Ansar-VDP: Role for peace and development in Chittagong Hilltracts

--Lutfar Rahman

DD. Lotfer

The Kaptai Lake, the largest manmade lake in the country, the keokaradong or bijoy; the zenith of the country, the residence of the 13 small tribal ethnic minority, the hilly terrain  area and the abundant of resources are the prime identity of chittagong hill tracts (cht) area in  the country. The attractive eye sight, the diversity of population and culture are the prime consideration of the area attracts the visitors and foreigners  here.

The Chittagong Hilltracts (Hill Chadigang As Per Chakma Language) comprise an area of 13,295 square km in southeastern bangladesh and border india and myanmar (burma). They formed a single district of Bangladesh until 1984, when they were divided into three districts: Khagrachari, Rangamati, and Bandarban. Topographically, the Chittagong hill tracts are the only very high hilly area in Bangladesh. Its former name is korpus mahal (the land of corpus cotton)

According to the census of 2011, the population is 15,98,291, of which  around 52% are tribal peoples and the rest were from other communities. The tribal peoples, collectively known as the jumma, include the chakma, marma, tripura, tanchangya, chak, pankho, mru, murung, bawm, lushai, khyang, gurkha, assamese, santal, and khumi.

The population of the three districts (zilas) totalled 1,587,000 in the provisional returns of the census of 2011. About 53% of the population are tribal peoples and mainly followers of theravada buddhism; 47% of the inhabitants are  non-tribal banglees. among the population 47% bengalis, 26% chakmas, 12% marmas, 7% tripura’s, 2% mro, 2% tanchangas and others 4%.

History or Ethnological Aspects  of Chittagong Hilltracts

Some century ago, the various  tribal ethnic people crossed the boarder of arakan  and started to live in the cht region. Historically, the area is resourceful and at the grasp of the ruler. In 1600 ad, the tripura tribal people crossed  the indian territory and  started to live in the khagrachhari region. The history of chakma people is not defined but as per pouranik mythology, the buddhist prince bijoygiri moved towards the east from the piedmont of the himalayan range and crossing the river meghna, he conquered the arakan empire and the  chakma history started over the region.  Due to communal pressure of mighty muslim and hindu ruler, the minor buddhist people started to live in the hilly cht area with some stress and fear.

In 1660, there is a fight between the burma and arakan forces in which the chakma people started to live beside the river naf of cht area.  From 1666 ad to 1724 ad, the mughal jaminder ruled the area and their time was not in peace. In 1710 ad, the nawab handed over the area to the east india company. The company deployed two kings named chakma king sher daulat khan and bomang king poang  to collect the revenue of the area. In 1860 ad, for the administra-tive purpose and the better control, the area are divided into two parts one is Chittagong and another is Chittagong hill tracts. In 1881, chakma circle of Rangamati, bomang circle of Bandarban and mong circle of ramgarh area declared.

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As per Wikipedia, “when the 1901 census was taken there were no towns, and 211 of the villages had populations of less than 500 apiece; only one exceeded 2,000. The population density, excluding the area of uninhabited forest (1,385 square miles), was 33 persons per square mile. There was a little immigration from Chittagong, and a few persons had emigrated to tripura. The proportion of females to every 100 males was only 90 in the district-born, and 83 in the total population. Buddhists numbered 83,000, hindus 36,000, and muslims 5,000.

The Chittagong Hilltracts, combining three hilly districts of Bangladesh, were once known as korpos mohol, the name used until 1860. In 1860 it was annexed by the british and was made an administrative district of bengal. As of today, it is a  region within Bangladesh comprising the districts chengmi (khagrachari district), gongkabor (Rangamati district), and arvumi (Bandarban district).”

In 1868, Chandroghona became the district headquarters of Rangamati hill districts which shifted to Rangamati ( the present) in 1869. In 1900, “the hill tracts manual act 1900” passed to rule over the area. When the 1901 census was taken there were no towns, and 211 of the villages had populations of less than 500 apiece; only one exceeded 2,000. The population density, excluding the area of uninhabited forest (1,385 square miles), was 33 persons per square mile. There was a little immigration from Chittagong, and a few persons had emigrated to Tripura. The proportion of females to every 100 males was only 90 in the district-born, and 83 in the total population. Buddhists numbered 83,000, hindus 36,000, and muslims 5,000. In 1954, the inhabitants of this area acquired the rights of  polling ( gonovote).

As per Wikipedia, “The last viceroy, lord Mountbatten, who considered the grant of independence to India as his act of crowning glory, was ambitious to achieve this “superhuman” task in record time. He said that before accepting the post of viceroy he had told king George vi, who was his cousin: “i am prepared to accept the job only on one condition. India must be granted independence by July, 1948 and i will not stay there a day longer”. Mountbatten came to India in march, 1947 and this left him just about sixteen months to complete such a gigantic task. In reality, he achieved it in five months, on 15 august 1947 for which he was given so much credit.

Originally, the award of the boundary commission was to be made public on 13 august. But Mountbatten was reluctant to make this public. According to Philip Ziegler, the author of Mountbatten’s official biography, the case of the Chittagong hill tracts was uppermost in Mountbatten’s mind.”

After division and independence of India and Pakistan, the Cht became the part of east Pakistan (present Bangladesh).

Insurgency at cht: the conflict in the Chittagong hill tracts dates back to when Bangladesh was the eastern wing of Pakistan. Widespread resentment occurred over the displacement of as many as 100,000 of the native peoples due to the construction of the Kaptai dam in 1962. The displaced did not receive compensation from the government and many thousands fled to india. After the creation of Bangladesh in 1971, representatives of the Chittagong hill tracts such as the Chakma politician Manabendra Narayan larma sought autonomy and recognition of the rights of the peoples of the region. Larma and other hill tracts representatives protested the draft of the constitution of bangladesh, which did not recognise the ethnic identity and culture of the non-Bengali peoples of Bangladesh.

The government policy recognised only the Bengali culture and the Bengali language and designating all citizens of Bangladesh as Bengalis. In talks with a hill tracts delegation led by Manabendra Narayan larma, the country’s founding leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman insisted that the ethnic groups of the hill tracts adopt the Bengali identity. Sheikh Mujib is also reported to have threatened to forcibly settle Bengalis in the hill tracts to reduce the native peoples into a minority.

Consequently, larma and others founded the Parbatya Chhatagram jana shanghatti samiti (pcjss) as a united political organization of all native peoples and tribes in 1973. The armed wing of the pcjss, the shanti bahini was organized to resist government policies.[14][16] the crisis aggravated during the emergency rule of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who had banned all political parties other than his Baksal and the successive military regimes that followed after his assassination in 1975. In 1977, the Shanti Bahini launched their first attack on a Bangladesh army convoy.

The Shanti Bahini divided its area of operations into zones and raised forces from the native people, who were formally trained. The Shanti Bahini attacked Bengali police and soldiers, government offices and personnel and the Bengali settlers in the region. The group also attacked any native believed to be opposing it and supporting the government. The military of Bangladesh, Bangladesh police, Bengali settlers, the Shanti Bahini and its supporters have been suspected of committing human rights abuses and ethnic cleansing.

Movements for peace at Cht

at the outbreak of the insurgency, the government of Bangladesh deployed the army to begin counter-insurgency operations. The then-president of Bangladesh Ziaur Rahman created a Chittagong hill tracts development board under an army general in order to address the socio-economic needs of the region, but the entity proved unpopular and became a source of antagonism and mistrust amongst the native people against the government. The government failed to address the long-standing issue of the displacement of people, numbering an estimated 100,000 caused by the construction of the Kaptai dam in 1962. Displaced peoples did not receive compensation and more than 40,000 Chakma Tribals had fled to India. In the 1980s, the government began settling Bengalis in the region, causing the eviction of many natives and a significant alteration of demographics. Having constituted only 11.6% of the regional population in 1974, the number of Bengalis grew by 1991 to constitute 48.5% of the regional population.

In 1989, the government of then-president Hossain Mohammad Ershad passed the district council act created three tiers of local government councils to devolve powers and responsibilities to the repres-entatives of the native peoples, but the councils were rejected and opposed by the pcjss.

Movements for peace at Cht by Ansar-VDP: to cope up with insurgency at any where in the world, army and para- militia force deployment is a common step as counter insurgency operation. Bangladesh is not the exception of the fact. With the inception of Bangladesh army deployment  at Cht, Bangladesh Ansar-VDP deployments in a common issue since 1976 ad. To support the Bangladesh army, police and border guard of Bangladesh (BGB) at Cht, hill Ansar and hill VDP members are directly participating the insurgency operation by giving information for intelligence and pacification programs. Besides, the battalion Ansars are directly in various operational activities such as short route patrol (SRP) long route patrol (LRP). Besides, ambush, hide out and Recky is a practice matter of daily life to the battalion Ansars. At “operation Dabanol” and “operation Uttaran”, many Ansar members died during operation with the Bangladesh army and BGB at Cht. 16 battalions with 6500 members are deployment at Cht for peace and prosperity of Cht.

Hill Ansars are the another factor for peace at Cht. There are 600 specialized trained Ansars for smooth functioning the hill administration.

Hill VDP members are the prime factor for pacification program at cht. There are around 7500 trained hill VDP members deployed at Cht as a part of pacification  program as a supporting force from the inhabitants of the Cht. They are closely related to administration support of army, BGB, police and battalion Ansar.

Steps towards socio-economic development by Ansar-VDP  Bangladesh Ansar-VDP has acquired a great success for socio-economic development at the Cht. If we consider about the socio-economic Development of the Cht, we may consider the micro impact the organization for social and economic development through training and counseling for the better life since the foundation of the organization. To make the members of the organization trained and socially developed, it is continuing the various training and facilities day after day. It has trained it’s members at social awareness, women empowerment, employ-ment at home and abroad, leadership practice, technical and vocational sectors etc at cht. On an average around 6000 members of cht area are participating at various training courses every year to change their livelihood and status. In the fiscal year 2013-2014, the remarkable training for social and economic development are village training, Upazillas and district rally, Ansar training, leadership training, computer and mobile training, technical training, beautician training, garments training, motor driving training etc. For the members  of the organization at Cht.

Conclusion

for peace and prosperity at the green hilly area of Cht, Bangladesh Ansar and village defense force is a vivid name, by rendering its support and service since inception. Each and every corner of Cht believes in steps towards development through Ansar-VDP. Either for peace or for socio-economic development, it has an effect. It is for peace, discipline and development of  Cht. Bangladesh Ansar and village defense force is a now largest discipline force in the country working at Cht with the country wide for the sake of independence and sovereignty. At Cht, it is a successful partner with Bangladesh army, police and BGB.