The treaty that was supposed to establish peace in the CHT regions appears to have collapsed
The hill districts of Bangladesh had witnessed a cessation of the decades-long violence and conflicts after the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord, also known as Chittagong Hill Tracts Treaty, was signed on December 2, 1997. The treaty was praised by critics, political leaders and others at home and abroad, as it managed to it set people free from fear and brought peace in the mountainous lands.
The treaty was signed between the Bangladesh government and the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (United People's Party of the Chittagong Hill Tracts), the political organization that controlled the Shanti Bahini militia. The accord allowed for the recognition of the rights of the peoples and tribes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts region and ended the decades-long insurgency between the Shanti Bahini and government forces.
However, it seems peace is a hard thing to hold on to, and people in the districts of the CHT are now again witnessing tension and unrest as four armed tribal groups have started fighting each other over establishing supremacy in the areas. Violent conflicts are on the rise again, with brother killing brother over difference of opinion and dead bodies piling up. The treaty that was supposed to establish peace appears to have collapsed.
According to Rangamati police and intelligence sources, a total of 22 people were killed in conflicts between three organizations: United People's Democratic Front (UPDF, Prasit), UPDF (Democratic) and MN Larma-led Jana Samhati Samiti (JSS). It started on March 11, 2018, with the killing of UPDF (Democratic) member Notun Moni Chakma, and the violence continued throughout the year, when many other tribal members were killed. Most recently, a supporter of MN Larma-led Jana Samhati Samiti (JSS) Bajagula Chakma was gunned down by rivals on November 11, 2018, numbering 22 killings in the year.
Regarding the situation, CHT Citizen Committee (Parbatya Chattagram Nagarik Committee) President Gautam Dewan said: “We have taken effective measures in the past and successfully put a stop to the factional clashes that were going on among rivals groups of CHT districts. We had seen no violent conflicts at all for nearly two years.”
“It is actually a critical political issue and those of us who are living in hill areas must come forward with our own initiatives to resolve the matter,” he said.
National Human Rights Commission member Banchita Chakma said: “After investigating the seven-person murder that took place in Khagrachhari last August, we submitted a report to the government authorities concerned. On behalf of the commission, we will take further initiatives to prevent conflicts. Above all, everyone needs to be aware to maintain the peace in CHT regions.”
Rangamati district Superintendent of Police (SP) Md Alamgir Kabir said suspects were named in most case statements. Of the accused persons, many are facing multiple cases and many are absconding. Oftentimes police fail to detain the accused due to lack of cooperation from the victims.
“Currently, the law and order situation in Rangamati district is normal. Police, along with other law enforcement agency members deployed in the area, will conduct a joint operation within a few days,” he added.