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6 Killed In JSS Faction Fight In Bangladesh’s CHT

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Six Buddhist tribespeople were killed in a bitter clash between two factions of the Parbattya Chattogram JanSanghati Samity early on Tuesday.
Police said armed fighters of M.N Larma and the Santu Larma factions were involved in the clash at Baghmara-Rongali area of Bandarban district in Bangladesh’s southerneastern mountain region of Chittagong Hill Tracts.
” The clash was one-sided, all the six killed belonged to MN Larma faction and the attackers belonged to Santu Larma faction ,” a police official told Easternlink .
He said the armed cadres of SL faction attacked their rivals in Baghmara around 7am.
While six MN faction cadres were gunned down on the spot , three others were hospitalised with bullet wounds.
Police and security forces have encircled the conflict zone but the attackers have fled and no arrests were reported so far.
Panic gripped the whole area after the brutal killings .
Bangladesh intelligence reports suggests that Santu Larma, the authoritarian PCJSS patriarch, has recently accquired a huge weapons consignment from Myanmar, possibly in connivance with the Burmese army Tatmadaw, after his representatives covertly visited Yangon last year.
Larma also visited India to curry favour with BJP leaders.
” Since early this year, as Bangladesh reels under Covid pandemic, Larma has unleashed an area domination armed campaign against factional rivals seeking monopoly over extortion rackets,” said a Bangladesh intelligence officer in Bandarban.
He said this could be a prelude to unleashing attacks against Bangali settlers and security forces with tacit Burmese backing.
” Santu Larma is the most divisive figure in our autonomy-separatist movement. He is originally a Maoist who started the Rangamati Communist Party and then joined the mass party PCJSS founded by his brother M N Larma, a former MP,” says one time PCJSS leader and author of a recent autobiographical book  , Priti Chakma.

Violent factionalism between the groups was visible in the run-up to the national elections held on December 30, 2018.

 In the months preceding the polls , six UPDF (faction not identified) activists were killed. Another three had been killed in August, while two were killed in September 2018, and one in November. Though the attackers were not identified, reports indicated that they were killed due to factional rivalry.

CHT is spread across 13,189 square kilometres and consists of three Districts: Rangamati, Khagrachhari and Bandarban, and has a history of two decades of insurgency, between 1977 and 1997, over the ethnic tribals’ demand for autonomy and land rights. 

Pictures of the massacre received from the spot have been blurred to meet Google’s ethical standards.

The insurgency terminated with the signing of 1997 CHT Peace Accord between the Government and the undivided PCJSS led by Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma aka Santu Larma. 

After the signing of the Accord, factionalism became rampant in PCJSS ranks. The first split came in 1997 itself, when Prasit Bikash Khisha formed UPDF-Prasit, after leaving PCJSS in protest against the Accord. The second split occurred in 2007, when a faction led by Sudha Sindho Khisa formed PCJSS-Reformation. The parent group split again, into PCJSS- M.N Larma and PCJSS-Santu Larma, in 2010.

In the meantime, UPDF also suffered a split with the formation of UPDF-Democratic, led by Tapan Jyoti Chakma aka Borma aka Jalwa in November 2017. The multiple splits have fuelled violence in the region. Indeed, since the signing of the Accord in 1997, around 600 people have been killed in the three Hill Districts in clashes mostly arising out of factionalism.

According to Rangmati Police and intelligence sources, yearly fatalities in CHT due to clashes between these groups were 22 in 2018. In 2017 and 2016 the fatalities stood at 18 and 23 respectively.

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