Jesus, it’s time for peace in the CHT. I write this a mixture of anger and sadness. But mostly its anger.
The CHT Peace Accord was signed in 1997, but most of the key promises of the accord remain unfulfilled. For more than 30 years now the indigenous people of the CHT have been subjected to military rule and oppression, serious human rights violations and land grabbing by settlers. The Bengali settlers have been consistently backed by the military, who violently oppress any attempt to hold onto what rightfully belongs to the indigenous people of this area.
Living here in my little tribal, settler-free bubble in Rangapani, it’s sometimes easy to forget about all the tension, and the long standing issues between the indigenous population and Bengali settlers. Only when I travel into Rangamati proper do I feel the tension and animosity between the two groups. It’s like walking into another world. A world I don’t like.
This tension bubbled up into clashes in Baghaichari upazila in Rangamati last night. Reports differ, and the way the army controls the area it’s unlikely the true figures will ever be known. The news is reporting that 4 indigenous people were killed in the clashes last night, and 50 tribal homes and shops have been torched (http://bdnews24.com/details.php?cid=2&id=154123&hb=top). Local reports from the area are that 12 people have been killed, and 350 homes torched. Both reports confirm that the army opened fire on the indigenous people.
I get so angry that this situation has been allowed to continue. That communities continue to be violently oppressed, their culture and traditions destroyed and their land stolen. The magic of this area is slowly being eroded and I wonder how long before it is totally destroyed. If I came back here in 5 years time, what would I find? Who is going to stop this rampant destruction of the diversity and rich cultural traditions of this area? Indigenous people need support, and it is time the international community stood behind them. Their struggle for survival should no longer be Bangladesh’s dirty little secret. It should be out in the open, where the sins of the oppressors can be clearly seen.
If you’d like to add your voice to the campaign, please add your name to the petition at http://www.cht-global-voices.com/. It will only take two minutes out of your day.