There is no war in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, but the bloodshed continues. Why? It is because the various hill people organisations there repeatedly engage in bloody clashes, and the law enforcement is unable to control the situation. In fact, these organisations often carry out brutal killing in front of the law enforcement and walk away untouched. On Saturday, for example, a group of armed persons randomly opened fire, killing six, including three leaders of the United Democratic People’s Front (UPDF). And this took place near a police outpost in Khagrachhari. So what are the police doing there to maintain law and order?
Spokesperson of UPDF Michael Chakma told Prothom Alo that Saturday’s killing was carried out by MN Larma’s Jana Sanghati Samity and UPDF Ganatantrik. As always, the two organisations denied these allegations. From December last year till Saturday, every month some or the other is being killed in these clashes. Over the last nine months, 34 people have been killed. This August alone, eight have been killed so far.
Not only is there an adequate number of police deployed in Chittagong Hill Tracts, but RAB, BGB and other security forces are also posted there. Yet the clashes continue among the rivalling hill organisations. It is unlike other parts of the country. The manner in which armed clashes are taking place, it is as if there is an arsenal in the hills, with easy access to firearms. The killings continue, but there is no sign of any action against these crimes. Cases are filed, but nothing happens. The government administration and the state’s laws do not seem to be in effect in Chittagong Hill Tracts.
Why is this so? We had hoped the December 1997 agreement would bring permanent peace to the hills. But there were differences among the various groups about the agreement and UPDF stood against it. As a result, a few hundred of people in the hills hill were killed in the ensuing clashes up till 2015. Then an understanding was forged among the three main groups in the region and the violence subsided.
Violence re-emerged in December last year when UPDF split in November and UPDF Ganatantrik was formed. Bloodshed resumed with the killing of two UPDF leaders. The situation has simply gone from bad to worse.
Things can no longer continue in this manner. It is not ideological differences that have led to the conflict. It is extortion and gaining control on the areas that leads to the clashes. Extortion in the hill must be stopped. The law enforcement must be efficient, honest, active and effective. It is vital that an understanding be forged among the conflicting groups and good governance is established in the region. This bloodshed in the hills cannot continue.