Peace accord only to take away our arms
The government had signed the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) peace accord apparently to disarm the indigenous people, not to protect their rights, said Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, president of Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samity (PCJSS).
The government had deceived the indigenous people by not implementing the peace accord, he added.
Jyotirindra, popularly known as Santu Larma, made the remarks at a discussion arranged by the PCJSS at a city hotel yesterday on the 17th anniversary of the signing of the accord.
The then Awami League government and PCJSS inked the peace pact on December 2, 1997, ending the nearly two-decade-long insurgency by the hill people.
“People who say the accord is implemented do not even know what the accord says. The reality is, we have been fooled,” he said.
The PCJSS on November 29 threatened to wage a non-cooperation movement against the government if sincere efforts were not made to fully implement the accord.
In response to the announcement, former state minister for CHT affairs and Awami League leader Dipankar Talukdar on Monday said the non-cooperation movement would be resisted on the streets.
Referring to Dipankar's statement, Santu Larma said, “You will probably have to face us not only on the streets but also in the forests, hills and everywhere if the government did not take effective measures to implement the accord.”
Addressing the discussion, lawmaker Ushatan Talukdar stressed the need for implementation of a number of key articles in the peace accord including land management and local people's involvement in law enforcement.
Sara Hossain, director of Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), said the indigenous people did not have constitutional recognition in the country.
“It is utterly frustrating that existence of the indigenous people in Bangladesh has not been included in the constitution during its last amendment,” she observed.
Communist Party of Bangladesh leader Monjurul Ahsan Khan, Oikya Nap President Pankaj Bhattacharya, columnist Syed Abul Moksud and Bangladesh Adivasi Forum General Secretary Sanjeeb Drong, among others, spoke at the discussion.
In another programme in the capital, indigenous leaders and civil society members blamed the government for not playing a proactive role in implementing the CHT accord. The government policymakers, on the other hand, claimed the government was trying its best to implement the accord.
Speaking at this programme, held at Cirdap International Conference Centre, Santu Larma said, "The real scenario is not encouraging. If the process of implementation of the accord is looked at meticulously, anyone could say that it hasn't made much progress."
Eminent human rights activist Sultana Kamal and co-chair of International CHT Commission said, "We have been raising various demands aimed at full implementation of the accord for years. But all we notice is a lax attitude on the government side."
However, Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury, deputy leader of the House and chairman of CHT Peace Accord implementation committee, said, "Implementation of the accord is one of the political pledges of the incumbent government, and many initiatives have been taken to that end."
Meanwhile, PCJSS staged protest rallies in all three CHT districts yesterday.
Thousands gathered at a rally on the premises of Puraton Rajar Math in Bandarban to press home their demand for full implementation of the accord.
Fundamental rights of the indigenous people, their rights to land and their constitutional rights had not been ensured, said leaders of the PCJSS district units.
Indigenous leaders allege land disputes in the CHT are getting complicated every day as different government authorities continue leasing out land bypassing the traditional leaders and evicting many jumma families from their ancestral land.
In Khagrachhari, the PCJSS brought out a procession from Chengi Square in the town. It also organised a discussion at Larma Square in the hill town with its Chairman Sudha Sindhu Khisa in the chair.
Leaders of the PCJSS blamed both the AL and BNP governments for not empowering the Land Commission. They also blamed both the parties for not returning the land of the indigenous people.