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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Indigenous Jumma women raped in Panchari

A JUMMA woman was raped by a Bengali settler in Panchari under
Khagrachari district.

The incident occurred on 24 September in the village of Moratila
Khorgapara, about 12 kilometers south-west of Panchari Thana
headquarters, when the victim, Rozina Tripura, 18, was busy with her
one and a half-year baby at her Jum house.

Her husband Pushpa Ranjan Tripura said, “It was about 10am. My wife
was alone at home. Then an unknown Bengali settler came, asked for a
glass of drinking water and raped her.”

A case was filed in this connection, but the police could not arrest
the culprit till yesterday.

The Hill Women’s Federation has condemned the incident and expressed
outrage at the rising incident of sexual attacks on both Jumma and
Bengali women in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

The HWF staged a protest march yesterday in Khagrachari town while M N
Larma faction of PCJSS brought out a procession in Panchari in protest
against the incident.
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source: chtnews.com

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hill people allege fresh attempts by Bengalis

Hill people in Khagrachari and Bandarban districts alleged Bengali settlers in Ramgarh and Bandarban headquarters were on a fresh move to grab their ancestral lands, triggering a fresh tension in the localities.

The local administration of Khagrachari attempted a mediation to resolve the dispute between Marmas and Bengali settlers but the administration of Bandarban was yet to take any action after the Khiyang community had submitted a memorandum to it in this regard.

Locals said a group of Bengali settlers on September 23 went to Pagla Para of Nabhanga mouza in Patachara union under Ramgarh upazila of Khagrachari in the morning to occupy lands belonging to the Marma community but failed in the face of resistance from the Marmas.

Again, on the next day, Bengali settlers gathered at Pagla Para and tried to occupy the land and the Marmas also gathered there to resist them.

On information, a contingent of Ansar from Patachara camp rushed to the spot and forced both the groups to leave the area. Ramgarh upazila nirbahi officer Gopal Chandra Das, Ramgarh police officer-in-charge Ohidul Rahman, Nabhangra mouza headman Saching Prue Chowdhury, and Patachara Union Parishad chairman Alamgir Hossain also went there.

The UNO instructed both Bengalis and Marmas to meet him with their land title deeds.

Land disputes in Ramgarh triggered severe violence on April 17, 2011, with four Bengalis killed, hundreds of hill people attacked, and 95 houses belonging to hill people burnt to ashes.

In Bandarban town, Awami League district unit joint secretary AKM Jahangir recently tried to occupy lands of the Khiyang community at Gungru Mukh Para in Kuhalong mouza, beside Chemi Dawlu Mouza, where he has a lease.

Bacha Khiyang, a local leader of the Khiyang commu nity and a former member of Bandarban Hill District Council, said Jahangir said he would make a rubber plantation, removing the Khiyangs. Bacha said Jahangir also threatened to file cases against them and even to carry out communal attacks on them.

On September 12, Jahangir along with his followers went to Bacha Khiyang’s house and threatened him of fierce consequences, if he did not leave the lands.

The Khiyangs submitted a memorandum to the Bandarban deputy commissioner against Jahangir’s attempt but no action had yet been taken in this regard.

Jahangir claimed he had bought the lands through proper procedures.

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courtesy: New Age

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ban Ki- Moon raised question to PM regarding Bangladesh indigenous peoples’ issue

A meeting was held between Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on 23/9/2011. At one stage of the meeting UN Secretary General raised question to PM regarding Bangladesh indigenous peoples’ issue. 

In reply, PM Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister Dipu Moni said: we [Bengalis] are the biggest indigenous peoples of the country. Other people, who have been living as tribes in the country, came to Bangladesh far later after our forefathers arrived. Thus, we are the real indigenous peoples of Bangladesh.

Addressing the PM, the Secretary General said in humor- tone, then your permanent representative Dr Momen (who is a Bengali person) is an indigenous person. It is not a matter of underestimate that there is an indigenous person in the UN.

Following is the media report (in Bangla) on that meeting: http://www.amadershomoy1.com/content/2011/09/25/news0708.htm


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Traditional indigenous village heads (Karbaries) tortured by BGB in Thanchi

On 18 September 2011 two Karbaries (village head) of Baro Modak area of Remacri union under Thanchi upazila in Bandarban hill district were inhumanly tortured and three others were harassed by Baro Modak BGB camp commander Captain Rashed. Baro Modak BGB camp is one of the camps controlled by 10 Battalion Boli Para BGB zone.
It is learnt that on that day camp commander captain Rashed called a public meeting with the Karbaries of nearby villages at the camp. Almost all the Karbaries of 25 villages of Remacri union attended the meeting. At a stage of the meeting captain Rashed started to beat (1) Mr. Bathowai Aung Marma (50) s/o Neoilung Marma, Karbari (village chief) of Bathowai Aung Para and (2) Khyai Sathui Marma (45) s/o Kya Aung Marma, Karbari of Baro Modak Para with stick, fastening their hands and hanging from tree.
Besides, Mr. Krahla Aung Marma s/o late Mui Khoi Marma of Krahla Aung Para was harassed by the captain. Later Captain Rashed also took signatures forcibly from Mr. Diambo Tripura s/o late Japarang Tripura, Karbari of Japarang Para and Pai Mong Marma s/o late Sokra Aung Marma, Karbari of Pai Mong Para in blank paper.
BGB commander accused against the Karbaries for not informing the present of armed group of Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) and Mro Party come at the villages. It is mentionable that previously Karbaries informed BGB authority about the present of the ALP, but camp authority did not take any action. On the contrary, villagers became victims of retaliation of armed terrorists of ALP for informing the camp authority. For instance, in November of 2008, Paithowai Ue Marma (headman of Singafa mouza), Chongdoi Mro Karabari and Rengnong Mro were shot death by armed terrorists of ALP.
At the last the camp Commander ordered all the Karbaries of the 25 villages to be present at the so-called public meeting to be held at the camp on every Sunday and have to bring five kgs of fowl when they come to the camp.

meeting notice of Capt. Rashed, Camp Commander of BGB Boro Madak, Remakri Union, Thanchi Upazila, Bandarban district ordering village heads
to bring five kgs of fowl when they come to the camp. .

It is alleged that most of the BGB members of the camps often do not just price when they buy any cow, goat or fowl from the villagers.




Protesting against the heinous torture of villagers, Bandarban district branch of PCJSS organised a press conference at Bandarban press club on 23 September. Following is the press statement (in Bangla) of PCJSS district committee:

Press Statement on Bara Madak Torture

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source: PCJSS

Bengali settlers attempt to occupy indigenous peoples’ land in Ramgarh

On 23 September 2011 around 10.00 am a group of Bengali settlers went to Pagla Para of Nabhanga mouza under Patachara union of Ramgarh upazila in Khagrachari district to occupy the lands belong to indigenous Marma community.
However, Indigenous villagers opposed them and at a stage the Bengali settlers returned back from Pagla Para.
Again, on 24 September 2011 around 9.00 am, Bengali settlers gathered at Pagla Para and tried to occupy the lands. On the other hand, Marma villagers also gathered there to prevent Bengali settlers from land grabbing. A group of Anser from Patachara camp rushed there and ordered to Bengali settlers and Marma villagers to leave the area.
At the same time, Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) of Ramgarh upazila Mr. Gopal Chandra Das, Officer-in-Charge of Ramgarh police station Mr. Ohidul Rahman, Headman of Nabhangra mouza Mr. Saching Prue Chowdhury, Chairman of Patachara union Md. Alamgir rushed to the spot.
UNO ordered both Bengali settlers and Marma villagers to be present at a meeting to be held tomorrow (on 25 September) with their land title deed.
It is mentionable that Bengali settlers were illegally provided land title deed while government settled them in CHT in ’80s. Government provided title deed without recommendation of the Headman of the concerned mouza.
At present, local administration imposed red alert at Jalia Para, Patachara and Guimara areas for any unwanted situation. Indigenous Marma villagers remain under insecurity fearing communal attack by Bengali settlers on them.

On 17th April 2011, hundreds of indigenous Jumma people were attacked and 95 houses  belonging to Jumma people were burned to ashes in Ramgarh when a group of Bengali settlers occupied and tried to plant crops on areas within the Jumma’s ancestral lands. 

More details on that communal attack could be found here: http://chtnewsupdate.blogspot.com/2011/09/update-from-ghrd-on-arson-attack.html 

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source: PCJSS 

A Chat with a King: Up close and personal with Chakma Raja Barrister Debashish Roy

A Chat with a King
Up close and personal with Chakma Raja Barrister Debashish Roy



Chakma Raja Barrister Debashish Roy

Zannatul Ferdous

Can you tell us a little about the history of the Chakma Circle Chiefs (Raja) of the CHT? 

Early history says that the Chakma Rajas descended from the Sakya, the people to which Gautama Buddha belonged. The Chakma people themselves are believed to have originated from a place called Champaknagar. There are references to the Chakma Raja in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) region in Mughal accounts as early as the 1400s. Portuguese cartographers and historians refer to the country of Chacomas within Chittagong-CHT in the 1550s, as a place separate from Bengal, Arakan and Tripura. According to one account, I am the 48th Chakma Raja, and according to another, the 51st. One of my direct ancestors in the male line was Ranu Khan Dewan, who led the Chakmas in their war of resistance against the British East India Company in the 1780s.


What are your interests?
 I am generally energetic. Some have described me as restless. I like travelling to settlements of indigenous communities in different parts of the world; especially mountains, hills and forest peoples; the remoter the better. Also trekking, photography (still and video), watching theatre plays, singing, playing musical instruments and archiving traditional music. As a student, I participated in several games and sports, including traditional indigenous sports.


Can you talk about your work with the Adivasis?
I want to strengthen the organisational capacities of Adivasi peoples, so they are able to protect their distinct and diverse cultural identities, their integrity as peoples, their basic human rights and fundamental freedoms. In today's age of globalised capitalism, a lot of the rich indigenous cultural heritage is getting buried amidst an overwhelming practice of more 'popular' dominant cultures. For example, a Khumi, Chak or Khyang child sitting in a remote hill-top village of CHT, has no opportunity of seeing her/his own people's cultural heritage, as the educational curriculum or media, national or international television or radio has little or no coverage of the people's culture. 

What is your vision of Adivasi children's education?
Adivasi child education in her/his mother tongue is the only way that a child can start her or his education in an atmosphere in which she/he is at ease, comfortable, happy and confident. I remember my discomfiture at my first days in an English-medium school in Chittagong, where the headmistress addressed me in Urdu or English. I was terrified and till today I remember having to learn in that hostile and alien environment which is extremely harmful to a child's self-confidence. The national language and other languages should only be introduced progressively. Local NGO experience in mother tongue –based multilingual education, in primary schools of Khagrachari has shown higher performance of Adivasi students and lower dropouts than mono-Bangla language schools. Adivasi students starting off in the mother tongue were also seen to speak Bengali better than those who were suddenly exposed to Bengali at too early an age. The issue of script, however, is a different matter. Traditional or adopted scripts can be introduced at a later age. 


What do you think about the Adivasi cultural heritage and Bengali cultural heritage? Is it inevitable that they should be in conflict with each other?
Among the greatest strengths of Adivasi cultural heritage are the values about protecting the weak and respecting ecology. It is no coincidence that some of the largest forest areas of the country are located in Adivasi-inhabited territories. Adivasis have a rich store of dance, song, music, and sports. Bengalis have a rich heritage of secularist political traditions and philosophies, music, dance and literature. Over the centuries, Bengalis and Adivasis have had instances of both conflict and cooperation and friendship. 

The muslin heritage of Bangladesh is an example of Adivasi-Bangali cooperation. Adivasis supplied the cotton from their Jums, and Bengalis spun it into muslin and other yarn. Both Adivasis and Bangalis have an earthy sense of humour. Current Adivasi languages borrow Bengali words. In earlier times, Bangla borrowed generously from Adivasi languages. These symbiotic Adivasi-Bangali ties need to be promoted. 

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courtesy: The Daily Star

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Update from GHRD on arson attack against indigenous Jumma in Chittagong Hill Tracts


Update from GHRD on arson attack against indigenous Jumma in Chittagong Hill Tracts
In February and April of this year, hundreds of indigenous Jumma people living in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh were attacked and around one hundred houses and one school were burned to ashes.








Jumma girl drenched in blood
Seven months later and the majority of those attacked, around two thirds, are still living in temporary shelters – a big concern now that it is rainy season.

Despite stated government commitment to help the victims and a fact finding investigation conducted by the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh (NHRC), little has been done in practice to help the victims.





Buddha Statues burnt down to ashes by the Muslim settler people on 17th April 2011 at Ramgarh.

GHRD is particularly concerned that the government has not thus far conducted a full and impartial investigation, nor have they arrested any of the identified perpetrators. No investigations into the role of the border guards of Bangladesh in the attacks have been made.

The fact finding investigation conducted by the NHRC is a positive step forward. GHRD looks forward to seeing the results of this investigation and encourages the NHRC to continue to lobby the government to create positive change in the CHT region.


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courtesy: GHRD




More details on April Ramgarh communal attack on indigenous Jummas could be found from the following links:

http://chtnewsupdate.blogspot.com/2011/04/bangladeshi-media-and-ramgarh-communal.html

http://chtnewsupdate.blogspot.com/2011/04/i-consider-this-behaviour-of-police-as.html

http://chtnewsupdate.blogspot.com/2011/04/ramgarh-attacks-latest-count-says-total.html

http://chtnewsupdate.blogspot.com/2011/04/i-dont-understand-how-settlers-could.html

http://chtnewsupdate.blogspot.com/2011/04/some-more-pictures-and-video-of-massive.html

http://chtnewsupdate.blogspot.com/2011/04/chittagong-hill-tracts-citizens.html

http://chtnewsupdate.blogspot.com/2011/04/ramgarh-attacks-police-bars-relief-team.html

http://chtnewsupdate.blogspot.com/2011/04/amnesty-international-public-statement.html


More details on February Longodu communal attack on indigenous Jummas could be found from the following links:

http://chtnewsupdate.blogspot.com/2011/02/massive-communal-attack-on-jumma.html

http://chtnewsupdate.blogspot.com/2011/02/cht-commission-letter-violence-in.html

http://chtnewsupdate.blogspot.com/2011/02/pictures-of-longodu-arson-attack.html

http://chtnewsupdate.blogspot.com/2011/02/settlers-attack-jumma-village-in-longu.html

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ancestral land of indigenous Khiyang people occupied by a Bengali land grabber in Bandarban

The lands of indigenous Khiyang community at Gungru Mukh Para under Kuhalong Mouza in Bandarban district of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) are allegedly being targeted to seize by a so-called journalist namely AKM Jahangir, a fanatic leader of Bengali settlers.
It is learnt that Mr. Jahangir took 25 acres of land for rubber plantation as lease at Chemi Dawlu Para, bordering to Gungru Mukh Para of Kuhalong Mouza. But he occupied 75 acres of land belong to indigenous Khiyang community, one of the disadvantaged ethnic groups in the CHT. Mr. Jahangir claimed that he purchased the additional 50 acres of land.
The domains of the Khiyang indigenous community located in the Kuhalong Mouza, nearby area of the border of Chemi Dawlu Mouza. He declared to place rubber plants on this land uprooting Khiyang villagers. Mr. Bacha Khiyang, a local leader of Khiyang community and ex-member of Bandarban Hill District Local Government Council said that for this purpose, Mr. Jahangir threatened Khiyang villagers to file cases against them and even to conduct communal attacks on them.
For instance, on 12 September 2011 Mr. Jahangir along with his cadres came to the house of Mr. Bacha Khiyang and threatened him for fierce consequences if he does not leave lands.
According to the local Khiyang people, they have been living in that vicinity for more than hundred years. One Nurul Huda s/o Choiyadur Rahman of Meri Villa of Barisal district acquired 25 acres of land as lease for 40 years on 18 November 1985. In the same way, another one S M Syed took lease 25 acres of land for 40 years in 1985. But as per agreement of the leases, they never planted rubber. As failed to use land as per agreement of the lease, their lease was cancelled by the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Bandarban district in 1998. At that time, no one challenged the cancellation notice.
At present, the Khiyang villagers are passing in insecurity and at any moment Mr. Jahangir and his cadres may attack them. The local indigenous Khiyang community has submitted a memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner of Bandarban district for resolving the crisis. But no initiative has been taken to resolve the dispute.



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Source:

Kapaeeng Foundation
(A Human Rights Organization for Indigenous Peoples of Bangladesh)
Shalma Garden, House # 23/25, Road # 4, Block # B, PC Culture Housing, Mohammadpur, Dhaka-1207, Telephone: +880-2-8190801

Bangladesh indigenous students demand primary education in mother tongues

Bangladesh indigenous students demand primary education in mother tongues


several hundred of students turned out in the rally under heavy rain in Khagrachari. Photo: Niron Chakma



The Pahari Chhatra Parishad, the student wing of the United People’s Democratic Front, on Saturday went out on demonstrations in Dhaka and the hill districts, demanding that the government should introduce a primary education system for the national minorities in which the mediums of instruction will be their mother-tongues.

Leaders of the organisation said that it was every human being’s basic right in a civilised society to be educated in their mother-tongue. They said that the government was not doing anything to protect and promote the languages of minority groups, but had rather launched linguistic aggression to destroy the cultures and languages of the minorities.

The demonstration was part of the PCP’s observance of the Education Day. The organisation brought out a procession on the Dhaka University campus and staged a rally.

Speakers at the impromptu rally urged the government to meet their five education-related demands, including primary education in their mother-tongues, renaming the Parbatya Quota for admission to educational institutions as Pahari Quota since the quota was being exploited by Bengali settlers in the CHT, and removal of ‘insulting’ words about the national minorities from textbooks.

They also condemned the imposition of ultra-chauvinist Bengali nationalism on minorities by amending the Constitution.

The PCP’s organising secretary Tuikyasing Marma and Bangladesh Chhatra Federation’s central convener Samiul Alam were among those who spoke at the rally.

Processions were also taken out in several places in Khagrachhari, Rangamati and Bandarban to underline the same demands.


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news courtesy: New Age

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Government security forces deny assault of 22 Jumma students during a peaceful student procession for constitutional recognition of indigenous people



22 indigenous students beaten and tortured by the police in Khagrachhari, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh

Police authorities have denied any fault after physically attacking and indiscriminately beating 22 Jumma students during a peaceful demonstration of 900 students of Khagrachari College for constitutional recognition of indigenous people in Bangladesh on the 7th of August 2011. 
photo courtesy: Joy Tripura
GHRD’s Country Observer for Bangladesh and also Cofounder of JusticeMakers Bangladesh, Advocate Shahanur Islam went to the spot to investigate the physical assaults and beatings – taking eyewitness and victim statements. GHRD was the first human rights organisation to investigate the event. 
Photo courtesy: prothom-alo
The police have denied all wrongdoing and have threatened that if such a peaceful demonstration were to occur again, protestors can expect even worse retaliation by the police and could lose their careers. Given the denial of fault by the police authorities, it is no surprise that no case has been filed or registered with the authorities. 
Photo courtesy: Focus Bangla
As the procession left from the college compound gate, upwards of 60 policemen, including the Assistant Superintendent of the Khagrachari Police and the Officer in Charge of the Kotowali Police Station, created a barrier to direct the flow towards Chengis Square. There, they suddenly attacked the students with batons, kicking and slapping them.  22 students were injured, among which four were severely injured. As the procession was heading back, officers and army men surrounded the college gate and the hospital, they picked out one student, and indiscriminately beat him, resulting in severe injured.  

This gross human rights violation cannot be tolerated. The right to peaceful assembly is an undeniable human right and the police actions are a clear violation of Bangladesh’s commitments under international human rights treaties. The events reported above were just one of the many cases where the government showed clear intention to bring a halt to the voice of the indigenous people fighting to have their fundamental rights recognized. 

GHRD and Justicemakers Bangladesh demand that a full and impartial investigation into the police misconduct is required and that those responsible are punished. 
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courtesy: GHRD and Justicemakers Bangladesh

JU violates CHT Accord seeking only DC’s certificate from CHT tribal students

JU violates CHT Accord seeking only DC’s certificate from CHT tribal students

Jahangirnagar University (JU), in its advertisement for admission for 1st year (honors) course (session 2011-12), sought only tribal certificate of Deputy Commissioner (DC) of concerned hill district from tribal (indigenous) students of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) in case of application for tribal quota.
Leaders of the indigenous students in JU said that seeking only certificate of Deputy Commissioner is completely violation of the CHT Accord signed in 1997 between Government of Bangladesh and the PCJSS.
It is mentionable that CHT Accord of 1997 authorizes only three Circle Chiefs of CHT to provide permanent resident certificate in case of identifying permanent Bengali residents and tribal certificate in case of identifying a tribal person to which ethnic group he/she belongs. The provision of the Accord has been included in the three Hill District Council Acts passed in the Parliament in 1998.
It is also worth mentioning that violating the said provision of the Accord and three HDC Acts, on 21 December 2000, the Ministry of CHT Affairs (MoCHTA) issued an instruction authorizing the Deputy Commissioners of the three hill districts, side by side of Circle Chiefs, to issue “Permanent Resident Certificate”. It was a complete illegal instruction, since such an executive order cannot override an expressed provision of the law passed on the floor of parliament. As objection was raised by the CHT Regional Council, a decision was taken to annul this order at a meeting of the Advisory Committee of the MoCHTA on 1 July 2001. But no order was issued canceling that controversial instruction so far. It is also a fact that no provision of the law in Bangladesh under which a Deputy Commissioner of a district including the hill districts can issue such a permanent resident certificate. The Deputy Commissioners are onl! y authorized to issue citizenship certificates under the “Charter of Duties of Deputy Commissioners”.
In complying with the said provision of the Accord and three HDC Acts, other public universities in Bangladesh including Dhaka University and Chittagong University seek certificate either from Circle Chief or Deputy Commissioner.
Indigenous students alleged that in providing certificate to tribal students, office of the Deputy Commissioner are harassing tribal students. It is learnt that tribal students have been asked to submit application for tribal certificate along with the certificate from chairman of concerned municipality or concerned union council to the concerned Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO). After receiving application, UNO authorizes Upazila Agriculture Officer to verify whether applicant student is tribe or not. After verification, UNO sends recommendation to the Deputy Commissioner.
Indigenous students also alleged that in some cases, tribal students are asked to submit land document of father/guardian to prove a permanent resident of the concerned hill district.
It is mentionable that CHT Accord provides lands of lawful entitlement in the hill districts in case of identifying "Non-tribal Permanent Resident". The provision clearly stipulates, "Non-tribal Permanent Resident shall mean a person who is not a tribal and who has lands of lawful entitlement in the hill districts and who generally lives in the hill districts at a specific address”.
Tribal student leaders argued that as per above-mentioned provision of the Accord and three HDC Acts, submission of land document is applicable only for non-tribal permanent (Bengali) residents, but not tribal residents. They also alleged that seeking land document from tribal is nothing but to harass the tribal students.
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courtesy:
Kapaeeng Foundation

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Who is 'Indigenous?'- WASFIA NAZREEN elaborates on the concept of indigenousness in the context of Bangladesh

Who is 'Indigenous?'


WASFIA NAZREEN elaborates on the concept of indigenousness in the context of Bangladesh.


The recent debate on 'indigenousness' in the context of Bangladesh has thrown up many questions on the appropriateness of the 'indigenous' identity of the peoples of Bangladesh, particularly the Pahari (hill) peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). The government line is that the Paharis are not indigenous to Bangladesh, while Bengalis are. On the other hand, the Jumma peoples and the Plains Adibashis insist that they are indigenous peoples. 

Who is right? Who are the Indigenous -- the Adibashis or the Bengalis? Or are they both indigenous?
WASFIA NAZREEN


Context of indigenousness: Human rights vs. etymology

An informed discussion on the subject will not be possible unless we clarify the context of our discussion. The relevant context here is human rights and the framework necessarily has to be the one ascribed by that premier club of the world's sovereign states: the United Nations. Although our esteemed foreign minister is known to have cited dictionary meaning(s) of the term, 'indigenous', quoting them to be those who “belong to a particular place rather than coming to it from somewhere else”, the debate cannot be settled by referring to dictionaries, but by looking at the term's meaning as understood in the relevant UN instruments and processes and other international human-rights mechanisms, while paying appropriate attention to the political and legal contexts of Bangladesh. 

And, of course, we must not ignore history. Let us therefore explore the history of settlements in Bangladesh, and the implications of the recent amendments of the constitution. 


Ancestral backgrounds of the Adibashis

The most pertinent question in this respect is, were there peoples living in different parts of Bangladesh - and not necessarily spread over all parts of Bangladesh - before the arrival of the currently dominant groups (the Bengalis) in those parts of the country? 

Citing the Government of Bangladesh's communication to him, the UN Special Rapporteur Martinez Cobo wrote that the government regarded members of tribal and semi-tribal populations as indigenous on account of their descent from populations which are settled in specified geographical areas of the country (emphasis added). 

Thus the question is, were the different Adibashi peoples settled in the different parts of the country such as the CHT (e.g., Chakma, Marma, Tripura), the Barind tract (e.g., Santal, Munda, Oroan), the Madhupur tract (Garo, Hajong) and so forth, before the Bengalis settled there? 


Indigenousness of the CHT Adibashis (Jummas)
Historical records of the Portugese, Mughals and British, and oral and written accounts of the Jummas themselves clearly attest to the fact that all the 11 Jumma peoples were in existence in the CHT-Chittagong-Feni-Noakhali-Comilla region, not just in the hills but also in the plainlands, prior to conquest (in 1666, by the Mughals of a part of Chittagong, Feni-Noakhali, Comilla, etc., but excluding the present-day CHT). Suniti Bhushan Qanungo writes: “In prehistoric times Chittagong was inhabited successively by the Austro-Asiatic and the Mongoloid groups of peoples”. He writes further, “The Mughal conquest of Chittagong drove the Arakanese beyond the hill ranges, and vacated places were occupied by new settlers from within or outside the district. The Mughal government encouraged the colonization in northwestern Chittagong, which had been depopulated during the Arakanese regime. The new colonizers, mostly the inhabitants of Noakhali-Tripura-Comilla region were the latest settlers in the district”. 

Portuguese accounts refer to “Chacomas”, separately from Bengal, Arakan and Tripura in the mid-16th century. Migration of Jummas to and from present-day Bangladesh, the Indian states of Tripura and Mizoram, and Myanmar happened for centuries. It was not a one-off event. Thus it is understandable why the CHT Regulation of 1900 defined an indigenous person of the CHT as “Chakma, [Marma] or a member of any Hill tribe indigenous to the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the Lushai Hills, Arakan Hill Tracts, or the State of Tripura”. 

In contrast, Bengalis were the last to settle in the CHT. 

Most importantly, the CHT was not part of Bengal until after British advent. Eminent historians and sociologists therefore have noted the following: “In 1860 the British occupied the hills to the east of Chittagong and annexed them to their colonial empire. For the first time in their history, the Chittagong hills were administered from Bengal. Before that time, political power in the hills had been dispersed among many chiefs.” 


Indigenousness of the Plains Adibashis
As in the case of the CHT, in the plains region as well, there is no record of Adibashis having displaced Bengalis and settled in their present locations. The Santal and Oraon made the Barind tract inhabitable and converted harsh terrain into paddy lands. Similar settlements were made by Rakhaing (Patuakhali-Barguna), Garo and Khasi (Mymensingh-Sylhet), but not by conquering and displacing Bengalis! 

As in the case of the CHT, the plains Adibashis were also present in Bangladesh from before there were written histories, imperial conquests and colonisation. 

Even today, despite the de-recognition, and subsequent non-recognition by the state, it is the traditional institutions that these peoples turn to for resolving their internal disputes and for carrying out other cultural activities (Manjhi: Santall, Nokma: Garo, Myntri: Khasi). They do not turn to the mainstream state-centric institutions, unlike the Bengali peoples. 


Indigenousness of Bengalis
Of course, Bengalis have also lived in different parts of the plains and delta areas for centuries. Bengalis, however, have not ventured into the hill and forest areas until relatively recently. And going back to the earliest history of Bengal, prior to the arrival of the Indo-European and Dravidian-speaking peoples, the inhabitants of Bengal included several of the peoples who are claiming indigenous identity. 

But the crucial point here is that by having assimilated into the dominant groups and adopting the dominant identity (regardless of the religious and nationalist aspects of that identity) Bengalis can no longer claim the indigenous mantle as it is understood in the human rights context. The indigenous concept only makes sense when the peoples are "non-dominant" in statecraft and otherwise. 

Contrary to the popular belief portrayed in the media, having an 'indigenous' status does not give anyone privileges of any sort over and above that of other citizens. Essentially, it means the recognition of their full participatory rights as citizens, keeping in mind the exclusion and discrimination historically meted out to them in the process of state-formation, nation building and development, which Bengalis have enjoyed from the formation of the State. It also means the creation of an enabling environment, in which they may preserve their distinctive cultural identities, which are threatened on account of their marginal situations from the beginning of State formation.


The Debate at the UN Permanent Forum and Economic and Social Council
After the decision was taken at the ECOSOC to adopt the report of the 10th session of UNPFII, GoB was quick to put up a face-saving diplomatic response, with only China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia showing sympathy for GoB's position. Never mind the human-rights records of the above-mentioned countries! 

The Foreign Ministry's PR campaign also reported that Russia had leaned towards GoB's concern, but in fact, the position taken by Russia is just a known cautious position on IP related matters -- nothing new, and they say something like this at ECOSOC every year. What GoB, quite understandably suppressed in the media -- is the overwhelming rejection of GoB's views by states at ECOSOC of it's two major requests: 1) to agree that PFII had no mandate to discuss the CHT Accord, on the ground that the CHT Jummas were not indigenous peoples; and 2) to delete two paragraphs from the PFII's report concerning human rights violation by GoB security personnel and prevention of peacekeeping duties by HR violators. 

Several news sources have referred that “Raja Devasish Roy 'led' a 12-strong team to UNPFII” -- which is factually incorrect. Raja Devasish Roy is one of the 16 Expert Members at the PFII, and it is not one of those Climate or Biodiversity conferences where he 'led' a team from Bangladesh (including Government officials) to represent our country. As an expert member at the Permanent Forum, he is a voice of entire Asia, appointed by the ECOSOC after securing an overwhelming number of votes from Indigenous organisations across the continent. 

At the UNPFII, the participants from Bangladesh represented several independent organisations of our country. I was one of those 12 participants at the 10th session of UNPFII, and my organisation presented its statement on the status of the implementation of the CHT Accord, and the state of human-rights in CHT as a result of the delay in the implementation of the Peace Accord. With all due respect to Raja Devasish, I or the other Bangladeshi civil society members did not attend the PFII under his leadership. We were each sent by individual, independent organisations to participate, in my particular case, an ECOSOC-accredited member, the Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK). When the media portrays such absurd connection to his leadership roles and those who attended the PFII in our individual capacity and merits, it is feeding into an already convoluted situation fed by racist and communalist misinformation campaign. 

WASFIA NAZREEN


Indigenousness in UN instruments and practices
Definition
According to the UN the most fruitful approach is to identify, rather than formally define indigenous peoples and hence there is no set definition of indigenous peoples in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. However, International laws do not define minorities either. The “working definition” of indigenous peoples by José R Martínez Cobo has attained the status of a near-formal definition in the context of UN and International human rights jurisprudence. Cobo writes: “Indigenous communities, peopless and nations are those which, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing on those territories, or parts of them. They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peopless, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal system.” (My emphasis added)

The ILO Conventions 107 (ratified by GoB)
We should be examining first and foremost the concept in relation to the ILO Convention on Indigenous & Tribal Populations (Convention No. 107) of 1957, which Bangladesh ratified in June, 1972, under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, about six months before the Constitution of Bangladesh was adopted.

2.1. Pre-colonisation or pre-conquest social, cultural and economic institutions
As a collective entity, Bengalis live less in conformity with the “social, economic and cultural institutions” of the time of their pre-colonisation or pre-conquest period ancestors, and more in conformity with “the institutions of the nation to which they belong”, and hence they cannot be regarded as indigenous within the meaning of Convention 107. 

In contrast, hill communities of the CHT, and Adibashi groups of the plains, “irrespective of their legal status” are quite the opposite. Traditional institutions in the CHT are formally recognized by law, and while those in the plains are not -- still conform to their ancestral institutions' traditions norms and mores.

In the case of “economic institutions”, Bengalis clearly do not retain very many practices of the pre-colonial or pre-conquest period, unlike Pahari groups, for example collective forest management, subsistence-oriented jum or “shifting” cultivation, etc. 

2.2. Indigenous are tribal
It is clear from the wording of ILO Convention No. 107 that 'indigenous' and 'tribal' population groups are both referred to as “tribal or semi-tribal” populations. Therefore, indigenous populations are those among the tribal and semi-tribal population groups who “[are descended] from the populations which inhabited the country, or a geographical region to which the country belongs, at the time of conquest or colonization and which, irrespective of their legal status, live more in conformity with the social, economic and cultural institutions of that time than with the institutions of the nation to which they belong”. 

2.3. Social, economic and other position of disadvantage
The concept of tribal and semi-tribal population groups has been related in this convention with “social and economic conditions [that] are at a less advanced [read disadvantaged] stage than the stage reached by the other sections of the national community”, and a “status [that] is regulated wholly or partially by their own customs or traditions or by special laws or regulations”. 

The concept of indigenous peoples is meaningless in the case of Bengalis from a human rights perspective because Bengalis are at the helm of state power, while the Adibashis were, and still are, substantively, the 'excluded' citizens, marginalised and disadvantaged. 

GoB at the UN in the past
From the final report on the Study of the Problem of Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations submitted on June 20, 1982 to the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations by Mr. José Martínez Cobo, a Special Rapporteur, it is documented that the then Bangladesh Government clearly recognised the existence of the Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh. The report looked at a number of criteria in defining Indigenous Peoples, and reported how different governments define the Indigenous Peoples in their countries.

Let's look at how the then Bangladesh Government defined and recognised the Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh. Under the Ancestry criteria: “In Bangladesh, the Government states that the members of Tribal or Semi-tribal populations are regarded as indigenous “on account of their descent from the populations which are settled in specified geographical areas of the country.” (Emphasis added).” Under the Culture and Language criteria: “In Bangladesh some of these isolated or marginal groups are said to “speak a language of their own, have their own dances, music and love songs and a uniform style of home, dress, food and customs distinct from the other tribes”, in some cases also including religions which may be “a mixture of Buddhism and totemism”. Several of these groups are described as “small communities leading a life undisturbed by alien influences” for a very long time “because of the heavy monsoon that cuts off their area from the outside world for much of the year.”” Several similar recognitions by the GoB can be found in the historic document in the link provided. 

The 15th Amendment terminology and why it does not work?
- Upajati

Anyone who is fluent in English and Bengali will find it humorous that the terms 'tribe/tribal' can even remotely be translated to the word 'Upa-jati' -- literally meaning 'sub-nation' or 'sub-ethnic groups.' Who is the sub-group here and who is the larger ethnic group? Are we calling the Adibashis the sub-groups of Bengalis?

-Khudro jatishotta
The term 'khudro jati-shotta' may seem more respectable towards the separate cultural entity of the non-Bengali peoples, but it is nevertheless, problematic, as there is a clear distinction of hierarchical division of peoples (smaller and greater!). 

-Khudro nrigoshthi
“Khudro nri-goshthi” or small ethnic groups is also problematic. In the first place, the indigenous peoples and the Bengali peoples are both ethnic groups or ethnic communities, and the 'smallness' of the population of the indigenous peoples should not be the basis to distinguish between the different ethnic groups.

WASFIA NAZREEN

-Khudro shomprodai
Our honourable FM, Dipu Moni mentioned that when the Indigenous peoples are only 1.2% of the total population, giving them a special and 'elevated' identity cannot be in the national interest of our country. By this point, one must see how the Government is clearly stuck on the word “Khudro” -- potent in power and paralysed by fear. Khudro shomprodai is also problematic on account of the reference to smallness. Without the khudro, this term is not disparaging. 

Nevertheless, khudro (small) or brihot (large), the constitution refers to jatishotta. Jatishotta is surely either a peoples or nation, in English. And jatishottahood, peoplehood or nationhood has nothing to do with the size or population of the group concerned and of their indigenous or other status. At the same time, deleting 'indigenous' and all related phrases from Government documents will neither erase the consciousness of those who are Indigenous, nor affect the conscience of those who have been fighting with them. 

The spirit of the CHT Regulation and customary laws are embedded in the customs of Bangladesh, which cannot be uprooted merely by a change of terms. In an important case before the Supreme Court on the succession of the Bohmong chieftain-ship, the court stated that neither the GoB nor the Court had the right to interfere with customary laws. Thus the Customary laws of the Indigenous Peoples of Bangladesh are now part of the customs of the Republic and cannot arbitrarily be revoked through mere legislation, particularly where that contravenes the constitutional tenets of non-discrimination. 

Having said that, the entire exercise smacks of crass and feudal times discriminatory acts. It would be equivalent to legislation in Europe and America -- or this country for that matter -- to overturn the positive legal developments regarding non-discrimination on race, gender and so forth. If GoB wants to continue to be the laughing-stock in the world podium of progressiveness -- the curtains are raised, refreshments have sold-out… all are queuing up for some good laughs, at the expense of our national image.


1. Ethnic minority, not indigenous people, FM tells diplomats, editors, Daily Star, July 27, 2011.
2. Commission on Human Rights, Study of the problem of discrimination against Indigenous Populations, Jose R. Martinez Cobo (1982: paragraph 61).
3. Suniti Bhushan Qanungo, A History of Chittagong, Vol 1, published by Dipankar Qanungo, Chittagong, 1988, p. 20.
4. Ibid, p. 21.
5. S. N. H. Rizvi (ed), East Pakistan District Gazetteers: Chittagong, Government of East Pakistan, Services and General Administration Department, East Pakistan Government Press, Dacca, 1970, p. 75.
6. Willem van Schendel, Wolfgang Mey & Aditya Kumar Dewan, The Chittagong Hill Tracts: Living in a Borderland, White Lotus Press, Bangkok, 2000, p. 25.
7. Chakma Raja decries non-recognition, Sun, 29/05/2011 by priyodesk; News Source: The New Age
8. Article 1(1)(b), ILO Convention No. 107.
9. Ibid.
10. Ibid.
11. Ibid.
12. Article 1(1)(a), ILO Convention No. 107.
13. The URL address of the report is http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/spdaip.html
14. Page 15 of E/CN.4/Sub.2/1982/2/Add.6, No: 61.
15. Page 18 of E/CN.4/Sub.2/1982/2/Add.6, No: 86.
16. Aung Shwe Prue Chowdhury v. Kyaw Sain Prue Chowdhury & Others (50 DLR AD (1998) 73)

Wasfia Nazreen is a member of Drishtipat Writers' Collective (www.drishtipat.org/dpwriters) and was a delegate of Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) at the 10th session of United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). She can be reached at wasfia@drishtipat.org.


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Monday, September 5, 2011

EU insists Bangladesh to implement the CHT Accord, particularly resolution of land disputes and withdrawal of temporary army camps

EU insists Bangladesh to implement the "CHT Accord", particularly resolution of land disputes and withdrawal of temporary army camps


In reply to the letter of CHT Commission co-chair Honourable Lord Avebury dated 31 August 2011, Vice-President of the European Commission Catherine Ashton said that the EU is strongly committed to peace and stability in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) and to safeguarding the inhabitants’ rights. We have repeatedly insisted that the Government of Bangladesh take tangible steps to deliver on its promise to implement the Accord, most notably regarding the resolution of land disputes and the withdrawal of temporary army camps. This has been a recurrent theme of our political dialogue meetings with Bangladesh, and the issue was taken up during the joint visit of Commissioner Piebalgs and the German Development Minister Dirk Niebel, which took place in June of this year.
Catherine Ashton also expressed that the EU has also raised its concerns with the Bangladeshi authorities following the violent events that took place in Longodu in February and in Ramgarh in April of this year. The EU has underlined that the victims should have adequate redress and those responsible should be brought to justice.
Catherine Ashton added that on 13 July 2011, the European Commission adopted a €24-million programme to support local development in the CHT. The EU contribution, which will be implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)–managed CHT Development Facility, will aim at building capacity in regional, local and traditional institutions as well as communities with a view to delivering better services and managing development activities. By empowering local institutions, the EU seeks to facilitate the implementation of the governance provisions as foreseen in the Peace Accord of 1997.
Catherine Ashton also said that there may be contacts on these matters at the highest level in New York next month in the margins of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). If these materialise, the EU will certainly raise the CHT and other humanitarian and human rights issues.
Following is the letter of Catherine Ashton wrote to Lord Avebury: 


Eu Letter to Chtcom-Ashton_cht
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courtesy: Kapaeeng foundation

Sunday, September 4, 2011

BANGLADESH: Battle lines drawn over “indigenous” label

BANGLADESH: Battle lines drawn over “indigenous” label 

 

Bangladesh has more than 45 indigenous groups
Human rights activists are abuzz over the implications of the possible removal of the word "indigenous" from official documents relating to some of the poorest and most marginalized ethnic groups in Bangladesh.

Talk of eliminating the term comes after a constitutional amendment, passed on 30 June 2011, recognizing “small ethnic groups”, without referring to them as indigenous.

Member of Parliament Hasanul Haq Inu of the parliamentary caucus on indigenous peoples said the amendment's much anticipated passing was bittersweet, as groups in question prefer to be described as “indigenous” rather than tribal groups or ethnic minorities.

“For 25 years we have fought for constitutional recognition of indigenous peoples. The first phase of the struggle has been won, now the second phase is to use the right name - indigenous,” he said.

In the wake of the amendment, the rift between those in the government who object to the term, and some MPs and human rights campaigners who favour it, has resurfaced.

The current Awami League government came to power in 2008 with a promise to improve the plight of the nation’s “indigenous people”. According to Bangladesh's now disputed 2011 census, of the country's more than 142 million inhabitants, just 1.2 percent are described as indigenous. Most live in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), an area with rates of infant and child mortality among the highest in the country.

Raja Devavish Roy, “king” of the Chakma circle, the nation’s largest ethnic minority, and a member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, told IRIN he had often witnessed a pendulum of interest and disinterest in indigenous rights, but he believes this most recent debate is semantics.

Devavish Roy believes the government will ultimately not ban use of the term indigenous in official documents, but he said successive governments had shown “an erratic policy on indigenous issues” since the International Labour Organization’s Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention 107 was ratified in 1972.

Flawed accord?

The signing of the CHT Peace Accord in 1997 was considered a major step forward when it ended a 25-year low-intensity guerilla war between 11 ethnic groups in CHT and the government, and allowed for regional autonomy. However, a recent study by UN Rapporteur Lars Anders Bar found the Accord has not been fully implemented, and human rights violations continue.

The government rejected Bar’s report: A Foreign Ministry statement objected to the term “indigenous”, stating: “The ethnic Bengali population… are more indigenous to their land than the tribal peoples” and that the demand for “indigenous” recognition was aimed at “securing a privileged status”.

Foreign Minister Dipu Moni says the “indigenous” debate was a distraction hindering the government’s implementation of the Accord.

Deleting the term from official documents would have little effect on the Accord and ILO Convention 107, said Devavish Roy: “The Accord’s provisions are not dependent on changes in terminology. ILO Convention 107 applies to indigenous and tribal populations… and the government is not denying the existence of `tribal’ groups.”

Opposition activists insist the term “indigenous” is useful: “We will continue to fight,” said MP Rashed Khan Menon, chair of the parliamentary caucus on indigenous issues.


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courtesy: IRIN Asia

Friday, September 2, 2011

CHT, Bangladesh part from the Annual Report of USCIRF

CHT, Bangladesh part from the Annual Report of  USCIRF (United States Commission on International Religious Freedom)


(This CHT, Bangladesh  part has been excerpted from the original report which can be downloaded from here: http://www.uscirf.gov/reports-and-briefs/annual-report/3594-2011-annual-report.html )




Following independence from Pakistan in 1971, Bangladesh was established as a secular state in which national identity was based on Bengali language and culture. The 1972 constitution established a secular state and guaranteed freedom of religion and conscience and equality before the law. Other provisions banned ―all kinds of communalism,‖ the misuse of religion for political purposes, and the forming of groups that ―in the name of or on the basis of any religion has for its object or pursues a political purpose.‖ Subsequent military regimes removed these provisions, made Islam the state religion, and made ―absolute trust and faith in Allah‖ one of the fundamental principles of state policy and ―the basis for all [government] actions.‖

Members of ethnic minority communities, mostly tribal peoples in the north and in the east, are often non- Muslim. The most serious and sustained conflict along ethnic and religious lines has been in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), an area with a high concentration of non-Bengali, non-Muslim indigenous peoples. Resentment among members of indigenous groups remains strong over settler encroachment on traditional tribal lands, human rights abuses by the Bangladeshi military, and the slow, inconsistent implementation of the 1997 CHT Peace Accords. Muslim Bengalis, once a tiny minority in the CHT, now reportedly equal or outnumber indigenous groups. The CHT conflict began in the 1970s when the minority community protested that the government of Bangladesh recognized only Bengali culture and language and considered only ethnic Bengalis citizens of Bangladesh, thereby denying indigenous ethnic groups citizenship. Although the current Prime Minister declared after taking power that her government would keep past commitments to the predominantly non-Muslim indigenous peoples of the CHT region, the government has not enforced the CHT Accords and has not ensured that all members of all tribal communities are afforded the full rights of Bangladeshi citizenship.

USCIRF will continue to monitor how the Bangladeshi government strengthens protections for all Bangladeshis to enjoy the right to freedom of religion or belief, and how it undertakes further efforts to improve conditions for minority religious communities. These efforts would include: the government of Bangladesh working with representatives from civil society and affected religious minority communities to restore property seized under the Vested Property Act and fully implement the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accords; investigating and, to the fullest extent of the law, prosecuting perpetrators of violent acts against members of minority religious communities, women, and non-governmental organizations; and reforming the judiciary and the police to ensure that law enforcement and security services are equally protective of the rights of all, including Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Ahmadis, tribal peoples, and other minorities.

soldier’s view on human rights violation and the role of bangladesh army in CHT:a response to unjust claims

soldier’s view on human rights violation and the role of bangladesh army in CHT:a response to unjust claims (Final part)
By Lieutenant Colonel Abdullah Al Mamun, psc, G

A peace accord was singed in 1997 and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was awarded UNESCO prize in 1998 for that. Though with the passage of time, the issue has become much challenging, yet I am sanguine that it is very well possible to establish peace and enhance development in CHT. To do so, we need a concerted plan for its development. The people of CHT need special care, and the region has potentials that need to be utilised. However, the matter is national and strategic, not of military alone. Before arriving the relevant part, let me describe the meaning of ‘SOLDIER’ as any military-man interprets. The word ‘SOLDIER’ refers to Sincerity (S), Obedience (O), Loyalty (L), Discipline (D), Integrity (I), Efficiency (E) and Regularly (R). It is worth mentioning that such ‘SOLDIER’ is not only from the military society, but also from all spheres of society who are respected by the people of main-stream society and who truly loves the country selflessly. However, a few other related theories may be pertinent to consult for formulating a plan for CHT. For example, Chinese military thinker and theorist Sun Zu says “Winning a victory and subduing the enemy without fighting is the highest excellence. War is not for slaughter; if you win without fighting, the way you can do so is the greatest military strategy”. Whereas, Carl von Clausewitz, an ex-soldier defined war as a political act. His philosophical explanation on war may hold good in future also. He says, “War is, therefore, not only a true chameleon, because it changes its nature in some degree in each particular case, but it is also, as a whole, in relation to the predominant tendencies which are in it, a wonderful trinity, composed of the original violence of its elements, hatred and animosity, which may be looked upon as blind instinct; of the play of probabilities and chance, which make it a free activity of the soul; and of the subordinate nature of a political instrument, by which it belongs purely to the reason. The first of these three phases concerns more the people; the second more the general and his army (military); the third more the Government.” Since the war challenges are threats to ‘Human rights’ and the military is the serious and demanding profession, we must consider and re-consider present socio-politico-military realities. Therefore, some aspects of ‘Discovery of Bangladesh’ written by one of our respected scholars-Doctor Akbar Ali Khan is important. The author was awarded Justice Mohammad Ibrahim Gold Medal for the book as it was adjudged the most outstanding work in the arts and humanities by the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. Some of the significant research conclusions as described in the book are given bellow:

“…One of the recurrent themes of the study is that grass-roots institutions in Bangladesh region had been historically weak. This implies that local governments in this region were never well-organised. …Lawrence Ziring described Bangladesh as an “anachronism within anachronism” which are just reactions to past mistakes and warned that the real Bangladesh is yet to emerge. …The energetic individualism that characterised historically the people in this region had nurtured a social milieu which is antagonistic to institutional development.”

Why Army? If so, how can they be utilised?

Worldwide, military training institutions (including BMA), provide training which is based on history of success and victory of nations and various heroes. Moreover, the source of inspirations of an officer normally stems from the dictums, maxims and golden words of the leaders and generals where the generalship is portrayed with heavenly spirit. Therefore, ‘The word impossible is not in my dictionary’ as stated by Napoleon Bonaparte is considered to be baseline of military-mind. Moreover the military training is based on Natural law whose content is set by nature and is thus universal.

As described before that the CHT matter is strategic, therefore, all stakeholders to be on board professionally. Bangladesh Army has been in CHT since 70s. Many Generals, both retired and still serving, of ours started their career in CHT and served there almost in all ranks. Many of them walked many thousands kilometres within a few thousand days in CHT. Due to emotional attachment with the locals for prolonged stay, they also feel an urge to contribute to the main-stream tribal society and their emotion is also absolutely eternal.

Secondly, an army with a vast experience of preparing a National Identity (NID) cards and of peacekeeping operations in the UN, can support the people’s decision in CHT. Logic for such assignment must substantiate the Samuel P. Huntington’s assumptions as he said, “The military officers play a highly modernising and progressive role. They challenge oligarchy, and they promote social and economic reform, national integration, and, the extension of political participation. They assail waste, backwardness, and corruption, and they introduce into society highly middle class ideas of efficiency, honesty and national loyalty.” (The Clash of Civilization? Asian Response, p 44). Otherwise it may frustrate the people and situation may turn worse.

Finally, to create another historic event in CHT we must look for ‘SOLDIERS’ in generic sense as described before. Notably we need to draw a bottom-line between discipline and over-democracy and meaning of human rights in CHT perspective. To do so we need to define and identify the noble, honest, dedicated professionals and scholars who believe like Confucius ‘Sincerity and the truth are the basis of every virtue’, as General Marshall did for the Americans. This plan may also be presented to the new scholars of university students as General Marshall did to the Harvard graduates. Possibly days are ahead when a ‘Nobel Peace Prize’ may travel to the top leaderships of Bangladesh and its ‘SOLDIERS’. Let us work together and hope for the best.
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The writer is a General Staff Officer First Grade in Army Headquarters.
------------------- courtesy: Daily- sun

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hill in flames: A documentary on communal attacks on Jumma villages

A documentary on communal attacks on Jumma villages in Sajek 2008,2010 and Khagrachari in 2011

by HILL WATCH HUMAN RIGHTS FORUM