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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Hurt not healed at hills 13 years of peace accord gone, lands not returned to most families

Hurt not healed at hills

13 years of peace accord gone, lands not returned to most families

The indigenous people in Chittagong Hill Tracts are dismayed as the much-hyped peace accord not established their rights 13 years into inking the agreement.
The CHT accord that was signed between the then Awami League government and Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samity (PCJSS) on December 2, 1997, however, stopped two decades of bush wars between the indigenous guerillas and law enforcers.
Meanwhile, the hill people remained violently divided over the accord. Over a thousand indigenous people have died in clashes either supporting or opposing the accord so far.
The irony is majority of the hill people are still waiting to get back their land, a separate voter list for the permanent hill dwellers, election to district councils, an end to new settlement of the Bangalees people, and more importantly, security of their lives and property.
Though the present Awami League government has already run the office for 23 months, the hill people have seen little progress in their expectations.
According to the indigenous leaders and the civil society, implementation of the accord still remains a verbal pledge of the government's policymakers as they only see some recasting of committees and appointments to some important posts. They say it was not in the priority list of the present government and they did very little to fully execute it.
The accord brought peace in the hills as 1,947 PCJSS members, who were previously fighting with the law enforcers, surrendered their weapons.
"We still have miles to go before full implementation of the accord," commented Jotirindrya Bodhipriyo Larma, popularly known as Santu Larma.
So far the government has just recast some committees. "But we did not see any real step to implement the accord," said Santu Larma, president of PCJSS and also a former guerilla leader.
Santu expressed his dissatisfaction while talking about the situation since the government took its office. "Many indigenous people were rather evicted from their land and conspiracy of making the Muslims a majority in the hills is still going on."
Asked about the status of the accord's implementation, State Minister for CHT Affairs Dipankar Talukder said the government is very sincere for its full implementation.
"Now we are facing some problems regarding activities of the Land Commission. I hope there will be remarkable development in the implementation of the peace accord in next three years," Talukder added.
However, Santu Larma said only some committees like Peace Accord Implementation Committee, CHT Affairs Taskforce and CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission were reformed by this government. Besides, some 35 makeshift security camps along with the troops were withdrawn.
A strong political goodwill is needed for full implementation of the agreement, he said.
The state minister said all pro-peace quarters have to come forward with positive attitudes to overcome the existing problems.
The CHT accord also opened a door for thousands of indigenous people to return home from Tripura refugee camps who had fled from CHT. But around 9,780 out of 12,222 indigenous families (64,609 individuals) who returned from Tripura have yet to get back their land.
The PCJSS has published an evaluation paper about the status of the implementation of the CHT accord in which they mentioned that the present government has cancelled lease allocations of 593 plots out of 2,000 on 50,000 acres of land.
The new Bangalee settlers from the plain land have been occupying 40 villages that previously belonged to the indigenous people, the report says.
New settlement of Bangalees from the plain land is still going on and grabbing of land is rampant, indigenous leaders observed.
As per the agreement, the CHT affairs ministry was formed on July 15, 1998 and CHT Regional Council on September 6 the same year. Some 12,223 Jummo refugees who returned from India were rehabilitated and are being provided with monthly ration. Besides, the CHT refugee affairs taskforce was formed and some 715 member of PCJSS were provided job in the police department.
So far, as many as 235 makeshift security camps of army, BDR, Armed Police Battalion out of 556 camps were withdrawn since the accord was signed.
Among other steps, public notices were circulated by the Land Commission seeking application by the people about their disputed land and a bill for small Ethnic-Cultural Institute was passed in the Jatiya Sangsad on April 5 this year.
Some 21 out of 33 government departments were transferred to the district council as per the deal.
Expressing his disappointment, Sanjib Drong, secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum (BAF), said: "I don't believe the government will implement the accord fully in next three years as it did not give a 'road map' yet."
The main spirit of the accord was not executed, he added.
He said for the sake of full implementation of the agreement, a high-level meeting between the prime minister and the PCJSS chief must be held.
Though the current government has taken some steps to implement the accord fully, it now remains silent, Ushatan Talukder, a top-ranked leader of PCJSS, told The Daily Star.
The accord has virtually divided the indigenous people into two groups.
After signing of the pact approximately 1,000 more leaders and activists of both supporting and opposing groups were killed and around 1,500 injured in attacks and counterattacks. Many more were abducted in the decade-long fratricidal clashes in the region, according to different government intelligence agencies and sources working in both groups.
Opposing the accord, the United People's Democratic Front (UPDF) was formed after the PCJSS signed it with the government. Santu Larma alleged a vested quarter within the government formed the opposing group.
"Formation of this group was a conspiracy of a vested interest circle within the government to divide the indigenous people. They formed it just to make a barrier to implement the accord," he said at a press conference on Sunday.
Implementing the peace accord is the only solution to make the CHT stable, he added.
Chief of anti-peace outfit UPDF Prasit Bikash Khisa in a press release issued on the occasion of 13th anniversary of the agreement said problems of CHT can't be solved without full autonomy.


courtesy: the daily star

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