Bangladesh: Push for Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord

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Parbattya Chattogram Jansanghati Samity (PCJSS) supremo Santu Larma is in India, seeking Indian push to get the 1997 Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord implemented fully by the Sheikh Hasina government.

His movements in India are shrouded in great secrecy under cover of medical treatment, but Larma is said to have asked for Indian support to get the CHT accord implemented in letter and spirit.

Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nudge to Sri Lanka’s Mahinda Rajpakse to implement the country’s commitment for more autonomy for the Tamils, Larma has sought to remind Delhi that India should play a similar role in Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Sources close to him told Northeast Now that the PCJSS and its armed wing Shanti Bahini gave up insurgency and returned to normal life after Larma signed the 1997 accord with Hasina government on India’s ‘explicit assurance’ to get it implemented.

“But Hasina’s successor government in 2000-06 undermined the Accord and gave the army effective powers to pretty much run the hill region bordering India and Myanmar. When she came back to power, Hasina did not reaffirm civilian control over the region because she did not want to upset the army,” said a top PCJSS leader, but on condition of strict anonymity.

That is what is bugging Larma and undermining his influence in the hill region with factional rivals blaming the 85 tear old leader for failing to stop illegal Bengali Muslim migration from the plains encouraged by the army.

The military sees the Muslim settlers as a ‘human shield’ against possible recurrence of insurgency.

With settlers now close to half the CHT’s population, indigenous tribespeople are increasingly restless over loss of lands and livelihoods .

That brings Larma to India where he is expected to meet two senior government ministers in an effort to get Modi push Hasina’s government on CHT in the way India is pushing Sri Lanka on the Tamil issue.

Larma is also seeking BJP support to create a broad based assertive minority front in Bangladesh to push the CHT tribal cause in the country’s democratic space.

In return, he seems to be advising the saffrons on developing a militant tribal front in West Bengal to face the 2021 assembly polls.

Larma’s factional rivals back his effort to get Delhi involved in implementation of the CHT accord but fear he may misuse that to neutralise his opponents, against whom he has periodically unleashed his armed gangs.

They want Delhi to address a broad tribal front in CHT rather than the ageing and ailing Larma whose popular support has shrunk over the years.


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