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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Remembering the great leader

Rupayan Dewan

Manabendra Narayan Larma, the great leader of the Jumma nation and a popular parliamentarian (1972-75) in Bangladesh was killed 28 years ago with his 8 followers. A platoon, commanded by 2nd Lt. Elin of Shanti Bahini, armed wing of PCJSS, raided the headquarters of PCJSS with the direct planning of Praksh (Priti Kumar Chakma), the key figure of Giri-Prakas-Deven-Palash rebel faction.

MN Larma in 1973, collected from Bangladesh Parliament library.

MN Larma, with backgrounds of high school teacher and advocate contested the East Pakistan Provincial Assembly poll in 1970 from Chittagong Hill Tracts north constituency and won a landslide victory defeating Awami League candidate, Kumar Kokonadaksha Roy, uncle of Raja Tridiv Roy.

Sudhasindhu Khisa, Co-Chairperson of PCJSS delivering his speech at a function at the MN Larma square at Khagarachari today. The function was organised by PCJSS Khagarachari Thana committee. We organised such Thana level functions in almost all the thanas of Rangamati and Khagarachari districts today to remember MN Larma.

Because of Bangladesh liberation movement, the provincial assembly could not sit and after the birth of Bangladesh in Dec 1971, both Provincial Assembly and National Assembly members from East Pakistan sworn in as Bangladesh Constituent Assembly members, for adopting a constitution.

A leaflet released by JSS on the 28th death anniversary of MN Larma.

As a constituent assembly member in 1972, MN Larma played an outstanding role for a democratic and secular constitution, to ensure the rights of the toiling masses of Bangladesh, including hapless women of brothels. It was unique to fight for both; the mainstream people and the indigenous peoples of the country during formulation of the constitution. Because of mighty landslide victory of Awami League in the 1970 elections there was no Opposition in the constituent assembly, and in fact, he was the de facto Opposition bench leader, and for this reason, he was taken to London for Commonwealth Parliament meet.

His move for constitutional recognition of the Jumma people and also the special status of the CHT, recognized by the CHT Regulation, 1900 (1 of 1900) had been turned down by the constituent assembly with great detest. He walked out the assembly, when in opposition of his move; the entity of the Jummas had been voiced out by the ‘Bengali’ assembly members. During debates on this issue the mighty Treasury Benchers behaved with him very unfriendly manners. Begum Sajeda Chowdhury, a then key figure and sitting Deputy Leader of the House and also the head of the CHT Accord Implementation Committee said in the assembly, “Mr. Larma, why do you feel shy to be a Bengali?”

Larma went to underground in the morning of 15th Aug 1975, as soon as he got the news of assassination of Bangabandhu Seikh Mujubur Rahman, the founder and Prime Minister of Bangladesh. He got this news at Burighta aboard the Mohalchari bound launch during his journey to Khagarachari. He, within half-an-hour, got down from the launch at Naniachar Bazar and then had meeting with 3 senior JSS leaders stationed at Naniachar and vanished into jungle from a few kilometers down of Mohalchari.

Larma had been active to draw the attention of the national political leaderships for the solution of the CHT problem and being convinced that he would neither be safe and nor the new (military) government would listen to him, then he opted for organising armed struggle under his direct. On 16 May 1976, in his speech, during the march-past of formation of Shanti Bahini units he formally declared to start armed movement against the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) to press for self-determination of the Jumma people.

He was always in favour of formal peace dialogue with accredited representative of the GoB, while the GoB was interested in informal talks. The army sent Upendra Lal Chakma, former M.P. to JSS in 1977 for opening dialogue, but, conditions laid down by the army were insulting. Afterwards, Santu Larma, the 2nd man in the JSS hierarchy was released on 22 Jan 1980, to bridge between the two ends. GOC, 24 Infantry Div, Maj. Gen. Manjoor was instructed by the Army Headquarters to arrange meetings with JSS. Gen. Manjoor showed his classified letter relating to the dialogue to Santu Larma to convince him, but, Manjoor regretted to give a photocopy of it to Larma, to pursue the senior Larma (MN Larma)and others. MN Larma did not agree to start dialogue informally. However, finally the CHT accord was signed on 2nd Dec 1977 through formal dialogues with three successive governments which started in 1985.

The dissidents, led by Priti Kumar Chakma, set out all measures to boot out the Larmas from JSS with arms power, during the 2nd party congress held on 24-27, 1982. They brought acquisition against Larma brothers of corruption, nepotism and centralisation of power to Larma brothers. Santu Larma was the main target of the dissidents; therefore, he spent the days there at the congress venue in shattered face without talking to anybody. All barracks in the congress venue were brought under Shanti Bahini members loyal to dissidents. At this stage, we the JSS trio, Goutam Kumar, Ushatan Talukdar and Rupayan (the writer) decided to talk to MN Larma.

Based on our decision, I talked to MN Larma at his barrack and he shared his decision to quit JSS to make room for Priti Kumar and his men. Both the Larmas would assume top positions literally, but in practice, they would be very irregular in the movement, to avoid adverse reaction from party workforce, well-wishers and mass people. And, in this process they would finally go to retirement from politics. In this way Priti Kumar and his close associates would be able build central leadership. He also told me that he gave this decision to Santu Larma and asked to abide by him. He gave me reason for this kind of decision that the dissidents did not like the Larma brothers. I said to him, “If we don’t listen to both of you, Priti Kumar and you as well?” He tried to stick to his stand. But, finally, he said, “Yes, you can do what you think to be the best.”

Thus, we proceeded and started to talk to the key delegates very secretly at sentry posts during nights, as it was very risky lest it comes to the notice of the dissidents. At the same time, I encouraged Priti Kumar to follow democratic move based on the JSS constitution. I warned him that his military action would invite counter military action and he would be held responsible for the sure civil war as the central units and sector reserve forces of the Shanti Bahini would not be supportive to his move, and thus, he would be identified as the black sheep of the Jumma nation.

Ultimately, the dissidents did not oppose the congress, but Palash, the Special Sector commander, on their behalf, demanded exclusion 5 'controversial' persons from the panel of central committee through secret ballots. There was election, first such in the JSS history. Both sides could not vote down 5 'controversial' persons from each side. Thus, the proposed 29-men central committee got approval from 49 delegates. The highest negative votes secured from both sides were Anadi Kumar Chakma (45.83%) and Harikrishna Chakma (42.22%), while MN Larma secured 41% and Santu Larma 39% negative votes. Priti Kumar Chakma secured 34.78%. This way, both the sides could not vote down all the 10 'controversial' central committee members from the panel.

Unfortunately, Priti Kumar formed a 9-member parallel central committee secretly as soon as the congress was over and afterwords started anti-party activities. They finally removed arms and ammunition from the central warehouse in the tail part of May 1983, without the knowledge of the headquarters. However, the headquarters was able to reoccupy all the stores and immediately ordered a crack down commanded by Ushatan Talukdar, which was executed on 14th June 1983. This move formally gave birth to the first Jumma civil war, which ended with the unity truce signed on 1st Oct 1983, based on the principle of ‘forgive and forget’.

But, Priti Kumar violated the truce on 10th Nov 1983 by attacking the headquarters which tolled 9 death and 2 injured, including MN Larma. Taking the advantage of most hostile weather with danger signal No. 10, the platoon, under the command of 2nd Lt. Elin of Shanti Bahini conducted the attack. Two groups of the dissidents attacked to two flanks, one was the main barracks while the other was the fighting group. There was a weak gap near the main barracks and the dissidents took this advantage. A civilian from Feni valley (Matiranga Upazila) having background of cow lifting and petty cow business had full knowledge of the area and guided the attackers up to the closest proximity.

Rupayan Dewan, this writer, could have been killed by the dissidents at Baburapara/Shantipur in Panchari on this day in 1983. Priti Kumar brought him to this area from the headquarters on the plea of briefing his followers on the unity truce for their confidence. For this purpose, he wrote a letter to MN Larma so that he sends me to Panchari, which was completely a trap to kill me. Hari Krishna Chakma, who led the dissidents to surrender in Rangamati on 29 April,1985 disclosed this most classified information and the plot came to light after 28 years. He says that Priti Kumar entrusted commander Peor (Nishidhan Chakma) to kill me and my escort party while I cross the Chengi River. Unfortunately, he could not kill me, as he did not get clearer information of their attack to the headquarters. Thus, we survived.

Soon after the killing, the JSS took two important decisions which afterward proved to be correct; one was nomination of Santu Larma as the acting president while the other was formation of DDF (Dissident Destruction Force), under the command of Major Pele (Tatindra Lal Chakma). The fearful civil war continued which took many lives of civil people and Shanti Bahini members. Afterwards, with the DOG (Dangerous Operation Golokpudima) operation fielded under the command of Maj. Pele and Capt. Rony in mid-March 1985 the last stronghold of the dissidents got shattered and they made a flight to Kowkhali Thana area under Rangamati district.

The dissidents made the flight to this area; it was understood, to take the advantage of their surrender to the army. The dissidents, of course, started secret negotiations with the army since 4th Oct 1984, which got final shape on 19 April 1985 with the signing of MoU with GOC, 24 Infantry Div, Maj. Gen. Nur Uddin Khan; resulting to open surrender of 233 dissidents at Rangamati stadium on 29 April. And, at the same time another truce was signed between the two warring sides, Santu Larma led JSS and the dissidents in the names of ‘active quarter’ and ‘inactive quarter’, on 30 April 1985 in a 3-day long meeting. Thus, the civil war formally ended with the retirement of dissident leaders from politics.

Unfortunately, the Jumma nation has been going through civil wars and conflicts unabated in the last 13 years, which the Jumma nation cannot afford. MN Larma taught his followers to acquire quality of forgivingness, quality of transformation and modesty in receiving learning. This applies to all political leaders and activists. Unfortunately, this is now found only in the JSS publications but not in practice. Rather, a reverse action is seen which makes the leaders cruel and revengeful. They should understand that this approach will not bring any good result for the Jummas and will surely help vested quarters yield benefits out of this kind of leadership.

MN Larma’s democratic, secular and humanitarian ideals and his immense love for downtrodden masses, womenfolk, for making discrimination and repression free societies are still alive in many of his followers. The carriers of his ideals are still active in JSS politics; unfortunately, many of them including six top veterans have been expelled from the JSS, in violation of the JSS constitution. ( According to Mr. Santu Larma, the ongoing Jumma crisis is not a fratricidal conflict, as opined by Dr. Manik Lal Dewan today at Rangamati Shilpakala academy, but a class struggle, which is continuing against (his) progressive leadership by reactionary forces. Is this analysis correct? Is Mr. Santu Larma's movement a class struggle? But, MN Larma identified the movement as national struggle and called the JSS, as "united front of all thoughts".

[The write-up has been written to remember the great leader today, 10th Nov 2011. Facts have been borrowed from the book to be published very soon by Rupayan Dewan, under the title ‘Revolutionary Leader MN Larma: Bridging the Plains and the Hills’. This post is being posted in the evening.]

*** To know more about the meeting of Mr. Santu Larma where he and others gave their opinion, e-prothom alo, Dhaka, page 4:

1 comment:

  1. I have come across your post now. Thanks for it. We the members of new generation don't know much about the civil war between the Lamba and Badi factions. Your post has provided some important information regarding this matter. May I request you to enlighten me about a couple of issues:
    a) why the allegation of corruption, nepotism and centralisation of power to Larma brothers came up? and what measures did the then JSS take up to settle these issues?
    b)Who were those controversial persons? Why did they turn to controversial persons?

    Someone named Jummo Chobashal shared a note on facebook. He raised a few issues, e.g. violation of by-laws, and severely ill treatment to dissident Badi leaders etc.(for his note, please visit Could you please touch on this note as well?

    With thanks, Odong