Love and Hate – "Is Militarization Perceived as Sustainable Development for Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT)?: A Case Study on CHT, Bangladesh"
by Md. Reazul Haque
Background: The existence of Bangladesh Army in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) has often been associated and presented as the panacea and mantra of development for CHT Pahari population . The ongoing debate whether the Paharis population of CHT perceives the existence of army as the mantra of development or threat to their existence continues to exist. There have not been many ethnographical studies that empirically examine the perception of the Paharis about this relationship and the changing mode of the dialogues over the decades.
Method: With case studies, observations and focus group discussions I undertook a qualitative study on community perceptions of the Paharis, Bengali settlers, and representatives from Bangladesh Army in CHT districts. I conducted interviews of randomly selected Pahari respondents (n=7), Bengali settlers (n=10), Army representatives (n=4) and Academic, Security Expert and Local political leader (n=3) representing the overall catchment area of CHT. I then carried out direct content analysis to identify themes and triangulate findings across methods and informant groups.
Result: Key themes emerged across from the interviews surrounding: (1) militarization and powerlessness and unheard of Pahari people; (2) lack of collective awareness and consciousness among the Pahari people about their rights; (3) militarization as a strategic requirement for giving security to Bengali settlers; (4) development perceived as ‘impossible and less plausible reality’ for the Pahari people. These themes recurred throughout many participants’ narratives and cases and influenced their perception of militarization and development.
Conclusion: As the perceptions of the Pahari people in CHT, which often results in lack of trust between the Bengali settlers and Pahari people, continues to exist, it will be critical to find convincing, effective and sustainable ways of addressing the ongoing perceptions of the Pahari people.
Keywords:Army, Bengalis, Paharis, Sustainable Development, Militarization, Peace Accord, CHT.
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