25 years of Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord
Today the country marks the 25th anniversary of Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord, albeit with mixed feelings. The Parbatya Chattogram Jana Samhati Samity, which signed the agreement with the government back then has reportedly pointed out that only 25 articles have been implemented, 18 have been partially followed, while the rest 29 articles of the peace accord yet remains completely unimplemented.
It is depressing to note that successive governments have repeatedly failed to implement a promising accord, which at one point of time had been widely acclaimed by several international governments and human rights bodies.
The fact, however, on one hand we notice a lack of political commitment while on the other we also notice a lack of unity among indigenous communities in the successful implementation of the peace accord that was signed in 1997 during the Awami League government.
Though armed struggle and clashes with the military have ended long ago, and Shanti Bahini for long ceases to exist, we believe, now is the time to reflect back on assessing success and failures of a land mark treaty which is yet to bear fruit.
In particular, signing of the CHT Peace Accord kindled a glimmer of hope among the Jumma people that they will eventually live in peace and with dignity. But their hope has not materialised in the past quarter of a century. Violent clashes between Jumma and Bengali people over land rights are still a regular affair in the region.
However, the Jumma community expects that the present government headed by Sheikh Hasina-also her first government that signed the treaty -would take steps toward full implementation of the Accord. But this has not happened even after Awami League assumed political office in 2009. In addition, the government is still following the previous policy of rehabilitating Bengali settlers in CHT, identifying them as IDP (internally displaced persons) which is markedly contradictory to the CHT Accord. As a result, the rehabilitation process of the indigenous IDPs has come to a standstill. This must stop the soonest.
It is not that the peace accord has failed all in its entirety, but has surely failed to deliver expected outcomes to safeguard interests of our indigenous communities in the hill tracts. And lest we forget, even if all provisions of the peace accord are implemented, without a permanent solution to end land disputes, the peace accord will become meaningless. Land disputes are the main issue in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
In conclusion, we expect the ruling party not to forget that age long disputes at Chittagong Hill Tracts was not solved through military means - the solution was initiated by political means. It is crucial to revive that courage and political goodwill in the likes of 1997, and fully implement the accord in the days ahead.