Chittagong Hill Tracts Political Parties
A long struggle for over two decades the insurgency in CHT officially ended through signing of a Peace Accord on 02 December 1997 between the Govt of Bangladesh and Parbattya Chattragram Jono Samhati Samitee (PCJSS). After the Accord, PCJSS renamed its organization as Jono Samhati Samitee (JSS). The political culture of Chittagong Hill Tracts [CHT] continues to revolve around CHT and ethno-centric issues. All three regional tribal political parties are currently engaged in power-politics to maintain their influence over area and population. Internal political divide, leadership feud and illegal toll collection for meeting organizational expenses - all these aspects actually create instability in the political culture of CHT.
United Peoples Democratic Front (UPDF). A group of PCJSS members who opposed the Peace Accord and breakaway factions of Pahari Chattra Parishad (PCP), Pahari Gano Parishad (PGP), Hill Women Federation (HWF) ultimately formed UPDF on 26 December 1998. The manifesto of this party is to achieve full autonomy of CHT. They condemned JSS for compromising with the Govt. As such, conflict started between these two groups in the forms of killings, abductions etc mainly to establish their influence/control over area, tribal population and illegal toll collection. Born out of PCJSS, UPDF gradually appeared to be stronger than JSS in terms of its political power in some parts of CHT. From its inception it was little cautious about its political status and movement due to inclusion of demand of autonomy in its manifesto. But gradually it came out of its apprehension and intensified its movement both at home and abroad. The party kept on exploiting all kinds of media protocols too. During the state of emergency it winded up its political activities significantly but resumed the same with greater enthusiasm in Khagrachari and Rangamati districts of CHT. In National Parliamentary Election 2008, its leaders took part as independent candidates and obtained votes mostly by threatening and coercing the ordinary tribal people.
Jano Samhati Samiti (JSS). JSS is the party that led the insurgency in CHT and signed the Peace Accord with the Govt under the leadership of Mr Shantu Larma. In spite of Govt’s sincere efforts, the party and its leadership are very vocal and contesting for the full-implementation of the Peace Accord. JSS’ political influence prevails mainly in Rangamati and Bandarban districts. Quite often the party demands for the formal ban on UPDF to the Govt describing it as a terrorist group. Very recently, JSS is voicing strongly for the full implementation of the CHT Accord, and on few occasions have had used tough languages and threatened to resort to armed struggles. This indicates that the party might have retained some weapons with them. It often claims as the party with democratic ideology and values, and portrays as the saviour of all tribes within and beyond CHT. However, minority tribes are dissatisfied with JSS as they are allotted with only one seat in the Regional Council. There has been a split within JSS for quite some time. A reformist group is now fairly prominent who has been challenging Mr Larma’s leadership and capability.
Jano Samhati Samiti (Reformist). Since 2007, JSS has a breakaway group claiming them as JSS (Reformist) resulting from the leadership feud. At the moment the party activity is mainly concentrated on increasing its support-base at the grass root level. Some recent activities of it indicate that the party aspires to emerge as a dominant party and play its due role in CHT politics.
Bangalee Political Parties. The leading bangalee political parties are namely, Somo Adhikar Andolon (SAA) and Parbattya Bangalee Chattra Parishad (PBCP). Both bangalee political parties could establish their credibility among ordinary bangalee population by voicing concerns against few clauses of the CHT Accord. They stood up strongly for the rights of ordinary bangalees during some recent-past crises through organizing public meetings, processions, press-briefings etc. However, both parties still remain organizationally weak and lack proper leadership that is needed for a healthy political discourse in CHT.
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