20 years of CHT peace deal
SHAMSUDDIN ILLIUS back from CHT
Rustam Ali Kabiraj, 60, whose house was destroyed in river erosion and who was rehabilitated by the government, is leading a miserable life with eight members of his family at a camp for internally displaced people (IDP) at Guchchhogram, in Rashid Nagor, Khargachhari district of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). He could not return to his land even though the Peace Accord between the government and the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) was signed in 1997. After losing lost his home due to river erosion in 1981, Rustam came to the CHT as government officials had assured him that he would be rehabilitated on a five-acre land in the CHT. In 1988, he and his family were brought to Guchchhogram as violence erupted in the CHT and the government wanted to protect them from the attacks of tribals. Since then he has been living in the camp.
“I have planted many trees and made an orchard at Gulchara where I was given the land. The government had said we could return to our own place within three to four years. But even after 20 years, we can’t return to our own place. The tribals have occupied my land, and my family depends on 85-kg rice and wheat provided by the government,” Ali despaired.
Md Rezaul Karim, 50, who hailed from Rajshahi, said: “I came here with my father. The government had rehabilitated us at Guchchhogram due to security reasons. Meanwhile, my parents have died. We can’t return to our own land even after 20 years.”
Like Rustam Ali Kabiraj and Rezaul Karim Chhenowara Begum, Julekha Begum was also sunk in despair. “We hoped we would be able to return to our own land after the Peace Accord was signed. But 20 years have passed and nothing has been done,” she said.
The government brought 38,156 families (Internally Displace People) to Guchchhogram. About 1, 20,000 persons are currently living in a miserable condition at 84 camps in Guchchhogram.
The government has rehabilitated 64,6,09 tribal refugees encamped in Tripura, India, who had returned as per the provision of the Peace Accord.
“We have completed the rehabilitation of the refugees returned from India. We’ve identified over 120,000 IDP Bengalis living in Guchchhogram,” said SM Shafi, a member of the taskforce formed to rehabilitate tribal refugees and identify IDPs.
The PCJSS and United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF), the regional political parties of the CHT, demanded to remove the people who were rehabilitated in the CHT between 1979 and 1982.
Sajib Chakma, the spokesman for the PCJSS, told The Independent: “We demand that the government rehabilitate the Bengalis who were brought to the CHT between 1979 and 1982 to other places in Bangladesh. There are 90,208 tribal IDP families. They still can’t go to their own land. Moreover, 9,760 tribal families returning from India are yet to go back to their homes.”
Mikel Chakma, the spokesman for UPDF, told The Independent: “We want an honorable rehabilitation of the settlers to other parts of Bangladesh, except the CHT.”
When contacted, advocate Md Abdul Malek Minthu, president of The Sama Odhikar Andolon (Equal Rights Movement), told The Independent: “The government had allocated five acres to each family who were rehabilitated here. But, they can’t go back to their own land. A land commission was formed, but we differed with the commission. The commission does not call any Bengali. We demand the revocation of land commission. There should be a Bengali representative in the commission.”
When contacted, Md Rashedul Islam, deputy commissioner of Khargachhari district, told The Independent: “The internally displaced people, including the people in Guchchhogram, couldn’t return to their land due to disputes over land. A land commission has been formed to resolve the matter.”