Home » When KNF is a threat to peaceful CHT in Bangladesh

When KNF is a threat to peaceful CHT in Bangladesh

by Rinku Khumukcham
0 comment 9 minutes read

By: Indrajit Kumar
Our mountainous region is very beautiful. Consisting of Rangamati, Bandarban and Khagrachari districts, this hilly tract is known as the Chittagong Hill Track (CHT). More than 30 ethnic groups live in this mountainous region. Major among these ethnic groups are the Chakma, Marma, Tripura and Bam communities. Different from the plains, the people of this region and their way of life are also very different. As far as is known, many of their ancestors came from the Indian Northeast, Southeast Asia and Mongolia between the 12th and 16th centuries and started living in these hill towns. Although Bengalis have a tradition of thousands of years in the plains, their living in the mountains is not ancient in that sense. However, the Bengali and Pahari ethnic groups have been living in harmony for ages in this mountainous region.
Despite this, the fierce nationalist sections of the hill tribes could not accept the coexistence of minority Bengalis and ethnic minorities at various times. In some cases, they tried to strengthen their position among the local hill communities by inciting ethnic conflicts. Some of them blame the growing settlement of Bengalis as the reason for this conflict in the hills, but a large part again identifies the reason for the displacement of the hill people due to the construction of hydro-electric dams taken by the then Pakistani government in the mid-sixties. Historically, however, since the end of the Mughal rule, some sections of the population such as the majority Chakmas and the Tripuras at various times in the past three hundred years have resorted to armed means in the name of the rights of the Paharis.
In this case, the names of Chakma leaders Sher Daulat Khan, Jan Baks Khan, Ramu Khan, Jabbar Khan can be mentioned. However, looking at the Muslim-Bengaliana aspect of their name, there is no way to understand that they were the leaders of the Chakma armed nationalist movement. Therefore, many people who think that during the post-independence period of Bangladesh, these people have mobilized to demand their freedom and adopted the first armed approach, they are actually speaking in the light of incomplete information. It is true that in 1972, Chakma leader Manabendranath Larma (MN Larma) took a political stand to demand the rights of Paharis. Formed Chittagong Hill Tracts Association. Paharis’ internal dispute Before the death of MN Larma, his younger brother Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma (Santu Larma) challenged the integrity of Bangladesh by forming the armed forces called Shanti Bahini, the military wing of Janahati Samiti in the mid-70s. For the next two decades, that is, until the signing of the peace treaty in December 1997, the hills were extremely unstable.
In particular, the armed activities of peacekeepers from the mid-eighties to the mid-nineties created great fear not only among the hill Bengalis, but even among the small ethnic groups other than the Chakmas. In addition to adopting military measures to deal with the situation, the military governments greatly encouraged settlement from the plains to the hills. This was also done by the then government of Pakistan in the mid-sixties. But when the Awami League returned to power after 21 years, the visionary leadership of then Prime Minister Bangabandhu’s daughter Sheikh Hasina realized that a lasting political solution was needed. In light of that, a peace treaty was signed and the hill tribes pledged to lay down their arms and return to normal life. However, due to the coming and going of political governments, the full implementation of the peace agreement slowed down. Complex issues like land ownership in particular further complicate the situation. Mountain armed groups started to form again. This time there is a difference in their armed activities.
In addition to armed activities, extensive campaigns were carried out from within and outside Bangladesh through various social media. Majority of the online campaigners are part of these small ethnic groups who go to study or work outside Bangladesh especially in Europe, North America, Australia and East Asian countries. Many of their sites have been spreading false propaganda against the law enforcement forces and the government of Bangladesh by sharing fake news and images claiming violations of tribal rights and human rights in an attempt to garner global sympathy. We have seen that even though there is no public response to the Khalistan movement in India’s Punjab, the political activities of Khalistanists in the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom start from collecting donations.
In the past we have also seen that Tamils living in US, Canada, UK and other parts of Europe came forward with political and financial support with more Tamil nationalist sentiment than the Sri Lankan Tamil community was involved in the LTTE activities in Sri Lanka. The activities of the ethnic groups in the hill towns of Bangladesh are much like the aforementioned Khalistanists or Tamils; Pahari radical nationalist propaganda directed from the outside world. The content of Motadage propaganda is that the life, livelihood and culture of the hill people have been ruined. And the targets of the propaganda are the government of Bangladesh, the forces engaged in maintaining law and order in the hills especially the army, the hilly Bengali population, local political and development institutions.
It is true that even two decades ago, the development in the mountains did not feel the same way. But in the past decade and a half, especially after the national elections, after the formation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government in 2009, the development of communication infrastructure, agriculture, forestry, market system, health facilities and employment creation and tourism development and development, the government and various international organizations in the wide-ranging activities of the hill economy and There is a new touch in social life. As products produced in the plains go to the mountains, products produced in the mountains freely come to the plains. Hill armed groups are creating various obstacles in this work in some cases. Infrastructural development, modernization of agriculture, forestry or development of market system – in all cases, armed groups have been extorting hostages from the concerned parties. Naturally, there was a need to strengthen the activities of the armed forces at various important places, including law and order.
Although a large part of the deployment of armed security forces was dismantled under the peace agreement, but in the current reality, especially the activities of ethnic armed groups that have started anew in 2014, it has become imperative to strengthen the activities of law enforcement forces including the army to maintain peace. It is important not only to maintain stability in the hills, but also to maintain the integrity of Bangladesh and the internal law and order of the country. Recently, the sensational news of hill armed groups communicating with the religious militant groups of the plains has surfaced in great detail in the mainstream media. It is not a matter of ideological cooperation. Rather, it is part of a larger plan to destabilize the country in plains with mountains. During the Bangla Bhai era, the image of the moderate Muslim country of Bangladesh in the outside world was greatly tarnished by the activities of religious militant groups. The post-11 government, particularly Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government, re-formed in 2009 to crack down on the armed activities of fanatical fundamentalist militants.
At one point their activities were almost stopped. However, as the issue of militancy has become less important in global politics in a few years, some wave of it has come to our country as well. Anti-terrorist activities of various law and order forces including RAB are no longer the same as before. The biggest of the many reasons for this is the Western world and their domestic contractors being very busy with RAB. But the religious militant groups are secretly busy making good use of time. The media has detailed how religious militant groups in the plains have been training deep in the remote mountains for the past few years. And as mercenary trainers, the Kuki-Chin National Army is the military wing of the Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) currently most active in the mountains. The KNF is training these remaining vested quarters for two purposes. Firstly, they are getting money in return which at the end of the day enhances their ability to purchase arms, ammunition and other logistics required for KNF’s armed operations. That is, if the suspicious financial connections of the vested groups are not stopped, the KNF’s capabilities will continue to grow. There are also more geopolitical reasons for the mandatory KNF capacity building. Evidence of this has been seen since the latter half of last year until recently when the KNF/KNA carried out surprise attacks from a distance on armed forces task forces using sophisticated explosive devices causing casualties.
The second reason for concern is that if the KNF can continue the training program of religious militant groups coming from the plains with the limited presence of law enforcement and armed forces, the trained militants will later strengthen the militancy in different parts of the country and keep the law enforcement forces and the government busy. In this opportunity, the hill armed group KNF will have an opportunity to strengthen their separatist activities to establish the so-called independent Zumland on the borders of Bangladesh-India and Bangladesh-Myanmar in an area of about 10,000 square kilometers. Where the question of national security and integrity is involved, concerned parties including the people, politicians, governments should act responsibly in expressing their views on the rights of the hill tribes, including the armed activities of the tribes. It is sad but true that some quarters have started various political and non-political activities without taking the whole matter into consideration, just out of human emotion for the rights of ordinary Paharis or just distracted by the propaganda of the supporters of Pahari armed groups or for any other purpose, which is totally unintended. Especially in the recent times, the sectional assembly activities being conducted in the name of various organizations supporting the rights of minorities or the way these related issues are coming in the talk shows will inspire the respective armed groups, which will threaten our national security. So let everyone have a good mind.
(The author is an educator, Op-ed columnist, international affairs analyst and freelance researcher)

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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