Four organisations of the Indian Chakma tribal communities on Monday demanded India and Bangladesh fully implement the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHTs) Accord, signed in 1997, for the development and peace in the southeast region of the neighbouring country.
The demand came as Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina arrived in New Delhi on Monday on a four day visit, during which she would hold talks with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Tuesday.
The Chakma tribal organisations, in a joint memorandum to both Prime Ministers, on Monday urged them to take joint measures for full implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHTs) Accord, signed on December 2, 1997 and declare the CHTs as a “region of peace”.
Prominent Chakma leader and former Mizoram MLA Rashik Mohan Chakma said that though the CHTs Accord was signed 25 years ago, key provisions of the accord especially handing over of law and order and supervision of the three Hill District Councils of Bandarban, Khagrachari, and Rangamati to the CHTs Regional Council was not yet done.
The other provisions of the accord which are not yet implemented include withdrawal of the Bangladesh Army camps established during the armed conflicts into the cantonments within the CHTs, resolution of the land disputes through the functioning of the CHTs Land Commission, and resettlement of the tribal refugees.
Founder leader of the Chakma Development Foundation of India Suhas Chakma said that the importance of implementation of the CHT Accord for regional peace and security, especially for Bangladesh, India, and Myanmar cannot be stressed enough. In addition to civil unrest of indigenous people of CHTs collectively known as ‘Jummas’ due to non-implementation of the Accord, the CHTs is often used by various insurgent groups, Suhas Chakma said in a statement.
He said that the armed conflicts in the Arakan province of Myanmar bordering the CHTs, the expulsion of over 1.5 million Rohingyas to Bangladesh by Myanmar and the refusal of the military junta in Myanmar to repatriate any of these Rohingya refugees make the CHTs the source of regional instability and conflicts. In fact, peace in the region can be assured only through joint efforts of Bangladesh and India and meaningful participation of the indigenous ‘Jumma’ people in these efforts by empowering them for self-governance through full implementation of the CHT Accord, he said.
“It is not in the interests of Bangladesh, India, indigenous ‘Jumma’ people to have the active civil unrests in the CHTs region or allow the region to be used for various insurgency activities, said another tribal leader Pritimoy Chakma, Convenor of the Chakma Hajong Rights Alliance (CHRA).
Tripura Rejyo Chakma Gabujyya Jodha President Priya Ranjan Chakma said: “We have urged both the Prime Ministers to take measures for full and effective implementation of the CHT Accord, declare an economic package to assist the Bangladesh government for effective implementation of the CHT Accord including resettlement of the returnee ‘Jumma’ refugees from India and internally displaced persons within the CHTs in line with similar economic assistance provided by India to the internally displaced persons of Sri Lanka following the end of the armed conflicts with the ethnic Tamils.
“Processes must be initiate with the Jana Samhati Samiti, the signatory to the CHT Accord and all other stakeholders of indigenous aJumma’ people to end civil unrest in the CHT region and facilitate establishment of the CHTs as a region of peace,” he said in a statement.