Government’s Political Move Can Bring Permanent Peace in Chittagong Hill Tracts

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Parvedge Haider:

The present situation in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) is passing through a transition period.  The overall situation is very much within the control of the Government machineries after long days. In the post the peace accord scenario it was expected that there would not be any illegal arms in CHT, there would be gentle breeze of peace everywhere but it did not happen in that way. Right after the signing of peace accord in 1997, the birth of United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF) with a demand of autonomy, afterwards the fractions of Parbattya Chattagram Janashanghoti Samiti (PCJSS) and UPDF as new parties named JSS (Reformist) and UPDF (Democratic) and the continuation of armed groups by all the tribal regional parties made the situation unstable even few years before. General people of CHT were away from enjoying the outcome of peace accord due to enormous suffering, harassment and illegal toll collection created by all the tribal regional parties. Analyzing the overall situation, the Government took various measures to provide special advantage for the people living in CHT, specially for the tribal communities. It brought positive result gradually. Day by day the general people are losing confidence on the tribal regional parties. Recent results in the parliamentary election and Upazilla election reflect the general people’s desire.

Photo-1: Santu Larma

In the recent days, PCJSS led by Mr. Santu Larma is experiencing a large internal clash. There are misunderstandings among the senior leaders. Maximum armed group members are frustrated due to Mr. Santu Larma’s adamant attitude, unstable future of the activists, uncomfortable day to day life and fear of insecurity of the next generation. In the recent past, the chief toll collector of PCJSS Mr. Gayno Shankor Chakma was arrested by Rapid Action Battalion (RAB)-7 and later on he was dead as result of a gun fight with RAB. At the same time, some company commander and platoon level armed group commanders fled away from PCJSS and joined with JSS(R). Maximum front ranking leaders name have been filed with number of cases that compelled them to leave Rangamati. It is learnt that many of them have crossed the border and some of them have taken shelter in the remote places of Thegamukh and Bilaichari.

Photo-2: Proshit Bikash Khisha

The downtrend of UPDF led by Mr. Proshit Bikash Khisha was started the time they decided to work separately from JSS(R) and the birth of UPDF (D) took place. The inter regional party clash created a massive opportunity to conduct specific intelligence source based operations. There were quite a good number of operational successes against the UPDF (M) armed group miscreants in the recent years. At the same time, a good number of cases against the maximum front ranking UPDF leaders have been filed due to the inter regional party clash. At present, the UPDF leaders are not in the scene. It is learnt that maximum of them have left the country and some of them have taken a hide in the unknown places of Dhaka and Chittagong. The armed groups of UPDF are not staying close to the town areas, they move around the remote hilly jungle areas of Laxmichari, Panchari, Kala pahar range, Bhuachari etc areas. Over the years UPDF’s village level committee generated a malpractice of giving judgment of all local complains instead of ‘Karbaris’. Recent downtrend of UPDF is getting the situation changed very gradually.

Photo-3: Sudhasindu Khisa & Shemol Chakma  Jalwa  (taru)

During last parliamentary election, JSS(R) worked for Awami League. Due to inter regional party clash with UPDF, a good number of cases have been filed against the front ranking leaders of JSS(R) also. Like JSS(R), UPDF (D) also seriously worked for Awami League during the last parliamentary election.

The internal clash, number of fractions, mistrust, fear of uncertainty among the activists, lack of support of the foreign interested corner, absence of ideology among the leadership, priority of self-interest and massive corruption with the illegal money collected from the toll/tax are basically the main reason of present disorganized state of the tribal regional parties.

Despite of the weaknesses and disorganized condition of the tribal regional parties, there are killings and counter killings in CHT in the recent months. These incidents are happening on the specific issue basis, like killing of seven election officials in Baghaichari. The primary finding of this killing is that PCJSS candidate Baro Rishi Chakma’s people might have conducted this killing when they felt about their defeat in the election. However, the matter might be confirmed when the concern authority will complete their investigation. Now a days these scattered activists are overacting to show their presence in CHT. These incidents also need to be taken care off.

The foremost strength back up of the tribal regional parties is the illegal toll collection. The main sources of toll collection are timber, mobile phone companies and the development contractors. Recent down trend of PCJSS and UPDF made the illegal toll collection rate reduced. But still all the major businessmen are not getting full confidence of the present situation.

Photo 4: Map- Bandarban & Myanmar

Recent operational developments in the southeastern part of Bangladesh and Rakhine state of Myanmar are definitely a concern. The outcome of the ongoing fight between the Myanmar army and Arakan Army is likely to affect Bangladesh. This situation might be aggravated if PCJSS takes part in the support of fleeing Arakan Army soldiers in Bangladesh territory. Besides the ongoing Rohingya crisis and some presence of ALP (Arakan Liberation Party), MLP (Mog Liberation Party) and MHPP (Marma Highlanders Progressive Party) in the remote places of Bandarban areas, if the fleeing Arakan Army soldiers take illegal entry in Bangladesh territory, it will become a big concern.

The Government might politically address the present situation of CHT. Normally the leftist parties in Bangladesh support the ideology and activities of PCJSS and UPDF without understanding much about the future consequences. UPDF’s demand of autonomy and the overall far-reaching intention of the tribal regional parties are to create a separate ‘Jummaland’-this aspect needs to be clearly understood by those interested corners. The government might take an effort to instill patriotism within the leaders of tribal regional parties. They must feel that they are Bangladeshi. The influential tribal leaders might be employed in the central responsibility to generate feelings for the whole country, Bangladesh.

There might be announcement from the home ministry for all the armed group activists to surrender their weapon and get general amnesty. The persons who all will surrender might be offered with job as per their qualifications. Total number of armed group members will not be more than 1500. So it will not be difficult for the government to rehabilitate these 1500 people. It is to be noted that GOB (Government of Bangladesh) already did the same offer for the robbers of Sundarban and Moheshkhali in the recent past.

GOB has already decided to establish more hundred EPZs in all over Bangladesh by 2030. The biggest EPZ is being established at Mirershorai and Sonagazi due to its closer distance from Chittagong Sea Port. The same service could be provided from the hill districts if GOB plans to establish two to three EPZs in CHT. The armed activists operating in different tribal regional parties receives very poor amount of salary from their respective parties. Most of these people are really frustrated. They would flee away from those armed groups if they would have other safe alternatives. If GOB creates job opportunities for those frustrated people, there is a strong possibility that gradually those armed group activists will opt for a safe life considering the future of their next generation.

The enormous natural beauty of CHT could be more exploited by creating different tourism venues. Already basing on the tourist spot ‘Sajek’, huge job opportunities have been created for the general tribal and Bangalees. Besides the hotels and resorts, there are businesses of departmental stores and tourist transportations in Khagrachari. Now the ministry of tourism might develop the existing tourism spots and at the same time explore new possibilities of tourism venues. All these efforts will also assist to create the tribal-Bangalee relationship easier.

In the history of CHT, the present situation is very much favorable for getting normalcy and permanent peace. At the same time the present regional and global interests are biased to the economy. It is more likely that the tribal armed groups in CHT will not get much support of the regional secessionist groups. GOB might seriously work for the interest of the general tribal and Bangalees now so that they can enjoy the essence of peace accord.


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