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Massacres, structural genocide and ethnocide in the CHT-1

by | Jun 1, 2021 | বিশেষ প্রতিবেদন, মানবাধিকার

“We want the soil but not the people of the CHT”

There is little or nothing known about the Massacres in CHT. Due to military censorship they are unknown to the world. (“Massacres in Chittagong Hill Tracts”, 1984, P1141; Arens and Chakma 2002, p.24). Censorship has been enforced again in 2015 (Al Jazeera, 2015). Government prohibited individuals and organizations involved with research and human rights campaign talking to the Jumma people of CHT. Foreign visitors are not permitted to talk to any indigenous person without permission from the security authority.

The CHT area is heavily militarized and no foreigner is allowed to visit without prior permission from the security authority. Recent publications from indigenous and human rights organizations; for example, IWGIA, Survival International, Amnesty Int. and Amnesty Int., and also some Academics and Researchers (Mohsin 2003, Braithwaite & Costa, B. 2012, Guhathakurta 2010, Arens & Chakma 2010; Chakma B. 2010; Tripura and Naher 2010; Mohsin A. 1996 ) acknowledge that the CHT people have been decimated and that gross human rights violations occurred, including massacres, rape, plundering, and land confiscation, resulting in the depopulation of the indigenous land.

The persecution of the Jumma people executed in the name of counter-insurgency operation has been summarized in the Dictionary of Genocide (Totten & Bartrop 2008, pp. 69-70).

The first International Commission, established to investigate allegations of human rights violation by the Bangladesh government,t came to visit CHT in 1990. They reported that

It has become extremely difficult for the hill people to retain their own specific identities and has even made the possibility of physical survival perilous. The conclusion of the Commission is that a genocidal process still threatens the hill people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. (CHT Commission 1991, p.47)

Genocide scholars and genocide literatures that compile accounts of genocidal massacres have described the CHT case. Many publications that record the history of genocide, describe the CHT massacres and the ongoing persecution of the Jumma people as genocidal and part of a strategy of ethnic cleansing. (Jonassohn & Björnson1998, p.257; Arens 2011, p. 134; Totten & Bartrop 2008, p. 69; Totten, S., Parsons & Hitchcock 2002, 67). Levene (1999) argued that the pattern of massacres and persecution of the Jumma people encompass a genocidal process which he characterized as “creeping genocide”.

In his analysis, he underpinned political-economic forces as the principal reason the continuing genocidal process in the CHT; Bangladesh’s poor economy and its huge population need the land and resources of CHT on order to keep developing its economy. The process of capitalistic development and so called modernization makes the indigenous people economically marginalized and vulnerable in the market based economy.

A modern neo-liberal economy destroys the indigenous economy and therefore the indigenous way of living. Eventually the postcolonial nation state induces devastating consequences, by mainstreaming the indigenous socio-economic system. The Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crime against Humanity (2016) addresses the CHT case as a developmental genocide.

Examples of developmental genocide can be found throughout the world. One striking example of the unbroken relation of colonial intervention, the project of development, and the resultant developmental genocide occurred in the Chittagong Hill Tracts after Bangladesh achieved independence in 1971. (Developmental genocide, 2005, p.2)

The time when the Commission found that “a genocidal process still threatens the hill people”, several reports on mass human rights violation had already been published by Amnesty International, Survival International and IWGIA.

Source: Survival Int. News10, 1985.

Richard A. Gray, the Senior editor at Pierian Press gave a comprehensive review of his study about the genocide in CHT (1994, pp. 59-78): Due to military censorship and a media blackout, the global community did not know anything about the persecution of the Jumma people. A small indigenous population of 600 000, Jummas living in the remote forest tracts, could not draw attention from the outside World.

Referring to the reports from Survival International and IWGIA, Gray gave us a comparative analysis of how the mainstream Western media remained silent with regard to genocide in the CHT. The correlation between Bangladesh’s overpopulation and its underdevelopment, with its continued genocidal process in the CHT becomes visible from his writing.

The motive behind the mass killing, extortion, rape and repression of the Jumma was explained in his writing; his essay reveals the policy of depopulating the indigenous land and then populating it with Bengali settlers.

The Bangladeshi government took the most brutal actions to eliminate the indigenous Jumma people. A commander of Bangladesh Army was reported to have vowed in the late 70s when persecution started with a military campaign, “We want the soil but not the people of the CHT”. (Burger & Whitaker 1984 p. 61; Jonassohn & Björnson1998, p.257;)

The security forces along with the paramilitary forces committed between 11 and 14 massacres between 1976 and 1993. (D’ Costa 2016; Guhathakurta 2010, Arens & Chakma 2010; Chakma B. 2010; Tripura and Naher 2010; Levene 1999, p. 344; Arens 97; p 1813) The number of massacres and therefore the number of casualties varies in the different accounts and literary sources.

For example, different scholars have indexed to the following different massacres and casualties:

Time Place Death House burnt
April, 1979 Kanungopara 25 80
March, 1980 Kaukhali More than 300 600
June, 1981 Matiranga-Tabalchari About 500 100
May, 1984 Bhushanchara More than 100 400
May, 1986 Panchari-Dighinala-Khagrachari-Matiranga 500 2000
August, 1988 Bagaichari 38 250
May, 1989 Langadu 36 Hundreds
February, 1992 Logang Several hundreds 550
November, 1993 (during the cease fire period) Niniarchar 29 25
March, 1995 Bandarban   300

 

Table1: Source: Arens, J. (1997). Winning Hearts and Minds: Foreign Aid and Militarisation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Economic and Political Weekly, 1811-1819.

Place Date Death
Mubachari 15 October 1979 Number unknown
Kaukhali-kalampati 25 March 1980 200-300
Barkal 31 May 1984 110
Panchari 1 May 1986 Number unknown
Matiranga May 1986 70
Commillatilla/ Taindong 18-19 May 1986 200
Hirachar, Sabotoli, K’chari, Pablakhali 8-10 August 1988 Over 100
Langudu 4 May 1989 Over 30
Malya 2 February 1992 30
Logang 10 April 1992 138
Naniarchar 17 November 1993 100

 

Table-2: Source: Chakma, B. (2010). The post-colonial state and minorities: ethnocide in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh. Commonwealth & comparative politics48(3), 281-300.

Almost all the massacres followed the same pattern of attack. Most of them were reprisal attacks against the guerrillas’ operation and were carried out by the Bangladesh Army.

Whilst all the evidence corroborates the fact that massacres took place, the exact factual data regarding the number of massacres, rapes and casualties are varied. Dr. Bina D’ Costa, an Academia of the Australian National University compiled the following summary in 2016:

Date Place Death and house burnt
15 October 1979 Mubachari Unknown
25 March 1980 Kaukhali-Kalampati 300 Jummas killed
26 June 1981 Banraibari-Beltali-Belchari Hundreds of jummas murdered.
19 September 1981 Telafang-Ashalong-Tabalchari Hundreds of jummas murdered.
June-August 1983 Golakpatimachara-Machyachara-Tarabanchari 800 jummas killed
31 May 1984 Bhushanchara-Barkal Hundreds of jummas killed. many women gang-raped and later shot dead
1 May 1986 Panchari Hundreds of jummas killed and injured by the Bangladeshi army; 80,000 (government estimate 50,000-70,000) jummas fled across the border to India
May 1986 Matirangra At least 70 jumma civilians gunned down by Bangladeshi army
18-19 May 1986 Commillatilla, Taindong 200 jummas fired upon by the Bangladesh Rifles while fleeing across the border to India
4 May 1989 Langadu 40 jummas murdered
8,9,10 August 1988 Hirachar, Sarbotali-Khagrachari-Pablakhali Hundreds of jumma civilians killed
2 February 1992 Malya 30 jummas murdered
10 April 1992 Logang 138 jummas killed
17 November 1993 Naniachar 29-100 jummas killed, 25 houses burnt

Source: Costa, B.D’ (2016). Journey through Shadows, Gender Justice in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. in H. Hossain, & A. Mohsin, (Eds.), Of the Nation Born: The Bangladesh Papers. (p.246). Zubaan. New Delhi, India.

Costa gathered the data from the Anti-Slavery International (G.B.)  and Survival International.

Richard Gray (1994, p.61) noted from the report of IWGIA, that:

As of late 1987, IWGIA estimated the number of indigenous peoples killed by the Bengladeshi army or Bengali settlers at 200,000, one-third of the 600,000 that occupied the CHT prior to the beginning of the genocide in 1976.

The first massacre of 1976 is rarely cited in most of the writings. Evidence about the early massacres is available in an internet archive (The Fourth World Journal-archived by the National Library of New Zealand), in a report presented in an international forum titled “The Crisis of the Chittagong Hill Tracts: A report to the Annual Meeting of the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace, Seoul, South Korea, 1985”.

At this forum, the Jumma representative reported that the Bangladeshi security forces destroyed Jumma villages and killed over 1000 Indigenous people in the Madhu and Thanchi areas of CHT from November 1976 to January 1977. Their lands were distributed to the Bengalis and thousands of Jumma women were raped. About 15 000 Jummas took shelter in Myanmar and in nearby forests.

 All the reports published from various sources expose the incidences of massacres, rape, rampage, forceful eviction and land grabbing committed by the security forces and the Bengali settlers. Every attack on the Jumma people is associated with rampage, mass assault, arson, loot, mass killing, gang rape, especially the rape of underage girls.

Like in many genocide history, inevitably girls and women have always been the first victims of sexual violence. Jumma women have been victimized through sexual violence since Bangladesh’s liberation war in 1971. But it has been worse since the period of Jumma insurgency in 1976, when a huge number of women and girls were raped and gang raped.

Most of the rapes were committed by the security force personnel along with the settlers. (Braithwaite and D’ Costa, p.16) During the period of 1991-1993, 94 per cents rape of the Jumma women and girls that were reported, were committed by the security personnel, and 40 per cents of the victims were under eighteen years of age. (Mohsin 2003, p.54).

According to the author, rape was used as a counterinsurgency tactic in CHT and the perpetrators have never been arrested or charged with attacking, raping, looting or killing the Jumma people. In 1981 the Bangladesh government enacted the ‘Disturbed Areas Bill’ that gave the power to kill anyone ‘suspected of anti-state activity’. (Gray 1994, p. 67; Arens 2011).

This indemnity act gave even the lower ranked security personnel the ‘license to kill.”  The CHT has become the haven of the rapists (Survival 2014) since the time of Pakistani and subsequently Bengali colonization. Dr. D’ Costa in an interview with a representative from an indigenous women’s organization, conceded that,

Before 1980 we never heard of rape incidents. With the increase in the number of army posts and Bengali settlements, rape of women and children have increased, with some alarming events of Pahari (hill) girls aged between 5-8 years of age being raped (Braithwaite & D’ Costa 2012, p.16)

The process of structural genocide and Ethnocide

 

In the wake of Second World War, Raphael Lemkin a Polish jurist coined the term ‘genocide’ in 1944. He combined Greek words ‘genos’ (race, tribe) and the latin word ‘cide’ (killing). By genocide, he meant “the destruction of a nation or of an ethnic group”.

His concept of genocide encompasses not just massacre or mass killing, but

the coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of the essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be the disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion and the economic existence of the national groups, and the destruction of personal security, liberty, health, dignity and even the lives of individuals belonging to such groups. (Lemkin 1944, p. 79)

As a result of the relentless campaigning by Lemkin, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG) was held and the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on 9 December 1948. 147 countries have ratified the convention, including Bangladesh. It defines genocide based on Lemkin’s concept. The convention defines the term in article II clearly that:

 

Genocide means any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about   its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group (United Nations General Assembly, 9 December 1948.)

 

Bernard Nietschmann of the University of California (Berkeley)stated succinctly that

The Bengali military-assisted invasion of the Chittagong Hill nations is the world’s most clear-cut example of genocide in practice today.  Undeniably hungry Bengalis feed on food grown on land drenched in Chakma blood, Mro blood, Marma blood, Tripura blood.

 

According to the original definition of genocide, the Bangladesh State had been committing genocide in a structural manner. Professor Bhumitra Chakma (2010) explained the condition of CHT as a case of ethnocide. Lemkin used genocide and ethnocide interchangeably. If we consider a classic definition of ethnocide (Lukunka, 2007, p.3)

to describe the concept of ethnocentrism exerted by one group and the feelings of superiority that can lead to the destruction of the cultures of others then we can we can of course see the real picture of ethnocide in CHT.  Here the emphasis on the very existence of a culture sometimes may create confusion. Many authors use ethnocide and cultural genocide synonymously.

However, neither the convention nor any of the UN Human Rights declarations has mentioned ethnocide in their official documentation. Comparative explanation of cultural genocide, Bangladeshi cultural assimilation policies in relation to ethnocide or structural genocide will be discussed in the next part.

 

References

Arens, J. (1997). Winning Hearts and Minds: Foreign Aid and Militarisation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Economic and Political Weekly, 1811-1819.

Arens, J. (2011). Genocide in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh. Genocide of Indigenous People: A Critical Biographical Review (Transaction Books, 2010) pp, 117-119.

Arens, J., & Chakma, K. N. (2002). Bangladesh: Indigenous Struggle in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Searching for Peace in Central and South Asia.

Boyden J., Berry J.D., Feeny T., & Hart J. (2002). Children Affected by Armed Conflict in South Asia: A review of trends and issues identified through secondary research. RSC Working Paper No. 7. International Development Centre. University of Oxford.

Braithwaite, John, and Bina D’Costa. 2012. Cascades of Violence in Bangladesh. Peacebuilding Compared Working Paper, Australian National University.

Burger, J., & Whitaker, A. (1984). The Chittagong Hill Tracts: militarization, oppression and the hill tribes. London: Anti-slavery Society, c1984.

CHT Commission. (1991). Life is not ours: Land and human rights in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh. Denmark and Amsterdam: IWGIA and Organizing Committee, Chittagong Hill Trans.

D’ Costa, B. (2016). Journey through Shadows, Gender Justice in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. in

  1. Hossain, & A. Mohsin, (Eds.), Of the Nation Born: The Bangladesh Papers. (pp. 234-279). Zubaan. New Delhi, India. Retrieved from http://ir.bellschool.anu.edu.au/experts-publications/publications/4023/journeys-through-shadows-gender-justice-chittagong-hill.

D’Costa, B. (2014). Marginalisation and Impunity – Violence Against Women and Girls in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission (CHTC), IWGIA, and Bangladesh Indigenous Women’s Network.

 

“Developmental Genocide.” Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity Retrieved November 27, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/international/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/developmental-genocide

 

Dewan R.S. (1985, July 21). The Crisis of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. A report to the Annual Meeting of the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace, Seoul, South Korea. Retrieved from http://www.nzdl.org/gsdlmod?e=d-00000-00—off-0ipc–00-0—-0-10-0—0—0direct-10—4——-0-1l–11-en-50—20-about—00-0-1-00-0–4—-0-0-11-10-0utfZz-8-00&cl=CL1.3&d=HASH010ca44fa085125e1a66c0a3&x=1

 

Jonassohn, K. & Björnson, K. S. (1998). Genocide and gross human rights violations: In Comparative Perspective. Transaction Publishers.

Lemkin, R. (1944). Axis rule in occupied Europe. [electronic resource]: laws of occupation, analysis of government, proposals for redress. Washington: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Division of International Law, 1944.

Levene, M. (1999). The Chittagong Hill Tracts: A case study in the political economy of’creeping’genocide. Third World Quarterly20(2), 339-369.

Mohaiemen, N. (2010). Between ashes and hope: Chittagong hill tracts in the blind spot of Bangladesh nationalism/edited by Naeem Mohaiemen; translations & additional editing, Hana Shams Ahmed…[et al. Drishtipat Writers’ Collective.

Mohsin, A. (2003). The Chittagong hill tracts, Bangladesh : on the difficult road to peace / Amena Mohsin. Boulder, Colo. : Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2003

 

Nietschmann, B. (1985) Indonesia, Bangladesh: disguised invasion of indigenous nations & third world colonial expansion, Fourth World Journal, 1(2), retrieved from The Fourth World Documentation Project. Retrieved from http://www.nzdl.org/gsdlmod?e=d-00000-00—off-0ipc–00-0—-0-10-0—0—0direct-10—4——-0-1l–11-en-50—20-about—00-0-1-00-0–4—-0-0-11-10-0utfZz-8-00&cl=CL1.6&d=HASH2b3066ebd8a96db2faab47&x=1

 

 

 

Gray, R. A. (1994). Genocide in the Chittagong Hill tracts of Bangladesh. Reference Services Review22(4), 59-79.

Schimmel, J. (2005). Killing Without Murder: Aboriginal Assimilation Policy as Genocide.

Massacres in Chittagong Hill Tracts. (1984, July 21). Economic and Political Weekly. Vol. 19, No. 29, p. 1141

Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh – rapists act with impunity. (2014, April 3). Survival international. Retrieved from http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10141

Sattar M. (2015, June 24). Bangladesh indigenous ban ‘worse than apartheid’ Government has banned residents and foreigners from unsupervised talks with people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Al Jazeera. Retrieved from http://www.aljazeera.com/blogs/asia/2015/06/bangladesh-indigenous-ban-worse-apartheid-150616134617804.html

Totten, S., & Bartrop, P. R. (2008). Dictionary of Genocide: AL (Vol. 1). ABC-CLIO.

Totten, S., Parsons, W., & Hitchcock, R. (2002). Confronting Genocide and Ethnocide of Indigenous Peoples: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Definition, Intervention, Prevention, and Advocacy. In Roth K. (Author) & Hinton A. (Ed.), Annihilating Difference: The Anthropology of Genocide (pp. 54-92). University of California Press. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.ezp.lib.unimelb.edu.au/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pncxp.8

United Nations’ General Assembly. (1948, December 9). UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Geneva: United Nations Resolution 260 (III) A, December 9, 1948), Article 2. Retrieved from http://un-documents.net/a3r260.htm

 

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