Page 72

Global issue 20

In Focus Bangladesh Bangladesh through history 500 BCE Flourishing of the Iron Age kingdom of Anga, part of the 16 Great Nations recorded in Buddhist scripture 1203 Turkic conquest establishes Muslim rule and religion in Bengal 326 BCE Alexander the Great withdraws from India, fearing a counterattack by the Gangaridai empire of Bengal people. However, even now, the agreement remains largely unimplemented and the inhabitants of the CHT continue to clash with the Bangladeshi authorities. In September 2014, while addressing the officials of the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina emphasised the commitment of the government of Bangladesh to safeguarding the rights of the people of the CHT. “The people that live in the Chittagong Hill Tracts are the citizens of our country, so they must enjoy their rights on land like other citizens. We have to ensure it and I hope that the CHT Ministry will take proper steps in this regard.” She added that the government is taking all necessary procedures for the implementation of the CHT Peace Accord, in hope of finally bringing harmony to the region. “We want to do everything required for the socioeconomic development of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. It’s very important for the region as these people have suffered for more than two decades.” 1858 The British government nationalises the East India Company. Bengal becomes the dominion of Queen Victoria and is governed under the British Raj as part of the Indian Empire 1757 Bengal is incorporated into the British Empire and placed under control of the British East India Company © Marsyas CC BY-SA 2.5 A large Bangladeshi army presence remains in the CHT, in direct violation of the CHT Peace Accord. According to a report published by the International Working Group of Indigenous Affairs, the exact number of troops currently deployed in the CHT is unknown. However, UN Special Rapporteur Lars-Anders Baer, in his 2011 report to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, suggested that it could amount to as many as a third of Bangladesh’s soldiers. “There are a huge number of Bangladeshi army camps all over the Chittagong Hill Tracts. It is a very beautiful area, but you would be pretty restricted in getting there as a tourist. You can’t just wander in, you need to have the correct permits,” says Taylor. “It is still highly militarised.” The ongoing presence of the military in the area has been justified by military personnel as being necessary for several reasons, including aiding conflict resolution between different indigenous political parties. A recent report by the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, however, suggests that the military has done very little to inhibit the conflict between Bengali settlers and indigenous people and has, in fact, exacerbated it. The working group points to the lack of military intervention in diffusing violent attacks by Bengali settlers against indigenous villagers, which continue to occur frequently. Attacks carried out against Bengali settlers by indigenous people, the group further points out, are largely unheard of since the signing of the Peace Accord. Issues between the tribal people of the CHT and the settlers from Bangladesh initially emerged between 1979 and 1984, when the then Bangladesh Nationalist Party government implemented a mass transmigration policy, through which 350,000 Bengalis 1947 British India is partitioned along religious lines. West Bengal becomes a state of India, while East Bengal is attached to the state of Pakistan and renamed East Pakistan were settled in the CHT. By 1991 the Bengali population of the CHT had increased by 150 per cent. In March 2014, at the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council, it was suggested that the mass transmigration of Bengalis into the area directly resulted in the persecution of indigenous people in the form of eviction and dispossession of land, and communal attacks on individual tribes and villages. Furthermore, sexual attacks on indigenous women of all ages, said the council, have been used as tools to terrorise tribal communities and force them to abandon their lands. It was also suggested that, in the past, such attacks have been directly carried out at the hands of the military personnel stationed in the area. In 1991 the Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission released a report exposing a secret memorandum that was circulated in 1983. The memorandum was distributed to all army officers in the CHT, encouraging them to marry indigenous women. Each year the Kapaeeng Foundation, an organisation for the protection of the human rights of indigenous peoples of Bangladesh, publishes its Human Rights Report, which includes an analysis of the human rights abuses of the tribal people of the CHT. The 2013 report found that the number of these incidents are still increasing year on year. In 2013 there was a notable increase in the raiding and destruction of indigenous property and in the number of tribal people who were forced to flee the area. The issue of Bengali settlers inhabiting the CHT runs deeper than the effect it has on the tribal people inhabiting the lands. The population pressure, exacerbated by the presence of Bengali settlers, is of significant threat to the region itself. “The argument for those who are in favour Chakma women are known for their weaving 70 l www.global -br ief ing.org f i rst quar ter 2015 global


Global issue 20
To see the actual publication please follow the link above