Bangladesh’s indigenous people are dispersed throughout the country but are concentrated in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) in southeast Bangladesh. Known collectively as the Jumma people, the indigenous people comprise 12 different ethnic groups: the Chakma, Marma, Tripura, Tanchangya, Mro, Lushai, Khumi, Chak, Khiyang, Bawm, Mrung/Riang, and Pangkhua.
Their religions differ from the majority Muslim Bengali population. Likewise, they have a distinct language and culture. They faced social, economic, and political marginalisation, exclusion, persecution, and displacement prior to the independence of Bangladesh, which then continued with further forced displacement, violence, land confiscation, and denial of their identity under the Bangladesh Constitution.
The Bangladesh government transferred more than 400,000 Bengalis into the CHT without the consent of the Jumma people as part of their “transmigration programme,” seizing their land amidst violent clashes and changingthe demographic makeup of the area. The Bangladesh military moved into the CHT in early 1972 and has carried out atrocities against the Jumma people alongside attacks from Bengali settlers.
These include rape and sexual abuse, forced evictions, destruction of property, torture, and murder in a “genocidal campaign against them.” The treatment of the Jumma people has beendescribed as persecution and even “creeping genocide.”
In 1997, a political group representing the Jumma people, Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS), signed the CHT Peace Accord with the government of Bangladesh. The Peace Accord aimed to resolve the conflict peacefully via its agreements to afford special governance to the region, demilitarize the region, and establish a land dispute resolution mechanism.
These agreements, however, have not been fully implemented, leading to continued tensions betweenthe government and the Jumma communities. Accordingto the UN Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance, this persecution “threatened the survival of the cultural and religious identity of Indigenous populations.”
Today, Bengali settlers outnumber Jumma people in the CHT. The Jumma people remain displaced from major portions of their former lands. They are subject to judicial harassment by Bengali settlers in systematic denial of the land rights of the Jumma people. They suffer attacks including arson and property destruction by Bengali settlers who are supported by the Bangladesh army. In 2017 these attacks.
Even religious sites became targets of destruction. The government has taken no action to hold the perpetrators of these attacks accountable. Indigenous advocates have been targeted and killed. Rape and sexual assault have been used as a weapon to terrorize the Jumma communities. In 2020, 889 rapes of women and girls were reported. A true tally may never be collected, as many rapes have gone unreported. The overwhelming majority of perpetrators of violence against the Jumma people are Bengali settlers. There is widespread impunity.
Genocide Watch considers that the following stages of genocide are present in Bangladesh’s treatment of the Jumma people in CHT: Stage 3: Discrimination, Stage 5: Organization, Stage 8: Persecution, and Stage 10: Denial.