from the election manifesto on the CHT and the adivasi issues. He questioned AL why in violation of the AL’s charter of change the adivasis shall be called in other names?

Taking the advantage of a Supreme Court judgment the AL Govt amended the constitution (15th amendment) on last 30 June, first such after 37 years. During last term (1996-2001) the AL could not amend the constitution for lacking two-third majority. After securing three-fourth majority in the parliament this time and attaining mighty state power the AL seems to be desperate on the CHT and the adivasi issues including some core national issues. The powerful segments in the AL and the GoB are possibly considering that the Jumma people now are powerless, without the Shanti Bahini. The eminent national civil society figures from different disciplines and some political leaders are also seriously unhappy with the AL for most undemocratic entries in the constitution and, therefore, they have kept demanding for their annulment.

A poster released by the anti-Larma PCJSS on the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples 2011.

Jumma reaction against recent GoB activities: Anti-Awami League (AL) sentiment has now been to highest peak for branding the Jummas as Bengali in the constitution through the recent 15th constitutional amendment. The making of Islam as state religion with the principle of secularism has also angered them for giving them 2nd class status as citizen. The 1972 constitution which forcefully made the non-Bengali Jummas as Bengali had been one of the reasons of the genesis of armed movement with the participation of hundreds of Jumma students to the Jumma armed movement.

The way the GoB has been enforcing the tribal term against the adivasi (indigenous people) term; to oppose the UNPFII and ECOSOC resolutions and other UN obligations has seriously made the Jummas unhappy. Dr. Dipu Moni, the Foreign Minister was an ardent supporter of the adivasi rights in 2008 and now she is the key GoB person to vehemently oppose it. Recently, at a meeting at foreign ministry she directed the donor community to avoid using the adivasi and indigenous peoples terms. The indigenous peoples of the country have been demanding their appropriate constitutional recognition and other rights, most unfortunately, the AL has now exposed its actual face of Bengali chauvinism for which she did not implement the CHT accord.

Both the PCJSS and the UPDF and also other social and students organisations are now vocal with different programmes to disdain the 15th amendment. Both Santu Larma led PCJSS and anti-Santu Larma PCJSS organised public meetings at Rangamati town and at Dighinala Upazila on 9th and 8th July respectively to denounce the anti-Jumma and anti-adivasi entries in the constitution. UPDF enforced a 36-hour long road blockade programme in the CHT on 19 & 20 July and human chain programmes to oppose the amendment. The anti-Larma PCJSS is engaged organising Upazila and union level meetings in Rangamati and Khagarachari Hill Districts to condemn the GoB policy. Yesterday they orgainsed a mass public meeting at Baghaichari Upzila ground, a public meeting at Khagarapur community hall (because of heavy rain) at Khagarachari town and a human chain in front of the Khagarachari Deputy Commissioner office.

Mr. AB Khisa, renowned social voice of Khagarachari delivers his speech at the protest public meeting of the anti-Larma PCJSS at Khagarachari on 9th Aug 2011.

Growing one opinion: There is a growing mass Jumma opinion in favour unity among the Jumm political parties by defusing armed conflicts. The general Jummas and even non-political Jummas have been seriously desperate against the AL for acknowledging them as Bengali. This strong sentiment is directly affecting the AL which will definitely go against the AL in the 2014 general election. The general Jummas are also accusing the BNP for its silence on the issue Bengalization of Jummas in the constitution. Mr. Santu Larama completely frustrated the public who participated to his public meeting at Rangamati on 9 July by his strong stand in favour of Jumma division. The attending public expected to get a declaration from him for a Jumma unity, but, in stead, they heard a strong voice against some key leaders of UPDF and anti-Larma PCJSS. For this kind of approach the Jumma people now consider Mr. Larma as the icon of Jumma-division.

UNPFII and ECOSOC resolutions: The recent resolutions of UNPFII and ECOSOC on the CHT have been one stage forward of the CHT’s just cause in UN system. The Jumma activists consider this as their achievement of continuous lawful fight. The CHT Commission and the friends of Jummas at home and abroad have all thorough been instrumental on the CHT issues. Mr. Lars Baer, a Sami leader from Sweden and former UNPFII member submitted a report to the last UNPFII meet on the CHT which recommended 1. the need of implementation of the CHT accord, 2. the CHT ethnic peoples deserve to be identified as indigenous people and 3. straining Bangladeshi UN Peace-keepers for their human rights records before imparting to UN Peacekeeping Force. The 16-member UNPFII body including 8 govt representatives adopted it in last June without any changes and finally the ECOSOC on July 27, 2011 adopted the UNPFII resolution without any vote, despite Bangladesh’s representative, Mr. Abukkalam Abdul Momen’s sheer opposition. the ECOSOC website records- representative of Saudi Arabia expressed support for the statement made by Bangladesh concerning the report of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and said that Saudi Arabia shared their concern. Ahmad Warraich, representative of Pakistan approved the adoption by consensus of the proposal. He, of course, opined that the report referred to non-indigenous issues and made political recommendations; this was unfortunate and went beyond the mandate of the Forum. Representative of China welcomed the adoption by consensus of the resolution. He hoped that the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues could work in accordance with its mandate in a practical and objective manner. It should not expand at will the concept of indigenous people and put ethnic minorities into the same category as indigenous people.

Land Commission: The Land Commission is not functioning at the moment. Disobeying the dictation of the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001 and the voice of the Jumma voice makers the Govt tried to conduct a 3-day long dispute hearing at Khagarachari in Dec 2010. After receiving uproars from the Jummas and sheer opposition from Mr. Santu Larma, Chair of the CHT Regional Council and member of the CHT Accord Implementation Committee the Govt suspended the move. Begum Sajeda Chowdhury, Chair of the CHT Accord Implementation Committee who was scheduled to inaugurate the hearing suspended the move after getting green signal from the Prime MInister.

Present status of CHT Land Commission is clear with a report based on short interviews of 4 actors, aired by Somoy TV on 9 Aug 2011 at 3.00 PM.

Devasish Roy: Land Commission Chair has amalgamated the land dispute issue with land settlement.
Land Commission Chair: They’ve politicized the issue to prolong the crisis.
Santu Larma: The Land Commission Act should be corrected; there should have commission’s own office (building), staff and budget.
Law Minister: The tribal land Commission members are not co-operating with the Land Commission.

Jumma civil society move: The CHT Citizen’s Committee is engaged in raising social voice in favour of the CHT accord implementation as well as strengthening Jumma unity call. The social voices of Rangamati Hill District who participated to an opinion sharing meeting of CCC last month at Rangamati called upon the PCJSS and the UPDF to wind up fratricidal conflicts for a joint movement for the CHT accord implementation, constitutional recognition and land rights. Mr. Rupayan Dewan, Co-Chair of the new PCJSS welcomed the call and expressed his gesture in favour of the Jumma unity.

Jumma conflicts: Jumma killing is continuing unabated despite popular public demand for unity. Mr. Santu Larma seems to be the main obstacle for the Jumma unity, as he every time opposes the unity move and openly declares to annihilate some leaders of UPDF and the new PCJSS. In an open meeting at Rangamati, to mark the Kalpana missing day on 16 June, while Dr. Maniklal Dewan, former Rangamati Hill District Council Chair pleaded for Mr. Larma’s magnanimity and forgiveness quality towards his political counterparts, Mr. Larma could not control his anger and expressed his determination for their annihilation.

New military camp?: It is reported that the Bolipara army camp under Ghilachari Union which was closed down last year in Rajasthali Upazila of Rangamati Hill District has recently been initiated for reconstruction. Jungle has been cleared and earth leveling has also been done from Rajasthali army camp. The Kudukchari army check post has again been started checking with full swing like before. Last year when Jumma women of Ghilachari and Kudukchari protested against nearby army for an attempted rape the checking in this check post had been most irregular.

Birth of Mro National Party?: CHT Voice has gathered in the last week of last month that a Mro Political organisation, Mro National Party (MNP) has been formed under the leadership of Menrum Mro, a garduate Mro youth from Dulahajara which falls on the Chittagong-Cox's Bazar national highways. It has also been learnt that the MNP was formed some 2/3 years back and Mr. Menrum Mro made extensive visits to each and every Mro communities spread over Bandarban and Rangamati Hill Districts for arousing the Mro people for their rights.

A source claim that the Ruma BD army got this information in the middle of May and immediately sent out search parties to many Mro communities to locate Menrum Mro. Failing to grip him the army has been motivating Mro community leaders for either persuade him or help him get arrested. Information reveals that a day-long Mro Karbari conference was held at Ruma garrison on 9 July with the initiative of Ruma Army Zone. All the participating Karbaries were presented with shirts, flash lights and umbrellas.

To woo the Mros another Mro conference is in the pipeline to be organised at Alikadam Upazila involving the Mro community leaders of Ruma, Thanchi and Alikadam Upazilas, with the financial assistance from Bandraban region. Heavy continuous rainfall has possibly disrupted to sit with a few key Mro leaders for naming a date for the Alikadam conference.

The Mros, most marginalized in the CHT, may have founded the MNP of their own which might be because of their continuous land loss and eviction from traditional area, Chimbuk. The initiative does go nothing wrong if they want to run legal activities for their own rights. Chimbuk, famous for its beauty and the elevation has all thorough been a Mro dominated area for decades. A vast area has been occupied by BD army in the name of making training field and by forest department for social forest resulting to their eviction without any rehabilitation. The Mros have been opposing the land occupation and during last state emergency their leader, Ranglai Mro, who had all thorough been vocal against this land occupation was arrested and brutally beaten by army personnel. In the name of recovering an illegal pipe gun and a cartridge he was sentenced to 17 years though he had licensed arms.

During the Jumma armed movement the army had been successful to using many of the Mro people against the Shanti Bahini, the armed wing of the PCJSS, by forming a Mro Force. Now, this people have been vocal for their traditional land rights.

BNP woos new PCJSS: On 6th instant a former Rangamati Hill District Council member called on Mr. Rupayan Dewan at his residence at Rangamati to discuss on the recent political development. In this visit he sought support from Mr. Dewan for BNP candidate for Rangamati constituency. Mr. Dewan told him that the BNP will face questions for calling Mr. Santu Larma a criminal and failing to implement the CHT accord. The visiting BNP leader, of course, urged Mr. Dewan to even invite them (BNP) if the new PCJSS decides for their own candidate. Similarly, a former Khagarachari Hill District Council member called on Mr. Rupayan Dewan and proposed to support him for Khagarachari constituency. He further requested Mr. Dewan to initiate a talk with the BNP high command for an election alliance.

Lt Col (Retd) Monish Dewan Bacchu who worked under president Zia has recently joined the BNP and it is believed that the move is nothing but to bag the BNP ticket for Rangamati constituency. Mr. Dipen Dewan is the right claimant for this seat as he has been active in the district as the president of Rangamti district BNP. He even quited his job from the judicial service to join the BNP politics. He got the BNP ticket during 2008 election but because of legal complication he could not contest and the ticket was given to his wife. Mr. Mani Swapan Dewan, former Deputy Minister of the CHT ministry who defected from the BNP and sided with the LDP, recently showed a showdown after a hibernation of three years.

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