Unplanned tourism development and road development are causing conflicts in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) area, experts on CHT affairs have said.
At a roundtable arranged by the Editors Guild Bangladesh on Saturday in the capital, they said the attempt to integrate the ethnic minorities against their way of life is creating conflict with them.
Top officials of the government and experts on CHT affairs participated in the event titled "CHT Peace Accord: Implementation and Challenges", moderated by Shyamal Dutta, editor of Dainik Bhorer Kagoj and one of the presidium members of Editors Guild.
Professor Sadeka Halim, former dean of Social Science Faculty of Dhaka University, said after the accord, the way the CHT area has been unlocked for tourism has undermined the rights of the ethnic minorities there. Tourism development in the area should be planned.
Sadeka Halim further said the ethnic minority leaders who signed the agreement have also split into different groups. So, their voice for full implementation of the accord is weak.
According to the accord, ethnic minority women who will get jobs in the police will be able to perform duties in their respective area. But they are being posted in different cities, she added.
Shyamal Dutta said 25 years ago, Parbatya Chattogram Jana Sanghati Samiti signed the peace deal with the then Awami League government led by Sheikh Hasina on 2 December, 1997.
"After the CHT accord, the overall situation we are now witnessing in the CHT is a different phenomenon," he added.
As per government assessment, 48 out of 72 clauses of the accord have been implemented. Implementation of 15 more are going on and nine have not been implemented. However, land crisis and integration have been identified as the main crisis. Work on integration with the hill communities still remains.
Bangladesher Samyabadi Dal General Secretary Dilip Barua said the invisible force who create obstacles in implementation of the accord are blamed for the conflicting situation in the CHT area.
Even then, all must be united to solve this problem for the sake of both Bengalese and the ethnic minorities, he added.
CHT Affairs Ministry former secretary Naba Bikram Kishore Tripura said the ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts affairs needs to be strengthened. The jurisdiction of the ministry includes the CHT regional council, the Zila Parishads and the Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board. However, unions, upazilas, municipalities in the three CHT districts are under other ministries.
The objective of the accord is the formation of the CHT Regional Council, it will be the core. The Zila Parishads will set aside them to work with the government to implement the accord.
Security analyst Major General (retd) Abdul Rasheed said, "Geopolitical contexts are never static. It changes over time. Simultaneously, the geopolitical players also change their strategy. It is also a matter of concern whether it was correct that some plains people were settled in the hilly areas."
Supreme Court lawyer Imtiaj Mahmud blamed the successive governments for their unwillingness for not implementing the accord fully although 25 years of its signing have passed.
"Lushai village which draws huge tourist attractions has been made in Sajek Valley by evicting ethnic minority people from there. But, the accord's main objective was to preserve the culture of ethnic minorities," he added.