Citizenship Reform: Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord (CHT)

B) Hill DISCRICT LOCAL GOVT. COUNCIL / HILL DISTRICT COUNCILS

3. Who is not a tribal and possesses land legally in the Hill District and generally lives at a certain address in the Hill District he shall be meant 'non-tribal permanent resident'.

4. c. The words "Deputy Commissioner" and "of the Deputy Commissioner" placed in the second line of sub-section (5) of the section 4 shall be replaced with the words "Circle Chief" and "of the Circle Chief" respectively.

d. Following sub-section shall be added in the section 4 : Whether a person is a non-tribal shall be determined, along with the identity of non-tribal to which he belongs, by the concerned Circle Chief on the provision of submission of certificate from concerned Headman/Pourasabha Chairman/Union Parishad Chairman and no person can be a candidate for the office of the non-tribal member without a certificate from the concerned Circle Chief in this behalf.

Implementation History

1998

Minimum Implementation

 Citizenship reform was crucially important in the overall design of the CHT Accord. The CHT Accord contained several amendments pertaining to citizenship that were intended to grant control over citizenship qualifications for the CHT region to the Regional Council and Hill District Councils. The accord also granted special privileges to CHT “tribal permanent residents”: only they could serve as tribal members on the Hill District Councils (HDCs) and qualify for preferential treatment in higher education and employment (as called for in other parts of the CHT Accord). Also, only “permanent residents” of the CHT were allowed to vote in CHT elections and be rehabilitated in the land restitution program. Therefore, whoever controlled the issuing of the legal certificates granting permanent residency status in the CHT had an incredible amount of power in shaping the area’s future.

The CHT Accord in section B, amendments 3 and 4, part D, put the legal authority to grant permanent resident status and the power to certify people as “tribal” or “non-tribal” in the hands of the Circle Chiefs. The Jumma community and Jumma leaders had repeatedly indicated that in their view, the CHT Accord under section B granted both of these powers (determination of tribal or non-tribal and permanent resident certification) to the Circle Chiefs. The clear intention of section C, amendment 4 was to remove these powers from the Deputy Commissioners (DC) in the CHT region, all of whom were ethnic Bengalis, and transfer them to the tribal authorities.

The DC position in the CHT had a very long history that was especially relevant to this provision being negotiated. Historically, the DC position had been one of a powerful governor who was part of and reported to the national government. By usurping these defined powers over the granting of CHT citizenship, the tribal authorities would gain the legal authority to determine who qualified as a tribal or non-tribal resident and who qualified for permanent residency status in the CHT.

Implementation of these citizenship reforms has not taken place beyond being ratified in 1998 by the parliament of Bangladesh under the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council Act of 1998 and in the amended version of the Rangamati Hill District Council Act of 1989. The new legislation has not been applied or legally enforced.1

1999

Minimum Implementation

The traditional powers of the DC remain intact. Not only have they not been revoked, the powers of the DC to issue permanent residency was reconfirmed in government documents. An official order from the CHT Ministry (HDC/Certificate/62/99-587) dated 1999 reiterated the authority of the DC to issue “Permanent Resident Certificate” in the CHT. The Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (English: United People's Party of the Chittagong Hill Tracts), or PCJSS, would not agree to elections because non-permanent Bengali residents in the CHT remain on the voter lists.2

  • 2. "Study on the status of implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord of 1997, submitted by the Special Rapporteur," ECOSOC (E/C.19/2011/6), February 18, 2011, accessed November 17, 2014, http://www.refworld.org/docid/4dbfb1262.html.
2000

Minimum Implementation

Given the language of the amendments, the most observable indicator of both implementation status and the extent to which the government was following the new legislation is the degree to which the power over issuing citizenship certificates had been transferred from the Deputy Commissioner over to the Tribal authorities. Both direct and indirect evidence strongly suggests that the DC has the power to issue permanent residency certificates. The “Charter of Duties” for Deputy Commissioners (No. CD/DA-1/4(2)/83 (PT.11)-465 DT.10-11-1983) listed the authority to issue “domicile certificates” under section 11, sub-section five as of this year and after.3

2001

Minimum Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2002

Minimum Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2003

Minimum Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2004

Minimum Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2005

Minimum Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2006

Minimum Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2007

Minimum Implementation

Another official government document issued by the Ministry of Health (31/2008/713) required tribal residents to show evidence of a permanent resident certificate issued by both the “Circle Chief” and the “Deputy Commissioner.” In contrast, Bengalis needed only to show one permanent resident certificate, which had to be issued by the DC. Hence, this suggests that the government had interpreted and implemented the statutes in such a way as to make it more difficult for a tribal to get a permanent residency certificate than a Bengali settler. A tribal person was not legally treated as a permanent resident if they only had a certificate issued by the Circle Chief.

The Regional Council unsuccessfully fought for the exclusive right to issue permanent resident certificates for over a decade, arguing that the Accord put this power in the hands of the HDCs.4