Even after two decades of the Peace Accord, killing procession not stopped
Rangamati: Today is Thursday, the 24th anniversary of the Chattogram Hill Tracts Peace Agreement. Apart from rehabilitating the terrorists and providing them with various facilities in the hope of peace, the two eras of closing down the army camps are coming to an end today. But peace is still elusive in the green-shaded Chattogram Hill Tracts.
Jana Sanghati Samity (Santu) leader Abishkar Chakma was shot dead by rival terrorists in Rangamati Sadar Upazila on Tuesday (November 30), just before the anniversary of the agreement. According to all sources, he is a top cadre of Jana Sanghati Samity (JSS). Not only this, but throughout the year such killings have been taking place in the conflict of domination somewhere in the hills.
Meanwhile, with the UP elections looming, the threat of JSS has prompted other political parties to resign.
The agreement was signed on December 2, 1997 between the then Awami League government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the Parbatya Chattagram Hill Tracts Jana Sanghati Samiti (PCJSS). The main objective of the agreement was to bring an end to the bloody conflict in the three hill districts through the surrender of the guerrilla forces, the Shanti Bahini (SB), which had been in the mountains for more than two and a half decades. Although the name of Chattogram Hill Tracts Agreement was mentioned in the paper, observers from home and abroad named this agreement as a peace agreement. As a result of the agreement, the Prime Minister received accolades at home and abroad and also received various awards and titles.
However, the four-party alliance, including the BNP-Jamaat at the time, dubbed the agreement a "black pact" as that the Bengali-speaking people in the hills become second-class citizens, including on the condition of something unconstitutional. They also wanted to arrest Santu Larma as the murderer of 30,000 Bengalis and demanded the amendment of the agreement and bring him under trial. However, despite the fact that the agitators came to power within four years of the agreement, they did not cancel or amend the agreement. It is assumed that their 'opposition to the agreement' was part of the traditional politics.
After 24 years of the agreement, the question still arises, has peace really returned to the mountains? In answer to this question, one has to say without hesitation that with the advent of peace, the field of murder and extortion has expanded. At that time there was only one regional organization called Jana Sanghati Samiti; Whose self-armed branch was the SB. And after the agreement, six more armed organizations including UPDF and Gundus Bahini were born from this organization. The conflict over their dominance is constantly poisoning the mountain environment. Meanwhile, due to the withdrawal of army camps from the hills due to the agreement, the hills have become a sanctuary for terrorists day by day.
In the last four years alone, at least 124 people have been killed in the struggle for supremacy in Rangamati. Compared to the last three years, the number of murders has decreased this year. Among the dead were 92 leaders and activists of four regional parties in the hilly areas. Of these, 39 are from UPDF, 38 from JSS (Larma), 13 from JSS and 2 from UPDF Democrats. Among others, there are 20 civilians, one army member, one BNP leader, 10 Awami League members and one Mugh Party member.
Among the three hill districts, most of the violence took place in Rangamati and Khagrachari. 105 people were killed in these two districts. And 19 people were killed in Bandarban. In 2018, 32 people were killed in Rangamati. 41 people were killed in 19, 11 people were killed in 2020, and this year the number of murders in the conflict between the hills is 5. The list of murders includes the imam of a mosque in Bandarban. Blood holi game is going on in the green hills in this exercise of armament centered on extortion. Armed activity is increasing day by day; The list of murders is getting longer and longer.
Meanwhile, Santu Larma was complaining every day about the implementation of the peace agreement and their further benefits are not being ensured. However, the Bengalis living in the area are saying that the government is creating opportunities for them to buy illegal weapons. On the other hand, the government said that 80 percent of the agreement has been implemented. Thus, various conspiracies of foreign missions are going on in the mountains on the basis of counter-allegations.
It may be mentioned that according to the information published through various media, 2,563 people have been killed in the three hill districts apart from social crimes since the signing of the peace agreement. At least 2,626 people have been abducted. Among the dead, the hill-Bengalis belong to both communities but the number of Bengalis is higher. The Bengalis were killed due to communal hatred and extortion and most of them were killed by the hill tribes. The slain hill people have died because of their own armed activities and their own infighting for power.
According to the agreement, the list of armed members of the SB was provided within 45 days and from February 10, 1998 to March 5, 1998, 1948 members of the armed SB surrendered to the government in four phases. They deposited more than 200,000 rounds of ammunition, including 875 weapons. Although the military wing of the Jana Sanghati Samiti was completely disbanded with the surrender of the last party on March 5, 1998, the number of self-employed cadres and the availability of weapons have tripled; Such information belongs to various intelligence agencies.
In October 2020, a number of government ministers, including Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, held a series of meetings with military and civilian administration and political and social leaders of the three hill districts on how to establish law and order in the troubled Chattogram Hill Tracts.
Government tries to find a solution. Even there, everyone agreed that a special battalion of the RAB should be deployed to increase peace in the mountains. Although the government's decision to establish a battalion of the RAB was finalized in November, the matter came to a halt due to unknown reasons.
Of the 15 lakh people in the three hill districts, 48 percent are Bengalis. The remaining 52 percent are residents of various ethnic minorities. Despite the peace agreement aimed at establishing hill Bengali harmony, Jana Sanghati leaders have been demanding the total removal of Bengalis from the three hill districts. Santu Larma himself made such a claim from time to time. The government set up a land commission in 2001 to resolve land disputes in the hilly areas. But the Land Survey Commission has not been able to function in the face of obstacles from the hill groups. The government has also amended the Land Commission Act in response to objections from tribal leaders, but its activities are still not being implemented.
The Bengali organizations in the highlands feel that the Bengalis living in the region have not seen any improvement in the years of the Hill Tracts Agreement. At a press conference on Tuesday, the leaders of the Chattogram Hill Tracts Citizens' Committee demanded full evaluation of the agreement.
Rangamati MP Dipankar Talukder feels that the implementation of the peace agreement is being hampered by the anarchic situation created by the killing and abduction of innocent people in the hills. He said, "We are very saddened to see that the opposition to the peace agreement is colluding with the BNP, a force in favor of the agreement."
In the opinion of the common people of the hills, if there is no army in the hills, the tribal terrorists will cut the Bengalis to pieces. If all the troops are removed, insecurity will be created in the hill districts.
According to various government sources, 48 of the 72 articles of the peace agreement have been implemented and the rest are in the process of implementation. The only condition on the part of the government was that the armed hill terrorist groups surrender their weapons. But due to the political umbrella of the hill leaders, it was not possible even in the 24 years of the peace agreement. That is why people from different walks of life in the mountains have emphasized on finding a solution through law and order as well as political dialogue by increasing the army camps to establish peace in the mountains.