United Peoples Democratic Front
The Chittagong Hill Tracts, which happens to be a disturbed region in the country, has been subject to continuous neglect and oppression. Its history is one of deprivation, exploitation and repression on the one hand, and resistance and rebellious struggle against it on the other.
The inhabitants of the Chittagong Hill Tracts – the national minorities – who have distinct features of their own are sharply different from the people of the plains in respect of history, heritage, culture and life-style.
In the past the peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts were independent – free from outside control. To the powerful rulers of that time, it was like a “buffer state”, which became the next target of the British colonialists after they had succeeded in taking control of the whole of India. A long and protracted war ensued between the people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts and the British when the later tried to extend its colony up to the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Even the people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts fought against the Moguls and were able to maintain their distinct identities.
As was inevitable, the people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts at one stage were outwitted by the British colonialists and conceded defeat. The British gave the status of Excluded Area to the Chittagong Hill Tracts and enacted a special rule for it – the 1900 Act or Hill Tracts Manual, through which the CHT was administered independently as a “Special Area”.
When in the face of anti-British movements the all-powerful British colonialists were compelled to quit India, the Chittagong Hill Tracts was annexed to Pakistan ignoring the Rule of India Act, 1947. The founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah promised to maintain the “Special Area” status of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The first constitution of Pakistan adopted in 1956 retained the status of Excluded Area as granted by the 1900 Act. But in the revised constitution of 1962 the phrase “excluded area” was deleted and instead the CHT was mentioned as a “Tribal Area”. Thus the successive Pakistani rulers very tactfully abolished the rights and status of the Chittagong Hill Tracts and imposed a tyrannical rule upon the people. The twenty-five years rule of Pakistan was an unbearable one.
Through an armed insurrection against Pakistani oppression and exploitation the independent state of Bangladesh came into being. The irresistible urge for emancipation from exploitation, oppression and deprivation – the urge with which the people of Bengal fought against the Pakistani Junta, remained largely unfulfilled in the independent Bangladesh. Though the people of Bengal got rid of direct oppression and exploitation of Pakistani rulers through the establishment of BangladeshState, they however failed to achieve complete freedom or victory in the truer sense of the term. In the place of the Pakistani exploiters and oppressors, a small group of emerging capitalists, traders and bureaucrats from among the Bengalees seized state power and began to exploit and oppress the people in a slightly different manner. Naturally, thus the lot of the common people remained nearly unchanged, even after independence. On the other hand, the condition of the people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, situated on the border of the country, is far more worse and pathetic. Like the Pakistani ruling classes, the new ruling elite ascending state power began to show inimical behaviour towards the people of the CHT. Whatever rights and privileges reserved for the CHT during the period of Pakistan were curtailed after independence. In the constitution of the free country, the issue of multi-lingual national minorities was completely overlooked. It did not give recognition to them, to speak the least. In order to throttle the people of the CHT, steamroller of repression was put into use. All sorts of machinations were on to reduce them into minorities in their own land by uprooting them from their own homesteads. A series of massacres and killings was organized in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
In accordance with the incontrovertible law of history, resistance movement against all this repression developed in the CHT, and a number of organizations came into existence with the aim of establishing people’s rights. In the process of the struggle at different stages, however, many of them were perished. Speaking for the establishment of people’s right, the Parbattyo Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) led the resistance movement for about two decades through leagal as well as illegal means, and initially it was able to muster overwhelming support from the peoples.
But of late, the agreement with the ruling Awami League (2nd December 1997) and the “surrender” (10 February 1998) have clearly demonstrated the political bankruptcy of the PCJSS. A few leaders of this party have compromised the people’s interest and fallen deep into the marshland of opportunism. They have made it their raison detre to advance self-interest by winning favour of the ruling party other than to carry the struggle forward for establishing people’s rights.
No agreement or compromise that went against the hopes and aspirations of the people, could yield any good result in the past. Nor has any other settlement imposed conspiratorially been effective either. The agreement with the Priti faction of the Jana Samhati Samiti in 1985 and its surrender, a deal with the governmentally selected representatives and imposition of District Council System testify to this. Now the PCJSS has finally met its doom through the “agreement” and the “surrender”. So it has become the demand of time to build up such a party which would carry out its activities in a manner that would give priority to the specific political issues of the area.
Why a New Party?
It would not have necessary for us to launch a new party, had there existed any other political party in the CHT truly representing the people in terms of giving leadership to the struggle for establishing the rights of the downtrodden masses. The democratic forces of the Hill People’s Council, Hill Student’s Council and Hill Women’s Federation, which emerged through the students upsurge of 1989, would have joined such a party and played their due role in the struggle.
Unfortunately, no such party exists in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. In spite of the fact that the JSS has fought for so many years for the establishment of people’s rights, it has now been suffering from complete political bankruptcy since its agreement with the ruling Awami League and the subsequent surrender. The Jana Samhati Samiti is destined to be liquidated in the course of history like the Muslim League of this country and it is now only a matter of time.
Except for sympathetic statements issued by the progressive left democratic forces to condemn and protest the massacres and atrocities perpetrated so far by the ruling classes in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, no significant protest or movement has been organized on a national scale. Nor has any nation-wide action program been undertaken as a mark of solidarity with the oppressed people of the CHT either. During the crucial moments of political changeover or power-transfer the issue of the CHT has been always overlooked. The political parities of the ruling classes failed to give importance to the CHT issue at the time when through the mass upsurge of 1990 the caretaker government was being formed on the basis of national consensus. The same thing was repeated during the caretaker government in 1996. This caretaker government, however, refused to take any action against the known abductors of Kalpana Chakma who was abducted just seven hours before the general election.
Aims and style of work of the Party
The aim of the Party is to ensure the existence of all nationalities in the Chittagong Hill Tracts through the establishment of FULL AUTONOMY, and to establish a democratic society free from oppression and exploitation.
Equality of nations, equality of both sexes and non-communal and democratic ideal shall constitute the basis of all activities of the party; it shall show respect to the freedom, sovereignty and integrity of the country.
The Party, like other democratic parties of the country, shall demand for repealing of all black laws including the fourth and eighth amendment to the constitution and the Enemy Property Act; it shall play its role in all movements against fascism and autocracy, and also take part in movements against oppression.
The Party shall take part in the struggle for the recognition of all national minorities of the CHT as well as other parts of the country.
The Party shall endevour to ensure the rights, dignity and interest of all residents of the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
The Party shall give priority to the specific issues of the people of the CHT in performing its activities. The Party, with a view to ensuring the rights of the citizens of the country and to establishing a democratic society, shall work together with other democratic parties.
Adopted at the Party Preparatory Conference on 25-26 December 1998 organized jointly by the Hill People’s Council, Hill Student’s Council and Hill Women’s Federation.