This article is being written to highlight the current situation of Chattogram Hill Tracts (CHT) in the broad heads. Each point might be elaborated in the separate articles. Many of us do not have much time to read number of articles to learn about CHT but as this is a matter of one tenth land of our beloved country, every citizens of Bangladesh need to be aware of it.
The situation has been transformed with the passage of time due to restructured understanding of the ethnic tribal leaderships, foreign interest, geo-politics and mostly political decisions at the national level. The current situation of CHT might be described in the broad heads as follows:
There are four tribal regional parties available in CHT:
• JSS(M) led by Mr. Santu Larma
• UPDF(M) led by Mr. Proshit Bikash Khisha
• JSS(R) led by Mr. Shudha Shindhu Khisha
• UPDF(D) led by Shamol Chakma Jalwa
JSS (M), JSS(R) and UPDF (D) want complete materialization of peace accord but UPDF (M) demands full autonomy.
Some interested tribal youths backed by JSS (M), UPDF (M) and foreign diaspora have created a wide circulation in the social media about the formation of “Jummaland”. But the idea of jummaland is not being supported by other two tribal regional parties. There is no reflection of this idea among the general tribal as well.
None of the tribal regional parties are listed with the Election Commission. But the activists/supporters/members of these regional parties participate in all forms (union, upazilla, pourashova and parliament) of the election as a neutral candidate.
There is a good participation of the tribal people in the national politics of CHT. The regional party leaders and activists are increasing connection with the national political parties with the passage of time.
The tribal youths backed by UPDF (M) and JSS (M) generate hatred among the general tribal people against the Bangalees.
Despite the tough stand of tribal regional parties about the free mixing between Bangalee and tribal youths, the incidents of cross marriage are on the rise. It is happening due to the gradual developed awareness of general tribal people and the opportunities of higher studies in different public and private universities of Bangladesh.
The regional tribal leaders think that maximum clauses of peace accord have not been materialized; specially there is no much of progress on land settlement issue. Land commission is not yet functional.
There are number of incidents of communal clash due to the claim of a same land. In the maximum cases the Bangalee people maintain the papers given by the then government of 1980’s. The tribal people keep the papers issued by the respective headmans.
There are number of incidents where the interested tribal people backed by the regional party armed groups are grabbing government land/ abandoned army camps in the plea of establishing Buddhist temple/Bihar.
As per the general customs of different ethnicity, the ‘Karbaris’ and ‘Headmans’ are supposed to look after various issues of the general tribal people. Unfortunately these esteemed responsible persons are losing importance due to the forceful interference of the armed group activists backed by the tribal regional parties.
In maximum cases the tribal regional parties forcefully create disturbance or harassment of the general people to ensure support to their cause or achieve success of their demand by generating an abnormal scene. The boycott of bazar is one of their common techniques.
The tribal regional party activists are very smart in propaganda campaign. In maximum cases they do not leave any incidents unattended. All the inaccuracies made by the security forces and the Bangalees are properly capitalized by these interested tribal activists. However, they create their story a colorful one by adding mixture of truth and false. Normally the tribal activists are utilizing the social media, leaders & activists of the leftist parties and some similar minded intellectuals. They also circulate their propaganda among the foreign NGOs and international organizations.
Though there is hatred towards the Bangalees by the tribal communities, a good number of Bangalees are actively operating with the armed groups of different tribal regional parties. There are also allegations of Illegal tax collections by the Bangalees on behalf of the tribal regional parties. This scenario indicates that at present there is nothing called ideology among the tribal regional parties.
Maximum places of the reserve forest have become barren due to uncontrolled illegal timber extraction. Normally the Bangalees are the illegal timber businessmen and the tribal regional parties collect tax from them as per the loaded truck.
Basically the Bangalees are the highest illegal tax payer to the tribal regional parties. The main sources of illegal tax collections are as follows:
• Mobile phone companies
• Timber businessmen
• Bamboo businessmen
• Orchard garden owners
• Tourism hotels, resorts
• All types of public transports
There are other heads as well.
The tribal regional parties are equipped with modern automatic weapons. Normally the origination of these weapons is China. Those are reaching to CHT through some illegal suppliers and various insurgent groups operating in the Northeast states of India.
The present situation of various insurgent groups of Northeast India is in a state of declination. Maximum of them have already surrendered to the Government of India’s security forces or taking preparation to surrender. Many of them are getting arrested as well. The downtrends of these insurgent groups are likely to influence the activists to sell their illegal arms with a very low cost. The active armed groups backed the tribal regional parties in CHT might get attracted to purchase those. Even these weapons also might reach to the different places of the plain land districts beside CHT.
The field level activists of all the tribal regional parties are highly frustrated. The leaders are busy with their personal gain; there is hardly any sign of ideology. The activists are very low paid that makes them upset.
How to Address this Situation:
There might be a number of short term and long term solutions to address the situation of CHT. But some strategic and political decisions could bring a miracle change. The following points might be considered by the appropriate authority of the Government:
Basically the armed group activists are from very poor family background and less educated. Maximum of them got influenced by the high sounding philosophical words of the tribal regional party leaders. These people are highly frustrated now. The Government of Bangladesh (GOB) declared general amnesty in the other occasions like, the robbers of Sundarbans and the miscreants of Moheshkhai etc. If the similar announcement happens for the armed group activists of CHT, there is a big possibility that maximum of them would surrender to the appropriate authority of GOB.
GOB might think of arranging some economic and income generating infrastructures in CHT so that the frustrated and derailed tribal and Bangalee youths get opportunities to contribute for their families.
These two major decisions of the Government would bring economic stability at the grassroots level of CHT. The general people have already understood that the ideologies among the tribal regional party leaders are really missing. A mere economic security can bring them back home and lead a life of a proud Bangladeshi.