PSPD People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy
[Column] Human rights violation in Chittagong Hill Tracts
- Int. Solidarity
- 2012.08.20 (16:08:21)
HR violation in Chittagong Hill Tracts
- Ronel Chakma Nani*
(Jumma Peoples Network-Korea, Chief-advisor)
The UN general assembly adopted the “universal declaration of the rights of Indigenous peoples” in 2007 in order to protect the rights and dignity of the indigenous peoples and to preserve culture and tradition. The UN also declared 9 August as “international day of indigenous people.” According to the UN definition, “Indigenous people are those who inhabited a country or a geographical region at the time when people of different cultures or ethnic origins arrived. The new arrivals later became dominant through conquest, occupation, settlement or other means.” They live almost in every parts of the universe making a population of 370million. There many groups of ethnic indigenous peoples in south and south-east Asian countries India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Indonesia, etc. Bangladesh alone has 45 groups of microscopic ethnic indigenous peoples.
In Korea, as Korean historically known to be a unique nation so the term of indigenous peoples sounds “odd”. However, now, we have indigenous people who migrated from other countries to seek both political and socio-cultural security. To the latest, the ministry of Justice in Korea has granted refugee status to 49 Jumma indigenous minority peoples whose traditional home is in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh so far. Very few Jummas are living in Korea making approximately 80 in number among the total over million of migrant population in Korea. Jummas community in Korea is minority among migrants minority as they are in their homeland Bangladesh with a less than 1% of the total population.
The Chittagong Hill Tracts(CHT) the home to 11 indigenous peoples, popularly and collectively known as “Jumma” with a population of approximately 700 thousands. The CHT is located to in the shout-east part of Bangladesh bordering with Myanmar and India. The Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) geographically and ecologically is differed for it its dense forest and mountainous structures from the other parts of main plain-land Bangladesh. The CHT has status of excluded area( not included to direct rule) during the British colonial rule in India until 1947, for it’s peoples or the indigenous peoples are differed from the main stream Bengali people of the Bengal(present Bangladesh) in respect of race, religion, language , culture, custom and tradition. They are mostly Buddhist by religion unlike main stream Bengali Muslim and are of Mongoloid by human race unlike the Bengali Dravidian or Indo-Aryan race. Even the CHT’s was internally administered by the traditional rulers (chief or kings) of the Jumma indigenous peoples. Such racial, cultural, religious and other cultural differences caused to serious national conflict and human rights abuses after the British colonial rule ended in the region. There was a law called “Chittagong hill tracts manual” or “Chittagong hill tracts regulation made during the British colonial rule that ensures the protection of microscopic racial minority, their cultural diversity, traditional and customary rights. How ever, the said law has been ignored by successive states and governments.
After the CHT was ceded respectively to Pakistan and Bangladesh(the then east Pakistan) after the end of the British rule, the CHT gradually lost its autonomous status and the Jumma indigenous peoples had to face with serious human rights violation phase by phase. During the Pakistan regime date back to 1960 a hydroelectric-dam was built in the heart of CHT that caused submersion of thousands hectors (40%) of best cultivable land and eviction of some 100 thousands of indigenous people form their homestead. And, after Bangladesh separated from Pakistan and emerged as an independent state in 1971, Jumma indigenous people who fought along with the MUKTI BAHINEE (liberation fighters) against Pakistan for the very freedom were ironically subjected to racial discrimination and ethnic cleansing. As a result, the Jumma indigenous people of the Chittagong Hill Tract made them engage in law intensity guerilla war against Bangladesh with an objective to retain their autonomous status. But the Jumma indigenous people faced with dire consequences by the Bangladesh authority as the government intensified militarization and population transfer to the CHT from other parts of the country. Till now, the CHT remains as of the highly militarized zone in the world. Out of 120,000 of total army personnel of Bangladesh some 35~40 thousands personnel are deployed alone in the CHT. Apart from the military forces, some 20,000 of Para-military forces are still deployed in the region. Almost 1 military personnel is deployed against per 40 Jumma persons in the CHT. The number was much higher before CHT Accord, a peace deal signed between the Jumma insurgent leaders and Bangladesh government counterpart in 1997. On the other hand, some 400,000 (four hundred thousands) of Bengali people (non-Jumma indigenous people) who were transmigrated into the CHT under government sponsorship in 1979-1983, and who are considered as settlers became a big threat to the demography of the CHT region. The settlers had always been engaged in grabbing of land belonging to the Jumma people and other kinds of atrocities against Jumma people with direct and indirect support of the army.
Numerous massacres were committed by the Bengali settlers and the Bangladesh army since 1980. Massacres can be classified in to two categories. Such as Pre- accord and post accord massacre. 13 times of organized massacres committed by the Army and Bengali settlers before CHT accord signed in 1997 and 9 other small and large scale massacres took place afterward. Unofficial statistic report say, “some 20 thousands peoples were killed during the time 1980~1997.
A statistic report of post-accord human rights violation in the CHT shown bellow
(Source: IWGIA (international working group on indigenous affairs) report -14 Edition -2012)
Present situation in the CHT is not much better than ever. Though the CHT-Accord signed on 2nd December 1997 has a limitation in fulfillment of the desire of the indigenous people of the CHT it might have given solution to some major problems if the CHT-Accord were fully implemented. Withdrawal of Bangladesh military, solving land dispute by giving the land back to the Jumma-owners that forcibly occupied by Bengali settlers, and resettle the Bengali settlers outside the CHT are major demand of the Jumma-indigenous people in general, and are major issues of the CHT.
It is unfortunate that the government of Bangladesh not in a position to show respect to the rights of the indigenous people. Besides, the government is wrong information about the indigenous people of Bangladesh to the outside world. Bangladesh governments directly or indirectly recognized the existence of indigenous peoples in Bangladesh. However, after the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples adopted in 2007 Bangladesh government took the opposite stand. Now, it officially says, ”there are no Indigenous people in Bangladesh” Recently, Bangladesh government has imposed restriction on the entry of foreigners in to the CHT and obligation on their part to have a representative of the district administration ( of CHT-districts) present while talking to an indigenous person. Does it not mean that the government of Bangladesh denies the rights of Indigenous peoples and unwilling for peace building in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region?
*The author of the article is a Human rights and indigenous peoples rights activist belong to Jumma Indigenous peoples of Bangladesh who has migrated to Korea to avoid repression in 2000