An important leader of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) in Bangladesh has arrived in India, a source has confirmed to The Hindu. Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma or Shantu Larma is the leader of the Parbatya Chattogram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) and has been at the forefront of protection of the rights of the Chakmas and other communities in the CHT for the past four decades.
Speaking to The Hindu, an informed source said Mr Larma reached Kolkata on Saturday and he is expected to be in the national capital this week. Further details of his visit are yet to be known. He had drawn attention last month for saying that the Chakmas of CHT are being denied their culture and language by Dhaka. The Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) located in the southeastern part of Bengaldesh forms a large part of the Chittagong region bordering Myanmar and India and shares many ethnic groups.
The strategically important region witnessed decades of ethnic insurgency which came to an end through the 1997 CHT Agreement. Administration of this restive region has been challenging for Dhaka as it is home to a diverse population that includes the Buddhist, Hindu and Christian minority ethnic groups.
Mr Marma has been agitating for years for full implementation of the 1997 CHT Agreement that was signed during the first Prime Ministership of Sheikh Hasina. In his comments on the occasion of Chakma festival of Baisabi that coincides with Bihu, Mr Marma had complained about the attitude of Dhaka. “They want to destroy our culture and expel us from this place. We have been witnessing this for years,” Mr Marma was quoted saying in Dhaka Tribune.
The visit of Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma acquires significance in the larger context of various ethnic movements in northeastern part of India as well as for the Rohingya crisis. The CHT region is home to the Chakmas, Moghs, Lushais, Kuki and Chin communities who are common to the northeastern states as well as Bangladesh and Myanmar. Mr Larma’s reference to expulsion from homeland is pertinent especially as the Bangladesh government has been settling some of the Rohingya refugees from Myanmar into the Bandarban area of CHT. It is understood that Mr Larma will play an important role in any future solution of the Rohingya crisis which is currently under discussion between various regional stakeholders.
While Bangladesh has been demanding repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar, the process has not started so far prompting search for alternatives. Chinese envoy to Bangladesh Yao Wen on Saturday said that Beijing is mediating between Bangladesh and Myanmar to find a solution to the Rohingya crisis. Speaking at an event organised by the Cosmos Foundation in Dhaka, the Chinese ambassador had said that his government is undertaking “practical steps” to solve the Rohingya crisis.