Dhaka begins troop withdrawal from Chittagong Hill Tracts


Dhaka: Bangladesh has begun withdrawing its army from the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), home to Buddhist tribals, to enforce a pact signed in 1997.

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Two camps were vacated Friday in Khagrachzari and Rangamati and withdrawal took place Saturday at two more – one camp at Dash Bill manned by the Ansars, the paramilitary force, and an army camp at Magaichari, the Star Online reported.

The process was decided last month by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government that in its previous tenure (1996-2001) had signed the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Peace Accord 1997.

The government is understood to have ignored an ultimatum issued by a body of Bengali settlers who opposed the withdrawal of troops citing security reasons and complaining that the crime rate could go up.

The Magaichari army camp was ensuring security to five villages and the Dash Bill to six villages.

On July 29, the government announced it would withdraw one brigade troops and 35 temporary security camps from CHT region by September.

While appreciating the government move, Buddhist leader Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma alias Santu Larma Saturday demanded “full pullout” of the army from the CHT for implementing the peace accord.

He also called for implementation of the indigenous people’s constitutional rights and recognition of their right to land.

“Seven months have already passed since the present government assumed the power. But we see no significant measures taken by it in this regards,” he said while opening a two-day programme at the Central Shaheed Minar here, ahead of the International Indigenous Day Aug 9.

India’s partition of 1947 was decided on Hindu-Muslim lines. However, the Buddhist majority CHT was allotted to the then East Pakistan by Sir Cyril Radcliff, the British arbitrator, on the ground that through it flowed the river Karnaphuli, the source of water for the principal port at Chittagong.

The region witnessed armed resistance as a result of efforts to settle Bengalis to dilute the Buddhist majority. The 1997 pact led to most of the fighters surrendering their arms.