Mixed reaction in CHT over big army pullout

July 31, 2009

The government’s decision to withdraw a brigade of the army and their 35 temporary camps from Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) by September this year, drew quite opposing reactions from the local indigenous communities and Bangalee settlers.
The indigenous people are welcoming the government move that came in line with the CHT peace treaty of 1997 while many Bangalee settlers of Khagrachhari are critical of the decision expressing concerns about their security in the aftermath of the pullout.
Welcoming the partial troop withdrawal which is the largest since the signing of the peace treaty, Parbatiya Cattagram Jana Sanghaty Samity (PCJSS) leader Sudha Sindhu Khisha said, “It was expected. The government’s move is in line with the peace accord.”
“We want security and urge the government to also shut down operation uttaron which has been harassing the indigenous population here both mentally and physically,” he added.
The army’s presence in the hill tracts since 1977 was part of its ‘operation dabanol’ till the signing of the peace treaty. After the peace treaty the operation changed its name to ‘uttaron’.
District leader of United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF) Rina Dewan however said they will welcome the government decision when all camps of the army and Bangladesh Rifles will be withdrawn from CHT making way for the indigenous people to enjoy their liberty with ‘real independence’.
Mongshaprue Marma, a leader of the Khagrachhari unit of Bangladesh Chhatra League which was the student front of ruling Awami League till the latter’s recent national council, said it is ‘remarkable but expected’. The people of the ethnic communities will now be able to start enjoying their life with their own cultures and traditions, he added.
But former lawmaker also an adviser to the Khagrachhari unit of Awami League, Mohammad Alim Ullah, said the army is the most important thing for security in the hills, the government should resolve the manifold crises of the region, including law and order, before withdrawing the army.
“We urge the government to investigate the real situation in the hill tracts, before withdrawing the army,” he said.
District BNP Joint Convener Mostafizur Rahman Millat also echoed Alim saying that the troop withdrawal will threaten the hill districts’ security. Without the army CHT will become volatile again, he added, demanding more deployment of the army instead.
Borhan Uddin, a leader of Bangalee settlers in Dighinala said CHT is still tense. Law and order has been worsening by the day, the government should withdraw the army from there only after ensuring that law and order will not deteriorate in the aftermath, he added.

Courtesy of The Daily Star

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