Jumma Insurgency in Bangladesh 1973-1997

[ 1973 - 1997 ]

The indigenous, mainly Buddhist tribes (called Jumma) of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) region bordering India and Myanmar (Burma), long marginalized by the discriminatory policies of successive governments, established the Shanti Bahini (Peace Force), a resistance movement aimed at securing autonomy, in 1973. Bangladesh's government countered with its own insurgency measures and a military occupation that perpetrated human rights abuses, including arbitrary arrests and murders, arson, rape, forced evictions, and occupation of tribal lands. In the 1960s thousands of Jumma people were displaced when the Kaptai hydroelectric dam flooded one-10th of the CHT and 40 percent of its arable land. Thousands fled to India's eastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Tripura, where they faced discrimination. More contentious was the state-sponsored settlement in the 1970s of hundreds of thousands of Bengali Muslims from the crowded delta regio into the CHT -- often, on Jumma-owned land. As intended, this radically altered its demography, further alienated the tribes, and led to attacks between the two groups. Bangladesh's government signed a peace accord with the Jana Samhati Samiti (JSS) -- the People's United Party in the CHT -- on December 2, 1997, but it was not constitutionally guaranteed and did not include the withdrawal of the military, reverse the illegal settlement of tribal lands, or investigate the human rights abuses. It did, however, all for the return of 50,000 refugees from Tripura. It provided for CHT's three districts to be administered by a Hill Council under a Tribal Affairs Ministry and for a Land Commission to resolve land ownership disputes. JSS and Shanti Bahini members were granted amnesty, but the ban on the JSS remained. Although a major step toward peace, the accord did not address the core issues of the conflict and continued negotiations are necessary.

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