The Chittagong Hill Tracts (henceforth CHT) is a region in southeastern Bangladesh where tribal peoples have been subject to sustained repression since the partition of the sub-continent.
Under half the population are described as Jumma belong to one of 13 tribes (Chakma, Tongchongya, Chak, Marma, Khyang, Khumi, Tripura, Murung, Mro, Lushai, Bawm, Bonjugi, Pankho). The tribespeople practice Hinduism, Buddhism or Christianity unlike the Islamic non-tribal Bengalis. They are of Tibeto-Burman ethnicity.
Under British administration, the region enjoyed a high level of autonomy. Most of the administrative and policing posts were filled by Jumma. The British also introduced a law in 1900 which made it impossible for non-tribal outsiders to settle in the area. However, after partition the CHT found itself in predominantly Muslim East Pakistan, contrary to policy of including non-Muslim areas in the new Indian state.
In the fifties, the government build the Kaptai hydroelectric dam on the Karnafuli river which displaced 20,000 Jumma farmers. They were inadaquately compensated in return for the lost land. 40% of prime argicultural land was lost.
After Bangladesh achieved independence from Pakistan, a more aggresive ethnic cleansing of the CHT began (in 1971). Tribal people were forcibly removed to their land. Bengali settlers replaced them. The tribal people were murdered, raped, and incarcerated in camps. In the mid-seventies, a delegation of tribal leaders met the Bangladeshi leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahmon to plead for autonomy. He rejected them out of hand saying
Do away with your ethnic identity, go home, and become Bengalis.
The attacks intensified. The entire Bangladesh air force
was dispatched to the CHT. In response, the tribal people set up a political party ,Jana Sanghati Samiti
(JSS). A militant
wing, the Shanti Bahini
, was formed to lead the resistance
. Since 1947, the non-tribal population of the CHT has increased from 9% to over 50% of the total.
During the eighties the genocide continued. In the late nineties some peace negotiations did begin. At the time of writing, the Jumma people of the CHT have still not won any measure of autonomy.