to the people of the Indian states of Tripura, Mizoram and Arunachal in general, and the Chakmas of these states in particular, not to help Jana Samhati Samiti (Santu Larma) against United Peoples’ Democratic Front (UPDF)
WE, on behalf of the people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, would like to extend our greetings to you. We also take this opportunity to congratulate the newly elected members of the Chakma Autonomous District Council (CADC) in Mizoram. It is our hope that with their able leadership the CADC will turn into a strong and vibrant organization, fulfilling the hopes and aspirations of its electorate.
We recall with gratitude the support the people of India in general, and the people of Tripura and Mizoram in particular, have given to the cause of the Jumma people. We thank the government of India, the government of Tripura and its people for providing shelter to the hapless Jumma refugees, who had to flee their homes to avoid persecution at home.
We are making this appeal at a critical time of our national life. As you know, the Jumma people of the CHT have been fighting for their rights for a long time. In 1997, the Jana Samhati Samiti (the party is now divided into two factions, one of which is led by Santu Larma) signed an agreement with the government of Bangladesh, in which the key demands of the Jumma people remained unaddressed. The UPDF and its front organisations expressed serious reservations about the said accord and vowed to continue the fight.
On the other hand, as a reward for compromising the key demands of the Jumma people, the government of Bangladesh picked up some of the leaders of the Jana Samhati Samiti for the posts of the Regional Council, a toothless government body set up pursuant to the CHT accord. Thus the JSS became a part of the government of Bangladesh, culminating the process of its metamorphosis from a pro-people party into a government collaborator. Even then, if the story had ended there, it would be good for all of us and we would not have to write this appeal to you.
But the JSS (Santu) would not brook any criticism of its misdeeds. It began hounding those who dared to offer critiques of the accord (but they did not and do not include the Bengali settlers who opposed the accord from their own selfish perspectives) with tacit support of the government and the army. The violent fratricidal conflict that is now raging in the CHT was started with the killing of Pradeep Lal Chakma and Kusum Priya Chakma by Santu Larma loyalists on 4 April 1998 in Panchari, Khagrachari. The crime of these two promising young leaders was that they dared to point out the shortcomings of the accord in public and supported the views expressed by UPDF leaders. This gruesome murder was soon followed by similar attacks, and in the last 15 years since then, this enforced conflict has claimed the lives of over 250 members and supporters of our party.
Compromise deal and its violation by Santu group
BEFORE the signing of the accord, the JSS did not bother to consult the Jumma people, not even the leaders of the Hill Students Counicl, Hill Peoples Council and Hill Women’s Federation, who would later form UPDF in December 1998. After the signing of the accord, when violent attacks on UPDF ultimately led to a mutual conflict, members of the Jumma civil society and the international community, including the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), made repeated appeals to Santu Larma to stop the violence and find a negotiated settlement with the UPDF. Many distinguished persons from home and abroad offered to mediate between the two parties. Among them was a prominent Chakma leader from Mizoram, who, back in 2002, wrote to the leaders of the both parties to offer them to help facilitate dialogues. While UPDF welcomed his and other’s offer of mediation, the JSS remained stubborn in its policy of eliminating its political opponents through civil war.
The JSS mustered all its resources, including its party apparatus and its easy access to the media, to mount attacks on UPDF from all directions. In an interview with Jugantor, a Bengali daily, on 13 November 2000, JSS President Santu Larma virtually ordered his rank and file to kill and maim UPDF members. In reply to a question whether he would face UPDF politically, Mr. Larma categorically said:
“No, not politically; they (UPDF) should be strangled to death so that they can’t do anything, their hands should be smashed so that they can’t write, their legs should be broken so that they can’t walk, and their eyes should be gouged out so that they can’t see. Those who support the accord and work for the people will do this job.”
No wonder that with such fascist mentality and a policy of aggressive confrontation, unity and solidarity among the Jumma people will suffer the most. In contrast to the JSS policy, UPDF continued to appeal for unity and an end to the conflict through peaceful means. This made a positive impact on a section of the JSS, who ultimately broke away from Santu Larma to form a new party in 2006.
It was in the backdrop of an imminent split that Santu Larma approached UPDF with an offer of talks, which UPDF seized immediately. Between January and May 2006, at least three rounds of talks were held between the two parties, resulting in an agreement to cease attacking each other. But to our utter surprise and disappointment, the JSS (Santu) violated the terms of the agreement barely one week after the third and last round of the talks. It should be noted here that the talks were held at the request of the JSS and on its own terms.
However, the violation of the agreement by Santu group met with serious resistance, forcing it to withdraw from Khagrachari and most areas of Rangamati district. Finding itself in a precarious situation bordering on total destruction, Santu group made a frantic effort to reach a new agreement with UPDF. In the greater interest of the people, we agreed to negotiate once again and a new agreement was reached in the middle of 2007.
UPDF used the peace gained through the agreement to organise its resources to direct against land grabbing practices by Bengali settlers that had become rampant and widespread at the time. In contrast, Santu group used the breathing space it gained to replenish its losses, to organise military training for new recruits and to procure arms and ammunitions. And, when Santu group finished rearming by the middle of the year 2009, it threw the agreement out of the window again and renewed its armed offensive against UPDF. A number of attempts have been made to bring Santu Larma back to the negotiating table since then, but to no avail.
Movement for full implementation of the CHT accord: long on talk, short on action
THE leaders of Santu Larma faction of the JSS are never tired of talking about the need for a movement for full implementation of the CHT accord. On several occasions, Santu Larma himself pledged to shed his blood for the full implementation of the accord. He even warned the government that he would return to guerrilla war to get the accord implemented. But the fact is that his threats have never been translated into action. In the last fifteen years or so the JSS (Santu) has failed abysmally to launch even a semblance of a movement for full implementation of the accord. This is despite the fact that UPDF pledged its full support for such a movement. This goes a long way to prove that Santu Larma and his party are not interested in the implementation of the accord, what they are interested in is the perks and privileges offered by the government. While Santu group continues to shy away from launching a campaign about the CHT accord, it intensifies attacks on UPDF. Santu group makes peace with the government of Bangladesh and the military, and makes war with its own people. Santu group hobnobs with the enemies of the Jumma people, but kills its own brothers, its possible allies.
Who gain from Santu Larma’s policy of continuing intra-Jumma conflict? Even a child can easily answer this: it is the government of Bangladesh, the army and the illegal Bengali settlers who gain from this self-destructive policy of the JSS (Santu). Therefore, it is our conclusion that the party which refuses to submit to the will of the people, the party which continues to wage war against its own people and the party which serves the interest not of the Jumma people, but of the government of Bangladesh can have no right to represent the Jumma people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
What you can do
TO keep its killing machine going, the Santu group needs arms and ammunitions, and it ensures their supply through purchases from across the border. It has a few bases in Mizoram and Tripura from where it procures weapons and mounts attacks on UPDF. They use these arms and ammunitions not against the government or the army, but to kill their own brothers. Therefore, if anyone helps Santu group procure weapons, he or she actually helps it kill innocent people. If anyone gives support to Santu group, he or she actually helps the intra-Jumma conflict to continue.
Therefore it is our hope that you will come forward and help us in our search for an end to the bloodshed in CHT. We fervently appeal to you to take the following actions:
- to refrain from providing support to the JSS (Santu group).
- to refrain from allowing Sanu group to set up bases in your areas.
- to raise the issue of the fratricidal conflict with Santu group men and ask them to stop it.
- to strengthen the forces of unity by supporting UPDF.
Rejection of Santu group policy
THE Santu group’s policy of fratricidal conflict has been rejected by 99% of the Jumma people in the CHT. There is hardly any Jumma who does not want to see an end to the conflict. JSS is now divided into two factions – one is led by Santu Larma and the other by Sudhasindhu Khisha and Rupayon Dewan. The later has realized the futility of killing its own brothers. It is only Santu Larma’s faction which is still continuing the killings. But he and his party members continue to face criticism for this. Most of his old comrades have either left him or become inactive. Shorn of public support, he now relies solely on his armed groups for survival.
In this circumstance, if arms supplies to Santu group are stopped, then it will have a profound impact on the ground situation. For lack of arms and ammunitions, it will be unable to continue with its policy of fratricidal conflict and will be forced to find a negotiated settlement with the UPDF.
We hope you will respond positively to our appeal and contribute to our efforts to find an end to the ongoing fratricidal conflict in the CHT.
Should you wish to know more, please feel free to contact us at: [email protected]
August 1, 2013
United Peoples’ Democratic Front (UPDF)
Published by Publication and Publicity Department, central committee, United Peoples’ Democratic Front (UPDF), Chittagong Hill Tracts.