UPDF statement in UNPFII
To the special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples
Issue: Human Rights Situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh
We, on behalf of the United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF), would like to draw kind attention of Special Raporteur on the Rights of indigenous people to the human rights situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh.
In December 1997, an accord was signed to bring peace in the CHT. But in the last over 14 years it has failed to bring peace and improve the human rights situation. Soon after the signing of the accord, repression on the so-called ‘anti-accord elements’ [meaning members of the United Peoples’ Democratic Front (UPDF) and its front organizations, namely, Hill Students’ Council, Hill Women’s Federation and Democratic Youth Forum] began. In a report entitled “Life Is Not Ours: Land and Human Rights in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh: Update 4” published in 2000, the Chittagong Hill Tracts International Commission stated:
Since the signing of the peace agreement, a total of more than 120 Jumma activists have been arrested, many on old (mostly fabricated) charges. Apparently, the provision in the Peace Accord for an amnesty for all JSS cadres does not apply to these activists. Immediately following the surrender of the JSS and Shanti Bahini, in the months of February and March 1998 alone, more than 30 leaders and activists of the HPC and HSC were arrested. On 17 February 1998, one week after the surrender ceremony, the police raided a hostel room at Dhaka University, which was also being used as an office for the HPC, HSC and HWF. The Police entered without a warrant, claiming they were looking for illegal arms although they found nothing incriminating.
Since then, the situation has deteriorated even further. Repression on the UPDF and its front organizations have become commonplace. Since the signing of the accord at least 240 members and supporters of the UPDF have been killed by the Bangladesh Military personnel and armed groups patronized by them. Its peaceful rallies and demonstrations are regularly attacked while its members and supporters, including members of the Hill Women’s Federation, are arrested, tortured and jailed. On the other hand, four of its offices have been forced to shut down without due process of law.
Most recent incidents of repression:
-11th May 2012: Mr. Choton Kanti Tangchangya (40), UPDF leader of Bandarban district unit, unsuccessful candidate of last general election, and his follower Mr. Jolomoni Tangchangya were arrested by police on a fabricated charge.
-14th May 2012: Bikash Tangchangya (40), a sympathizer of UPDF at Rajastali in Rangamati district was allegedly attacked and injured.
Rape and Large scale attacks
In addition to political repression, there have been at least 11 large scale attacks on Jumma habitations which were carried out by members of Bangladesh Army and illegal Bengali settlers in order to grab land, while rapes of Jumma women and minor girls have become a serious problem. Between January and May 10 this year, at least six Jumma girls and women were raped; one case of attempted rape was reported while another girl in her teens was abducted. In the most recent incident, an 11-year old Jumma girl, Sujata Chakma, was murdered after rape in Langudu on 9 May 2012.
While land grabbing by illegal Bengali settlers is a perennial problem, it took a serious turn during the rule of emergency from 2007 – 2008. Hundreds of acres of land belonging to Jumma people were captured. On many occasions land grabbing or attempt at land grabbing were accompanied by communal attacks on Jumma villages, resulting in deaths and destruction of houses and other properties.
On May 10 the settlers set fire to a house belonging to Kamal Singh Tripura in Paiong Para village under Ugudochari (Ultachari) Union in Panchari Upazila of Khagrachari district . Kamal Singh had built the house on his land a few days ago.Two settlers namely Md. Manik and Md. Fazlul who set file have been trying to capture his land for a long time.
Despite the CHT accord which ended the armed insurrection led by the now-defunct Shanti Bahini guerrillas, the CHT continues to remain under military occupation. The government has replaced “Operation Dabanol” with “Operation Ottoron” to impose virtual military rule in the CHT. The overwhelming presence of the military, together with the illegal Bengali settlers, poses a serious threat to the existence of the Jumma people.
Denial of the right to identity
On 30 June 2011, the Bangladesh national parliament passed the fifteenth amendment to the constitution which, inter alia, provides that “The people of Bangladesh shall be known as Bangalees as a nation and the citizens of Bangladesh shall be known as Bangladeshis”. [Article 6(2)]
The imposition of Bengali nationality on the indigenous Jumma people and other non-Bengali national minorities has serious implications. While it is a violation of fundamental human rights, it reflects the policy of the Bangladesh state to ethnic-cleanse the indigenous peoples of the country. Bangladesh continues to deny the existence of indigenous people in the country.
There were many on ground investigation conducted by CHT commission and other international agencies into the violation of human rights in the Chittagong Hill Tracts(CHT). But, most investigation reports could not properly focus on the political repression on the UPDF supporters-activists and other human rights defenders. More inquiry into the CHT with a follow up measure is urgent.
Spokesperson (South Korea)
United Peoples’ Democratic Front (UPDF)
Representative of the United Peoples’ Democratic Front (UPDF) in New York, USA