Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, popularly known as Shantu Larma, has warned the Bangladesh government that the hill regions will be engulfed in unrest unless it fully honours the 1997 Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord.
Larma and the other members of the armed Shanti Bahini militia laid down their weapons on Dec 2, 1997 and signed the deal.
The Awami League led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was in power at the time.
According to a bdnews24.com report, the agreement has not been implemented in full, according to hill leaders. On Friday, Hasina gave assurances the situation would be remedied.
A day later, on the 20th anniversary of the agreement, Larma, president of United People’s Party of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, accused the government of neglecting the situation.
“In 1997, the prime minister signed the agreement herself,” said Larma. “There is a vast difference between her statements at the time and what she says nowadays. Now we find, in her words, the deprivation, exploitation and oppression of the hill people.”
The Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tract Affairs is ‘cheating’ the people of the peace accord, he said.
“After this it seems we are still under the same kind of foreign rule as in the Pakistan era. We never wanted this. It was said this region would be governed as a special region. The implementation of the agreement has been two-faced and deceptive.”
“The hills will burn unless the agreement is implemented in full,” he warned the government.
“If the government uses arms to repress the rights of the hill people, then they will have to respond by taking up arms,” the former guerrilla leader said.
There is no security in the lives of the hill people because the government has not taken action to settle land disputes, prevent military rule and preserve the education of hill people cultures, said Larma.
Over 500,000 ‘outsiders’ have ‘illegally’ occupied land in the hill areas with ‘support from the military’, he claimed.
Larma also expressed his anger that the Chittagong Region Council law and infrastructural development had not been implemented.
“We have repeatedly told the government to change several legal provisions, but they have ignored us. We have repeatedly said that everything can be implemented with the support of the United People’s Party of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. We are ready to help. But they are not listening.”
Regional councils for the three hill districts can be formed after a separate voter list was formed for voters in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, he said.