In the last 15 months, at least 58 people were killed violently in the hilly areas
The Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) have turned into a death trap as killings go unabated in the three districts.
Bodies are piling up in the CHT as four local political parties based in the region’s ethnic communities, appear to be engaged in violent conflict with one another, and none of them ever takes responsibility for the killings.
Law enforcement agencies have been unable to apprehend the key players behind such criminal activities.
In the last 15 months, at least 58 people were killed violently in the hilly areas.
Since then, regional political parties have engaged in clashes, mostly in Rangamati and Khagrachhari, and since then there have been attacks after attacks.
On Monday, at least seven people, including two election officials and four Ansar and VDP members, were shot dead and at least 26 others injured, in a gun attack in Rangamati.
Within 15 hours of the incident, Belaichari upazila Awami League President, Suresh Kanti Tongchanga, was also shot dead by unidentified assailants in the Alikhong area of Rangamati.
Who is behind the violence in the hills
Four organizations – all local, ethnic community-based – are allegedly involved in most of these clashes: Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS), Jana Samhati Samiti (Reformist-MN Larma), United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF) and UPDF (Ganatantrik).
Security agencies and rights groups say over 500 people have been killed in the last 20 years of bloody conflict, alongside numerous abductions and assaults.
When a member of one group is attacked, shortly after, that group carries out an attack in retaliation, but none of the groups ever claim responsibility for the killings.
However, the murder of election officials was different in the sense that the victims were not members of any of the political groups.
JSS (MN Larma), which fielded a candidate in the election, blames UPDF for the murders, but UPDF says it had no stake in the matter.
How it all began
PCJSS was formed in 1972 and it saw a faction, UPDF, in 1998. The PCJSS in 2010 saw another faction, PCJSS (MN Larma).
The main PCJSS is currently led by Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, also known as Shantu Larma.
Although all the regional parties took a compromising move in 2015 and killings had almost come to an end.
But when a group split from UPDF in November 2017, as UPDF (Democratic), led by former UPDF leader, Tapan Jyoti Chakma, , the hills started to become violent again.
UPDF leaders allege that 20 days after the UPDF Ganatantrik (Democratic) was formed they shot dead ex-UP member and UPDF leader, Anadi Ranjan Chakma, in Naniachar.
Ten days after that, supposedly they killed UPDF organizer, Anal Bikash Chakma, in the Bondukvanga area. UPDF organizing secretary Mithun Chakma was also killed in Khagrachhari.
In the last 10 months, at least three major incidents have taken place in the CHT.
Shaktimaan Chakma, chairman of Naniarchar Upazila Parishad in Rangamati, was also the vice chairman of PCJSS-MN Larma. He was killed on May 3.
The next day, Tapan Jyoti Chakma, alias Barma, president of UPDF Ganatantrik, was killed on his way to Shaktimaan’s funeral,, along with Sujon Chakma, general secretary of Mohalchhari unit Pahari Chhatra Parishad (PCP), Pronok Chakma, a member of Jubo Samiti, Setu Chakma, member of Jubo Samiti, and their microbus driver, Md Sajib.
Top UPDF leader Mithun Chakma was shot dead on January 3 last year. Mithun's murder in broad daylight following a court appearance drew international attention.
UPDF activist Dilip Kumar Chakma was shot dead on February 17; Subhash Chakma was shot dead in Dighinala, Khagrachhari, four days later, while another activist, Natun Mani Chakma, was murdered on March 11.
On April 12, UPDF's Jony Tonchongya was murdered in Naniarchar, within hours of which a PCJSS (MN Larma) activist in the area, Sadan Chakma, was also killed.
Three members of UPDF were shot dead at Korolyachari under Baghaichari upazila in Rangamati in the early hours of May 28. The deceased were Sushil Chakma, alias Sanjit, 45, Atal Chakma, 40, and Sugorchugo, alias Smriti Chakma, 50.
Within three weeks, in the space of 48 hours, two activists of the PCJSS (MN Larma) and one member of UPDF Ganatantrik, were killed.
PCJSS (MN Larma) activists Suren Bikash Chakma and Bijay Tripura were shot dead in their homes in Rangamati and Khagrachari on June 17-18, and UPDF Ganatantrik activist, Boli Chakma, in Langadu upazila.
On July 27, two people were killed in a gunfight that broke out at Betagichhara of Bagaichhari upazila in Rangamati, although only one of them - David Chakma of the JSS MN Larma - was identified as a political activist.
The politics of murder
The peace accord was signed in 1997 between the government and the Shanti Bahini led by PCJSS chief, Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, to end the decades-long insurgency and violence in the CHT.
While the UPDF, a breakaway group, still denounces the treaty and seeks full autonomy in the region, it proclaims to do so democratically.
Meanwhile, the CHT are burning and hundreds have been killed, and sadly most of them at the hands of their own people.