'Life Is not Ours' - Land and Human Rights in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh - An Update of the May 1991 Report
When the Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission visited the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) in December 1990 1 the autocratic regime of President Ershad had just been overthrown by a popular uprising. After a short transitional period, under acting President Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed, parliamentary elections were held on February 27 1991. The elections were won by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led by Begum Khaleda Zia. The BNP had to form a coalition with the Jamaat-i-Islami, a fundamentalist Islamic party, to obtain the required majority to form the government. On March 20 Begum Khaleda Zia was sworn in as Prime Minister.
On May 23 1991 the Commission launched its report "Life Is Not Ours, Land and Human Rights in the Chittagong Hill Tracts" in the House of Lords in London. 2 (For the main conclusions and recommendations made in the report see the box below). Immediately after publication the report was sent to Begum Khaleda Zia, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) Chittagong Division, the opposition parties in Bangladesh, the government of India, organisations of hill peoples, including the European representative of the Jano Sanghati Samity (JSS or PCJSS, the hill people's political party), Bengali organisations, UN bodies, governments of aid-giving countries, NGOs and individuals, with an accompanying letter asking for their comments. The request for comments was repeated in November 1991 in a letter by Wilfried Telkamper, co-chair of the Commission and Vice President of the European Parliament. The Commission has received, so far unofficially, a 92 page document from the government of Bangladesh entitled "Comments on the report of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission May 1991". 3 The Commission also received official and unofficial comments from opposition parties in Bangladesh, hill people, Bengalis, western governments, human rights organisations, NGOs and some individuals. Some of these comments will be touched on here. For a more detailed reaction to these and other comments see Appendix 3.