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Armed Resistance: Jana Samhati Samiti

Important Note:  The information in this page is from http://www.angelfire.com/ab/jumma/

The Shanti Bahini fighters started armed struggle with the abandoned weapons from the retreating Pakistani Military in 1971. Later Shanti Bahini added captured weapons from the Bangladeshi Military to their arsenal

Jana Samhati Samiti

The Jana Samhati Samiti (hereafter JSS) was the only political platform of the Jumma people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (hereafter CHT) until a treaty was signed in December, 1997. It was founded on February 15, 1972, under the leadership of Mr. Manabendra Narayan Larma. The party was formed to deal with the ever increasing Bangladeshi invasion of the CHT. The political activities of the JSS were aimed at establishing an alternative administration, suited to the changed CHT reality. The main aims and objectives were-

  1. To restore the political, economic and cultural rights of the Jumma people.
  2. To preserve the CHT as the traditional homeland of 13 nationalities, who constitute the Jumma nation.
  3. To remove the invaders from the CHT.
  4. To establish the CHT as an autonomous state.

Soon after independence of Bangladesh in 1971, the Bangladesh Government pursued the policy of hegemony over the Jumma people of the CHT. It began to exterminate the indigenous people systematically on the one hand and to settle tens of thousands of Bangladeshi settlers in their place on the other. The Bangladesh armed forces and the Bangladeshi settlers massacred the Jumma villagers, stole their stocks and properties, tortured them inhumanely, imprisoned them without charge or trial, raped their women, desecrated and destroyed Buddhist temples, tortured and murdered Buddhist monks, and converted some Jummas to Islam by force. Deeply hurt by such vicious attacks on their lives, on their lands, on their women, and on their religion, the Jumma people tried to resolve these problems by constitutional means. They made representation repeatedly to the local authorities and the Bangladeshi leaders, and raised the issues in the parliament and demanded autonomy for the CHT. Nothing was done to redress their grievances. In response the government intensified its violence and repressive measures. The Bangladesh leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman rejected their demands and advised them to become Bengalis. So the JSS had no other alternative but to organize its armed wing, the Shanti Bahini, to resist the government atrocities and the Bangladeshi colonization.

Shanti Bahini

Soon after the formation of JSS in 1972 an armed wing Shanti Bahini was launched. It was originally formed to defend the villages against the Bangladeshi terror, rapings, torture and exploitation. Most of the members of the Shanti Bahini come from Chakma, Tripura and Marma, the three largest ethnic groups in the CHT. These groups have been affected most by the Bangladeshi invasion of the CHT. The Shanti Bahini had extensive organizational networks in Rangamati, Khagrachari and Bandarban districts. During the war of independence of Bangladesh, country was flooded with arms and at the capitulation of the Pakistan army, modern arms fell into the hands of the Shanti Bahini. Other arms had been captured from the Bangladeshi forces. Here are some of the many cases of Shanti Bahini’s encounter with the the Bangladeshi security forces.

12 May 1979, location Durchari Bazar, Kasalong area. The government decided to establish a new army post (sub cantonment) at Durchari Bazar. Two sizable motor launches with full loads embarked from Brigade Head Quarter, Rangamati for the purpose. The Shanti Bahini had previous information and a Special Company was engaged to lay in wait. The two army ships gallantly sailed across the Karnafuli Lake and entered the Kasalong river channel and continued through the Kasalong river. Ten minutes before anchoring at the destination the guerilla Special Company commanded them to halt. There was little room in floating vessels to take fighting positions. To disobey the guerillas was a sure way of dying for the government forces. Two shiploads of military personnel surrendered with their war material.

15 May 1979, location a hill site from which the Kamalchari rivulet flows. A Shanti Bahini patrol of 14 personnel were scheduled to be there in transit that day. The Bangladesh army was informed of the Shanti Bahini, an army contingent of 45 personnel head from Khagrachari to the spot. The Shanti Bahini patrol party surrounded them and showered bullets on them from all sides. 31 Bangladeshi soldiers killed, 13 surrendered. The Shanti Bahini was able to collect most of the arms.

21 June, 1979, location Adarakchara. A Bangladesh Army contingent of 39 soldiers under the command of a captain was out in search of Shanti Bahini hideouts with a few forced Chakma guides. At 6 p.m. they came within the range of the guerillas. 33 were killed along with their officer in command, 3 escaped and 3 were captured. A large quantity of sophisticated modern arms and equipment was annexed to the Shanti Bahini armory.

Apart from ambushing army patrols, the Shanti Bahini attacked Bangladeshi settlers and Bangladesh security forces camps and stations. On 5 June 1984, British newspaper ‘The Guardian’ reported at the end of May and in early June 1984, the guerillas attacked two Bangladeshi settlements in the hills, killed 80 settlers, wounded 800 and set many houses on fire. The JSS has always been in favour of a political solution to the essentially political crisis in the CHT. The JSS signed a Treaty on 2 December 1997 with the Sheikh Hasina government. The Shanti Bahini surrendered its weapons. The Bangladesh Government has yet to implement the treaty. The Jumma refugees returned from India, majority of them have not got the their land taken by the Bangladeshi Settlers. However, most of the Jumma people do not believe the treaty will guarantee their survival even if it’s implemented.


More:

  1. Military Presence in the CHT
  2. Armed Clashes between Shanti Bahini and Bangladesh Military

Sources:

  1. Life is not ours: the Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission
  2. The Charge of Genocide: Organizing Committee of the CHT Campaign, 1986




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