The fresh number of returned refugees and internally displaced people in Chittagong Hill Tracts has triggered debate in the three hill districts.
The debate began at the end of September when a meeting Task Force on Rehabilitation of Returnee Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons in Chattogram was told that the number of families returned from India was 21,900 and the number of families of the internally displace people was 81,777.
Many raised question about the intension of the disclosure of the figures giving no names and addresses of the people.
Khagrachhari deputy commissioner Shahidul Islam, who attended the meeting, said that a similar meeting was held in 2016 asking the then task force chief executive officer to place the figures.
On September 25, 2018, task force chief executive officer Krishna Chandra Chakma placed figures without names and addresses, he added.
‘Many wanted to explain the [new] figures in their own ways,’ said Shahidul, adding, ‘Bengalis living here also raised voices and they also wanted to be enlisted as internally displaced people and they formed a human chain.’
Armed conflict from mid 1970s to 1997 in the Chittagong Hill Tracts displaced a substantial part of the local population and many fled to the Indian state of Tripura while many others were internally displaced within Bangladesh.
An agreement was signed between the government and the refugee leaders on March 9, 1997 to take back the refugees from Tripura based on a 20-point facilities package.
The government formed the task force in 1997 and later reconstituted for monitoring and coordinating the process in the line with the Chittagong Hill Tracts Treaty signed on December 2, 1997 between the Parbatya Chattogram Jana Samhati Samiti and the then Awami League-led government.
PCJSS in its report in 2013 said that 12,222 families of 64,609 tribal refugees were repatriated to the hill tracts from Tripura.
Khageshwar Tripura, who helped the government to register ‘voluntarily’ repatriated returnees, said that they had lists of 14,467 families of returned refugees and the lists were shared with the Prime Minister’s Office, among others.
A senior defence ministry official on November 24 said that they were also confused about the number of both returned refugees and internally displaced people and feared whether any quarter wanted to create trouble in the hills.
Chattogram based 24-infactry division general officer commanding Major General SM Motiur Rahman said that none would be allowed to create any trouble in the hills.
Kujendra Lal Tripura, who replaced Jatindra Lal Tripura as the task force chairman in January 2018, said that figures were only placed in the meeting but they decided to examine the figures.
‘We need to know actual numbers,’ he said.
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