The Dhaka Tribune’s Ashif Islam Shaon and Nuruchsafa Manik speak to the biggest victims of the ongoing conflict among political parties in the hill tracts, the ordinary people in the ethnic communities, in the last instalment of this three-part series
Locked in violent conflict for years, the ethnic political parties in the Chittagong Hill Tracts have recently adopted a new strategy to suppress their political rivals.
The parties have sought to assert supremacy by targeting the families of activists and supporters of rival parties: at least 184 families have been ousted from their homes thus far.
This strategy has been carried out by both the United Peoples Democratic Front (UPDF) and the PCJSS (MN Larma), along with the latter’s ally UPDF Ganatantrik.
All three parties are putting men, women, and children through tremendous suffering in a bid to weaken their political rivals.
The process of ousting families in the hills of Rangamati and Khagrachhari districts started in March.
Families of UPDF Ganatantrik and MN Larma activists who were thrown out of their homes have taken shelter in Khagrachhari Sadar and Mohalchhari upazila while the UPDF families took shelter in different places of Dighinala upazila.
The displaced families had homes in Khagrachhari’s Lakkhichhari, Guimara, Panchhari, and Dighinala areas and Rangamati’s Baghaichhari and Naniarchar upazilas.
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Of them, UPDF ousted 107 families from the MN Larma and UPDF Ganatantrik side and those two parties ousted 77 families belonging to the other side.
Party insiders said that they threw out these families to create mental pressure on the activists who have switched sides, to maintain supremacy in a particular area, or just to corner opponents.
Requesting to be unnamed, a number of leaders from all three parties said that the activists who are engaged in armed politics do not stay at home. Throwing out their families from their homes thus is a good strategy to put them out of action.
These families caught in the middle of this conflict are now without income, living in squalid conditions. Their children have had to drop out of school and their meals depend on charity.
In the Mubachhari area of Mohalchhari upazila in Khagrachhari, 44 such families have taken shelter at an abandoned school building.
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Adorshi Talukder, who has been living in the school building for four months, said she along with her two children were thrown out of their home because her husband belongs to a political party which lost dominance in the area recently.
Fearing for their lives, they have been unable to go outside the school compound to even attempt to earn a living. The local administration provides them with relief now and then.
“In this small compound, we are living with a shortage of water and barely any space to sleep at night,” she said.
Bimol Kanti Chakma, Upazila Parishad chairman of Mohalchhari, said that people were caught amid the fight for supremacy between UPDF and JSS MN Larma.
“Public representatives like me are helpless before the weapons of those parties,” Bimol said. He was backed by the MN Larma group during the Upazila Parishad election.
Aongay Marma, president of Ganotantrik Juba Forum, the youth wing of UPDF, claimed that it was the MN Larma and UPDF Ganotantrik who first started the practice.
“They ousted families and looted their valuables first. Later with the help of general people, we ousted the offenders,” he claimed.