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Tamil Nadu politics: Will factions end the crisis in AIADMK and focus on governance?

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] G [/yt_dropcap]overnance in Tamil Nadu is standstill and in reverse gear with two factions fighting an almost street fight, making the life of common people miserable.

As a mere stunt, the Palanisamy government makes announcements of allocation of money for projects but nothing is happing on the ground. Possibly the middlemen from the ruling party/government side collects the commission amounts first because the government they fear would fall any time.

Meanwhile, the opposition DMK is gearing up for a possible government formation and Sasikala-Palanisamy duo would prefer DMK to OPS. They say they have removed Sasikala and Dinakaran but they refuse to step down to show that they don’t want to enjoy the privileges that come with ministerial posts.

MGR floated ADMK which was later made AIADMK, giving it a national framework so that the central government’s threat of doing away with regional parties became irrelevant. Sasikala has easily divided the ruing AIADMK probably beyond repair work as her followers in the government still worship her as little goddess, maybe leaving Jayalalithaa to OPS.

People of Tamil Nadu are apparently confused now over their decision to vote the AIADMK under Jayalithaa to power a few months ago. Sasikala along with her supporters in the party exploited the post-Jaya death situation to their advantage and took infamous action illegally removing O Panneerselvam from CM post and sacking him from the post of party Treasurer.  

Founder MGR and Amma created this party as a party for the people and cadres, this is a democratic party for people and cadres. AIADMK should not be controlled by one family. Jayalalithaa’s death must be probed. But Sasikala and family now control both the party and hard earned government.

Former CM Panneerselvam says that AIADMK must be saved from dynastic politics; he says the party should not be in the hands of a family. The family which betrayed Jayalalithaa will have to go, says OPS, “I am an ardent follower of Amma, want to tread the path shown by her”.

Throwing indications of growing dissent against ruling AIADMK chief VK Sasikala and her nephew Dinakaran, who has been named in a bribery case relating to a tussle over party’s frozen symbol ‘two leaves’, former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and Jayalalithaa loyalist O Panneerselvam hinted that he is open for merger under certain conditions to protect party from negative side effects.

In signs of thaw on AIADMK merger move, the factions led by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami and the one by O Panneerselvam, last week announced formation of their respective committees to hold discussions. Rajya Sabha MP R Vaithilingam will head the panel set up by the Palaniswami group while the Panneerselvam camp tonight named senior leader and former minister K P Munusamy as the head of a seven-member committee.

Former Tamil Nadu chief minister O Panneerselvam earlier broke his silence and claimed that Sasikala has betrayed late AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa. While also claiming that there is no place for Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dinakakaran in the AIADMK, OPS said that he will continue to fight to protect the legacy of ‘Amma’.  

The federal government, controlled by Hindutva BJP, watches the political fiasco in Tamil nadu with keen interest with a view to increasing its chances of winning least a seat next time. Jayalalithaa has undone BJP and many other parties in the state with zero presence in the state assembly. In fact she has made many political parties in the state irrelevant. But now without her, all these parties hope to make a comeback by using the split in the ruling AIADMK. Speculation is indeed thrilling.

Conspiracy

The mysterious death of popular CM Jayalalithaa and post-Jaya occurrences like Sasikala’s rise to control the party and government, etc, give rise suspicion about a conspiracy in the state.

Former CM Panneerselvam protested and acted swiftly to raise his opposition to V.K. Sasikala & family efforts to capture the party and government his voice became profound as more and more people joined him. The by-poll in RK Nagar constituency added more impetus to him, making him the most important leader in AIADMK.

Apparently, Sasikala, Dinakaran and those who oppose OPS are also indirectly opposed to Jayalithaa for not making Sasikala the acting CM or General Secretary by creating a post Deputy GS to accommodate both suitably. Many ministers and MLAs on the Sasikala band were angry with Jayalithaa for her choice of OPS as the acting CM when she went to jail on disproportionate assets that repeatedly insulted their claims to be extra loyal to her.

Who authorised the ministers to convene a meeting in the absence of AIADMK Deputy General Secretary TTV Dinakaran but decided nothing, making it clear that they cannot go against him. When the ministers met at the party HQ, Sasikala or Dinakaran did not object to that.

In fact, in a real course, “GS” Sasikala would have expelled Palanisamy and friends from the party and government. And a new government would have been appointed by Sasikala. That is because entire scrip is a drama written by Sasikala in jail.  

That means the ruling faction does exactly what the jailed leader from Bangalore says.

Double minds

While the AIADMK led by former CM Pannerselvam seems to be genuinely serious about the unity of factions within AIADMK and strengthen the party and government so that MGR-Jaya rule continues, the ruling faction unofficially led by CM Palanisamy continues to worship jailed corrupt Sasikala as their demigod and to ensure support of the OPS faction of MLAs so that the incumbent government would continue its full term easily.

It appears, though the government and its MLAs seek the OPS support for sustaining the government   they don’t want to make OPS the CM again. In fact, many of these MLAs and ministers used Sasikala and Dinakaran to oust O Panneerselvam from CM post and remove him s from the post of Treasurer of the party- the post MGR held when he was in DMK and later was sacked from it and removed from the then ruling DMK by CM Karunanidhi.

This explains the cause of their rejection of OPS as the CM once again, when Sasikala calls all the shots from the jail.

Pannerselvam faction has made it amply clear that AIADMK should not have Sasikala, Dinakaran or any of their relatives in the party or government and they demand a fair probe on the death of Jayalithaa at Apollo hospital. Both demand, obviously, are unacceptable to the Sasikala faction.  

Though Palanisamy faction said they have removed Sasikala and Dinakaran form AIDMK, the OPS faction is not convinced about the “removal” because on what authority they have removed h the top leaders who gave them power to rule? They consider this as a drama by Sasikala and Dinakaran to fool the OPS faction. In trustingly, Sasikala and Dinakaran did not raise any question on the issue thereby reveling indirectly the fake “encounter”.

Both factions of OPS and EPS have formed panels to decide the modalities of the “merger”. AIADMK leaders’ met onboard INS Chennai still underway, many including D Jayakumar, P Thangamani and CV Shanmugam attending it.

Party symbol

After the death of Jayalithaa, the AIADMK party is getting weakened with factions taking the party to opposite paths and as days pass by the party may not be able to sustain itself as a cohesive party without the presence of Jayalalithaa.

AIADMK has lost its party symbol “Two-leaves” and Sasikala is responsible for the loss of the party symbol ‘two-leaves’ as she let the party split. The Election Commission of India has frozen the AIADMK`s two leaves symbol with two factions — one led by party ‘General Secretary’ Sasikala and the other by former Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam — claiming it as their own.

Dhinakaran, the nephew of jailed AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala, is facing a revolt by an influential section of the party led by Chief Minister K Palaniswami and a host of ministers, who had on Tuesday declared the ouster of the once powerful aunt-nephew duo, and extended a hand of friendship to the Panneerselvam camp.

Sasikala faction is trying all tricks, including offering bribes, to obtain the party symbol from the election commission. But with factions existing, the party symbol would remain frozen.

It has been learnt that Dinakaran had allegedly struck a deal for Rs 50 crore for helping the AIADMK faction keep the ‘two leaves’ symbol. Also, Dinakaran tried to bribe voters Dinakaran gave 4000 per voter in the recent by-election at RK Nagar and IT raids were conducted unearthing evidences.

Conditional merger plan

The developments leading to a merger move came a day after the talks appeared to have hit a roadblock with the Panneerselvam camp seeking formal expulsion of V K Sasikala and Dhinakaran from the party. It had also sought a CBI probe into the circumstances leading to former chief minister Jayalalithaa’s death on 5 December last year.

The talks for a merger gained ground after an FIR was registered against Dinakaran for bribing the Election Commission officials for staking claim of the `Two Leaves` party symbol. Following this, Sukesh Chandrasekhar, Dinakaran`s alleged middleman was arrested by police for striking a deal of Rs. 50 crore to help the AIADMK faction keep the `two leaves` poll symbol.

Earlier, the ministers and senior leaders met at the party headquarters here under Palaniswami. Following the Cabinet’s revolt against him early this week, Dhinakaran had said he was “stepping aside” in the interest of the party.

The Palanaismami camp constituted its committee led by Vaithilingam (which is likely to include some ministers) to hold talks with the Panneerselvam faction. Responding to the development, Munusamy this evening announced that his faction would also constitute a committee soon to hold the merger talks.

A release from Panneerselvam camp said that former ministers C Ponnaiyan, R Viswanathan and K Pandiarajan, Rajya Sabha MP V Maithreyan, former MP T H Manoj Pandian and former MLA J C D Prabhakar are their members.

KC Palanisamy, OPS camp leader said that in order to have a genuine unity of AIADMK, Sasikala and her family have to be kept away, directly or indirectly they shouldn’t have any role within party. “We have not deviated from our stand and we stick to our basics. Any change in our stand shall be injustice to people of TN and AIADMK cadre”: Elevation of GS is not as per the bylaws of the party. Sasikala’s elevation and in turn her subsequent actions is null and void. We have been insisting that the family against whom we have waged a war had indulged in activities bringing disrepute to the entire TN. They have submitted a petition to EC to follow the bylaws and give them the party symbol and justice.

Trust deficit

While the ruling faction sought no conditions for the merger talks as they claim there are no factions but only differences of opinion between, hiding the serious ideological split in the party as the party’s image is affected by Sasikala-Dinakaran directly controlling the party and government.

OPS camp is not fully convinced of Sasikala followers to agree for any genuine unity and there is trust deficit. Hardening its stance for talks, the OPS camp had demanded that 30 members of the Sasikala family be formally expelled from the party. They also demanded withdrawal of affidavits submitted to the Election Commission by the Palaniswami faction, declaring Sasikala and Dhinakaran as party General Secretary and Deputy General Secretary, respectively.

Munusamy said the first demand was getting the resignation of Sasikala and Dhinakaran and later their formal expulsion along with 30 other members of their family. Munusamy had said he suspected “foul play” over the Palanisamy camp’s decision of April 18 to remove Sasikala and Dhinakaran.

OPS faction does not quite trust the “oust” theory as apparently Sasikala and Dinakaran still control the party and government. In keeping with AIADMK party practice, a party notification should be issued on Dhinakaran and Sasikala family’s expulsion. He had said that the OPS camp would regard it as a full victory only if cadres were asked not to have any truck with the duo. Vaithilingam had retorted that there was “no drama” over the decision to ask Sasikala and Dhinakaran to keep away from the party and the government.”There is no drama. We compelled him (Dhinakaran) to step aside and he did it happily,” Vaithilingam said.

Fighting for CM post?

Media reports say both factions now fight for the CM post and they have no principles besides money and power. Now OPS camp wants VK Sasikala and her close relative Dinakaran to resign ahead of proposed AIADMK merger, wants Panneerselvam reinstated as Chief Minister and CBI probe instituted to bring out the truth about Jayalithaa’s death. Munusamy had in reply to a query from reporters said the OPS faction had not demanded the posts of either Chief Minister or party general secretary.

It is clear that the ruling faction to stay in power by using the other factions and is interested in the merger only to get back the party symbol, Two-leaves. “We need to protect the party symbol, so all must come together. This is not a question of the CM post; only of Amma’s legacy” said Thambidurai.-Tamil Nadu people still support Amma’s legacy. -There is no split in the party, only differences in opinion. We are sorting out all issues, says M Thambidurai quoted as saying by News18.

Meanwhile, former School Education Minister K Pandiarajan of OPS faction confirmed that the Palaniswami group had contacted them for talks. Earlier, the AIADMK (Amma) leader and Local Administration Minister S P Velumani quoted Palaniswami: “As far as we are concerned, we want to redeem the ‘Two Leaves’ symbol and remain united,” he told reporters. Velumani said the common feeling in the faction was that there should be unity in the “party founded by MGR (M G Ramachandran) and taken forward by Amma (Jayalalithaa)”.

Amid talks of merger between the O Panneerselvam and E Palaniswami factions of Tamil Nadu’s ruling party – AIADMK – the support for VK Sasikala is apparently thinning and she is under tremendous pressure to resign from her post along with her nephew TTV Dinakaran who faces corruption charges.

In modification of his previous demands that did not mean anything to Sasikala, the OPS faction led by Panneerselvam has reportedly set a condition for merger – VK Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dinakaran should resign from their posts. Reports also claim that a lot of leaders from the Sasikala camp too have lost faith in her leadership and ready for a merger in order to strengthen the party.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami last week formed a seven-member committee for holding merger talks with the rival O. Panneerselvam faction. The committee is headed by lawmaker R Vaithiyalingam and includes ministers C. Sreenivasan, KA Sengottaiyan and D Jayakumar among others.

This came a day after the Panneerselvam-group threatened to quit the merger if their demands that Sasikala and Dinakaran resign from the party and a CBI inquiry into the death of late chief minister Jayalalithaa, are not met. “We demand that an affidavit be submitted by the other camp stating that Sasikala and Dinakaran no longer hold party position to the Election Commission. If this is done, we will consider it as first victory to our faction,” former state minister and AIADMK member K P Munusamy said.

The OPS camp further alleged that Palanisamy is devising new ways to prevent the merger from taking place.”Current Chief Minister Palaniswami, who was appointed at the mercy of Sasikala, is not acting as the AIADMK Chief Minister rather he is acting as the Chief Minister of Sasikala and her family,” he said.

In response, the Palaniswami-led group asked the other faction to take back its complaint regarding party symbol.”Their camp went to EC first on the symbol issue, let them take back their complaint first,” AIADMK MP R. Vaithilingam said. Regarding the second demand for a probe on Jayalalithaa`s death, Vaithilingam said the demand for the same is under the court`s consideration, adding the government will follow the order.

EPS camp has reportedly welcomed the merger talks. Some top ministers of the Edappadi Palaniswami camp had an impromptu meeting. D Jayakumar, Finance Minister in the Palaniswami government said after the meeting that the group had discussed the party’s election symbol issue and Panneerselvam’s suggestion at merger.

Sidelined AIADMK (Amma) deputy general secretary Dhinakaran on Saturday appeared before the Delhi Police on his reported attempt to bribe Election Commission officials for retrieving the ‘two leaves’ symbol for his faction.

In a sudden move, some top leaders from AIADMK and TN govt ministers held an emergency meeting, hinting at the merger of two factions of AIADMK – O Panneerselvam and VK Sasikala camps. Some of them are opposed to merger as they lose their ministerial berths.

There are intense speculations of VK Sasikala resigning from her post as the party chief of AIADMK. This was later denied by Tamil Nadu finance minister, D Jayakumar. Whether or not Sasikala is ready to relinquish the post, she has not said anything in this regard.

Jayalalithaa loyalist O Panneerselvam hinted that he is open for merger under certain conditions to protect party from negative side effects. .

Delhi police grills Dina

Meanwhile, Delhi Police had arrested Dinakaran’s alleged middleman Sukesh Chandrashekhar with Rs 1.5 crore cash on Monday. The police also seized a BMW and a Mercedes car from him. Dinakaran and Sukesh had allegedly struck a deal of Rs 50 crore to help the AIADMK Sasikala faction keep the ‘two leaves’ symbol. The Delhi Police has booked Dinakaran for allegedly attempting to bribe Election Commission officials through Chandrasekar to get a favourable verdict in the party`s two leaves symbol case. Police have said that the duo struck a Rs 50 crore deal to try and bribe officials from the Election Commission

Dhinakaran, the nephew of jailed party chief Sasikala, is accused of attempting to bribe EC officials to get back the AIADMK’s ‘two leaves’ symbol for his faction. The crime branch of Delhi Police grilled deputy general secretary of AIADMK (Amma) TTV Dhinakaran for nearly seven hours in New Delhi in the case pertaining to the alleged attempt to bribe EC officials. He was asked to appear before them again tomorrow for further questioning. As part of investigation, the officers also go through the call records of the politician. Dinakaran appeared before Delhi Police`s interstate crime Branch office in Chanakyapuri in the capital`s diplomatic enclave following its April 19 summons with Saturday deadline. “Dinakaran reached at the Crime Branch office and was questioned over nine hours,” said a Crime Branch official.

High drama was witnessed last week when a Dinakaran follower attempted self-immolation when police arrived at his Besant Nagar residence in Chennai to serve him summons. The Delhi Police had issued a lookout notice against the leader in the wake of inputs that Dhinakaran was an NRI and could try to flee the country. The Crime Branch had on April 16 arrested an alleged middleman, Sukesh Chandrashekhar, in New Delhi in connection with the case. He claimed that he had told Dhinakaran that he will get a favourable verdict from the Election Commission of India in the party symbol case.

Dinakaran appeared before the investigators in Delhi in the afternoon after arriving from Chennai and was questioned till late night. Investigators said that Dinakaran`s personnel assistant was also interrogated over the issue and was asked if he knows the alleged middleman Sukesh Chandrasekar who was arrested from a five-star hotel on April 16. They further said that Dinakaran was questioned alone and also confronted with Chandrasekar to clarify their versions over the issue.

The Delhi police brought Dinakaran to Chennai for further investigation and the probe is on.

Sasikala in jail, Dhinakaran towards jail

VK Sasikala who has embarrassed the AIADMK people and betrayed the founding leader MGR and his supporter Jayalithaa, is being increasingly isolated as E Palaniswami camp wants her to resign along with nephew Dinakaran who faces corruption charges, claim sources.

Having seen all her pet dreams of becoming CM of Tamil Nadu crumbling as a mere day dream Sasikala is at present serving a four year jail term in Bengaluru in a multi-crore disproportionate assets case.

Dhinakaran, the nephew of jailed AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala, is facing a revolt by an influential section of the party led by Chief Minister K Palaniswami and a host of ministers, who had on a hand of friendship to the Panneerselvam camp.

Observation: Danger bell!

While Tamil Nadu and the AIADMK people seem to have overcome the grief they endured following the sudden death of CM Jayalalithaa under mysterious circumstances, the factional infighting as well as the cause of the death of Jayalithaa continues to haunt them. They are unbearably pained that Sasikala has caused the traumatic conditions in the party and state by her dramatic removal of former CM O. Pannerselvam, the closet ally of AIAMDK supremo in order to secure the party leadership and CM post. .

As the picture is getting clear to the Sasikala faction that OPS faction is not frantically looking for opportunity to help the Sasikala and her ministry in jail, Palanisamy government appointed a committee to talk with OPS faction on merger.

If the ruling AIADMK Chinnamma faction is not keen for genuine unity by discarding Chinnamma, then, the OPS faction must end merger talks and all preparations for unity. Sasikala needs the OPS MLAs to help the limping government give the government credibility, durability and legitimacy.

Sasikala is indirectly forcing the OPS faction to support any no trust motion against Palanisamy government so that government formed with MLAs who own the assembly polls by Jayalalithaa’s pro-poor policies and her immense power of vote appeal. EPS and government and supporting MLAs are being used by Sasikala as tools to discredit the government and party by belittling those leaders like OPS who were closer to Jaya than most of the Sasikala supporters.

As DMK and BJP are trying to fish in the troubled Tamil waters, Palanisamy and friends should be prudent in the most difficult stage of crisis in AIADMK this time and as the ruling party leader EPS needs to bring both factions together without caring for CM or GS post at this point of crucial time.  

It is said that in order to make some noise both hands should come together and clap. Quality of clap determines the level of noise the hands make.  

AIADMK still has 50 percent vote bank, while the DMK has only 30 percent.   Compromises are always possible. Dinakaran is out as he has been taken into jail in New Delhi.

DMK says merger of ‘power-monger’ OPS, Sasikala factions, even if it happens, will not last because of Sasikala factor. MK Stalin of the DMK has lashed out at the AIADMK, says ‘the state has become a battleground’. There were no talks about the Dinakaran and Sasikala issue. There are no talks on the issue of Dinakaran and Sasikala, nor did OPS faction raise any question on the same.

Currently the ruling Palanisamy government, being targeted by the opposition party DMK with a sizeable number of MLAs and hope to get the support of OPS group to defeat and remove the Sasikala-Palanisamy team,   is in danger of losing power.

AIADMK workers should take over the HQ and remove all Sasikala supporters from there. That would pave way for smooth functioning of the party.

The Palanisamy team does not enjoy the respect and trust of people because they are supporters of Sasikala-Dinakaran and are viewed as betrayers. Paneerselvam can be able project the government as the real government of Jayalalithaa.

By making Panneerselvam he CM and GS, Palanisamy would save the government and party of MGR-Jayalalithaa. If a unity government takes office quickly the government and party could be saved, though whether they would win the next poll remains a question for which leaders should find a viable answer.

Corruption in state functioning has been on the rise since the intraparty conflict following the surprise death of CM Jayalalithaa. When corruption went unchecked during the Jayalalithaa reign, the condition is out of control now as none seems to be responsible for ill-effects of rampant corruption. Nothing gets done in Tamil state without offering bribes. People don’t get water in villages as drinking water has become a rare commodity in the state. Private companies sell drinking water making huge profits.

And yet, a few ‘Chinnamma’ MLAs and ministers say that Palanisamy whom Sasikala chose to be the CM would remain CM for the entire term even if this is going the last AIADMK government of the state.

Time is running out for Palanisamy government and AIADMK

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Growing insecurity in Rohingya Refugee Camps: A Threat to South Asian Security?

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A young Rohingya girl holds her brother outside a youth club in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. © UNHCR/Vincent Tremeau

5 years have passed since the Rohingya refugee influx in August, 2017.  Bangladesh is currently hosting 1.2 million Rohingya refugees in 34 camps in its southern district of Cox’s Bazar. The increasing rate of trans-border crime in those bordering camps is not only making the Rohingya refugees vulnerable and prone to crimes but also threatening South Asian security as a whole. The Rohingya community leader’s speech of “We don’t want to stay in the camps. It’s hell.” in the ‘Go Home’ campaign in 20th June, 2022, made us rethink about the security situation in the camps and how the safety and security of Rohingya refugees is linked to South Asian Security.

Security Situation inside the Rohingya Camps

More than 1,200,000 Rohingya refugees are now living in the camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar, making it the largest refugee settlement in the world. While Bangladesh has the ninth-highest population density in the world, around 40,000 to 70,000 refugees are living in per square kilometre in the Rohingya camps, which is 40 times higher than the average population density in Bangladesh. With no sign of repatriation combined with the lack of economic alternatives for Rohingyas and the difficulty in maintaining law and order in overcrowded camps, frustrated Rohingyas are increasingly becoming involved in criminal activities or being targeted by criminal groups.

Currently, around 14 armed criminal gangs are operating in the camps, in which seven gangs known as Hakim Bahini, Hasan Bahini, Sadeq Bahini, Nurul Alam Bahini, Nur Mohammad Bahini and Hamid Bahini are in Teknaf and seven gangs named Munna Bahini, Asad Bahini, Jamal Bahini, Manu Bahini, Rahim Bahini, Kamal Bahini, and Giyas Bahini are active in Ukhiya camps.

According to law enforcement agencies at least 10 groups among these are engaged in 12 types of crimes including murder, rape, kidnapping, drug smuggling and human trafficking. The fighting over controlling the camps among the armed gangs is also deteriorating the security situation inside the camps. A Rohingya refugee in the camps said in an interview, “Everything seems calm in daytime. After sunset, the situation becomes fully different.” As there is no police or army surveillance from 4 pm to 8 am, camps come under the control of gangs at night. They are equipped with weapons like lead meat choppers, knives and other made weapons.

According to Prothom Alo report citing the police, in the last two and half years, more than 50 Rohingyas have been killed in clashes between Rohingya armed gangs over establishing supremacy in the camp area, drugs and gold smuggling, money laundering and extortion.  Recently, the Armed Police Battalion (APBn) has recovered M16 assault rifles with 491 bullets from a camp in Ukhiya which indicates the worsening security situation in the camps. At night Rohingya women are also taken from their houses & are return in the morning. At least 59 women have been raped in the Rohingya camp. As crimes often go unpunished, no one in the camps has the courage to speak against the criminals. Sometimes, for ensuring own security, Rohingyas themselves, including children become engaged with smuggling, narcotics trafficking and other crimes.

As of May 2022,a total of 12,97 cases have been filed against 3,023 Rohingyas. Among them, 73 cases are in charge of murder, 762 are narcotics cases, 28 cases are filed on the allegation of human trafficking, 87 for illegal weapons, 65 are rape charges, 35 for kidnapping and ransom, 10 for robberies, and 89 are other cases related to crime and violence.

Besides, it is believed that Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a Rohingya insurgent group are also active in Rohingya camps and made contract with a Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). ARSA is not only relying on arms like AK-47s, M-22s, M-21s and M-16 rifles but also gaining support through other means. More than 500 madrassas in the Rohingya camps are  said to be controlled by an ARSA affiliates which will help ARSA to gain sympathy, spread propaganda and extend their network.

A Threat to South Asian Security

Since Cox’s Bazar provides a strategic route for smuggling and a shelter to Rohingyas refugees who have lack of economic alternatives, the bordering Rohingyas camps are turning into a breeding place for criminalities and the insecurity in the camps can threaten the security of the whole region.

Cox’s Bazar is used as a direct route from eastern India to Nepal for arms smugglers to reach Indian and Nepali buyer. United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), an insurgent group seeking independence from India, also buys arms from China and smuggles them using Bangladeshi ports and overland to India.

The Naaf river, the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar, is also the busiest drug route in the region. Almost 80% of Yaba enter in Bangladesh through Naikhyangchhari and 70% of them are stored in Rohingya camps before distributing them and Rohingyas are increasingly getting involved in peddling yaba for their survival.

Besides, drug trafficking, Rohingyas are also taking part in trans-border crimes, including human trafficking, extremism, arms fighting and the camps can be a potential base for extremist activities and the insecurity in the camps and border could transcend to Bangladesh anytime and create insecurity for the whole region of South Asia. As there is a growing concern over the recruitment of refugees by the extremist networks like Hizb-ut Tahrir and Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), as well as by radical Islamist groups like HeI. It is also reported that the influence of HeI is growing among the traumatized and frustrated Rohingyas which could fuel militancy not only in Bangladesh but also across the South Asian region. Along with this, the Rohingya militant groups bordering Myanmar i.e.  Arakan Rohingya National Organization (ARNO), Rohingya National Alliance (RNA), the Arakan Rohingya Islamic Front (ARIF), and Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO) could also recruit from Rohingyas and threaten regional security.

From security perspective, ensuring the security of Rohingyas is directly linked to the security of the region Though Bangladesh has taken several measures to ensure the security of these displaced people, it is tough to maintain law and order in the densely populated camps near the border. Therefore, safe, sustainable and dignified return of these displaced people is the only solution. Since Rohingya refugees have also expressed their desire to go home through the “Go Home” campaign, in which thousands of Rohingyas in Ukhiya & Teknaf camps staged demonstration on World Refugee Day demanding their repatriation back to Myanmar. Bangladesh as well as the international community should act together to facilitate Rohingya repatriation to ensure the security of Rohingyas as well as the South Asian region before its too late.

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Rohingya repatriation between Myanmar-Bangladesh

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Rohingya refugees fleeing conflict and persecution in Myanmar (file photo). IOM/Mohammed

Refugees find themselves in a situation of limbo because of the prolonged refugee scenario. They are neither eligible for repatriation nor do they qualify as citizens of the host nation or a third country. However, they must deal with the harsh reality of the nature of vicious politics because of the complexity of state systems and the institutional weaknesses of international institutions.

Prolonged refugees, according to UNHCR (2004), are trapped in an impenetrable and protracted condition of limbo. Despite not being in danger or facing threats, they significantly lack access to basic rights, financial aid, and support for their psychological and social needs. As they are pushed toward outside help, they feel unable to escape the core of forced dependence.

Are Rohingya refugees in some way contributing to an ongoing, serious refugee crisis? In relation to the Rohingya crisis, statistics from UNHCR shows that more than 0.7 million Rohingya fled to Bangladesh in 2017. There are 1.1 million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, the prime minister of Bangladesh stated in 2018 during the 73rd United Nations General Assembly.

For this South Asian emerging nation in 2017, the flow of this deluge was nothing new. These migrants have been entering Bangladesh since the 1970s after being forcibly uprooted by the military dictatorship.

According to a survey, there were around 0.25 million refugees in Bangladesh throughout the 1990s. Nearly 0.02 million people were returned after the 2000s, but the SPDC (State Peace and Development Council) and the Bangladeshi government’s inability to settle their differences has made this process difficult to complete.

The world’s most persecuted minority, who is clearly stateless and has strong proof of persecution and genocide on account of race, ethnicity, and religion, is currently being cared for by Bangladesh. The responses of international organizations like the UN and its branches like the ICJ and IOM are not positive enough for Bangladesh in this regard to produce a permanent solution.

West African nation Gambia filed a 35-page application with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in November 2019 against Myanmar. The ICJ’s extraordinary victory in the Gambia v. Myanmar case regarding the ethnic cleansing and genocide of Rohingya people is the first of its kind. This was founded on an “erga omnes” premise, which periodically reports on the situation of the Rohingya.

However, Bangladesh continues to push for international organizations to take humanitarian action through the UN. Though this worry might attract their attention and drive them to consider ensuring human rights for these forcibly displaced persons, it has instead placed a heavy load on Bangladesh.

Tom Andrews, the UN special rapporteur on Myanmar, issued a warning to the international bodies regarding the Rohingya crisis just a few days ago during his visit to Bangladesh in December 2021. Bangladesh “cannot and should not bear this duty alone,” he said, urging foreign groups to express grave concern. He went on to say that Myanmar, not Bangladesh, was the origin of the conflict and where it will ultimately be resolved.

Bangladesh, a developing nation with a population of 160 million, is being horribly impacted by the Rohingya people in terms of social, economic, and political spheres. Rohingyas have been in a condition of limbo since at least 2017, which is now more than five years ago.

They have been relocated, assisted, and given security by Bangladesh and several international organizations, but they still yearn for a long-lasting solution.

Bangladesh has been taking every action imaginable to bring the Rohingya refugees’ home. Since the 2017 refugee inflow, the Bangladeshi government has worked with various international groups to promote peaceful voluntary repatriation; however, the Myanmar military junta has consistently resisted these efforts. Refugees from the Rohingya minority are currently suffering greatly as a result of the political unrest in Myanmar.

As Cox’s Bazar’s refugee camps are already overflowing with 1.1 million Rohingya refugees, the Bangladesh is moving them to Bhasan Char in order to provide for them improved living conditions.

International organizations had doubts regarding the safety and security of the Island; however, Bangladesh eventually persuaded them to cooperate. Bangladesh was left with no choice but to relocate some Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char. Bangladesh now faces a security danger from overcrowded camps. The Rohingya camps in Bangladesh are home to numerous terrorist and armed rebel organizations. One of them is the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). Despite the issues, Bangladesh has continued to push for bilateral discussions while also applying international pressure to the junta.

Myanmar, on the other hand, is a lawless state that disobeys international law and order. The arrangements established for the peaceful return of Rohingya refugees were broken.

In Myanmar, the regime has been increasingly hostile since the military takeover. Myanmar is utterly unwilling to help the Rohingya refugees develop a strong sense of desire for return. There is no “supranational” authority in anarchy, which is advantageous for Myanmar. It is now time for the international community to recognize that the Rohingya refugee crisis has grown into a regional security issue.

Myanmar-related news indicates a new genocide. the country’s rebel and protest groups are being repressed by the military junta with violence.

The Myanmar military is still buying new weapons from China and Russia, including the SU-30SME multi-role heavy fighter, the YAK-130 light attack advanced jet trainer, the K-8W advanced trainer, and Ming class attack submarine, among others, despite an arms embargo. The world community is concerned that these weapons could accidentally attack defenseless populations. A peaceful voluntary return will face further obstacles as a result of internal unrest in Myanmar.

The Rohingya catastrophe, which forced 1.1 million individuals to leave their country of birth due to state-sponsored persecution, was of a size that is easy to comprehend. When the state commits the crime, the environment becomes more hostile. The main duty of the state is to uphold the rights and interests of its citizens.

Refugees are currently skeptical of the military junta in Myanmar. They have a long and painful history of persecuting people. Therefore, persuading the refugees to return home voluntarily won’t be simple. Myanmar must extend their hands in mutually beneficial ways. More discussions between international parties, including the Rohingya, will build confidence and facilitate a peaceful voluntary return of the Rohingya refugees. Humanity and peace should ultimately triumph over all other factors.

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South Asia

Why the implementation of the CHT peace agreement is still elusive?

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When the “Top boxer” of Bangladesh, for the past eight years, Sura Krishna Chakma raised the national flag of Bangladesh in the first-ever professional boxing tournament held in last month, it reminds the contribution of the UK Ching Marma and other minority people who fought valiantly in the Liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971.

Bangladesh began its independence journey with a population that is ethnically homogeneous, with less than 1% of the population being ethnically diverse. However, Bangladesh had struggled to deal with Chittagong Hill Tracts’ (CHT) tribal people as they have been waging an insurgency movement for autonomy. Later, Peace Accord was signed aiming to end the conflict in 1997. But, after 25 years of its signature, the treaty is still failing to instil trust among national political parties and factional groups. Currently, the situation in the CHT area is a complex mix of conflicts and negotiations. The area is also beset by ethnic tensions between indigenous communities and groups, interferences from neighbouring states, widespread poverty, resource scarcity, and low literacy rates.

Why peace in the CHT is still elusive?

In recent years, remote areas of CHT have become more prone to violence due to the involvement of various active groups in the area. The four ethnic political groups – PCJSS, Jana Samhati Samiti (Reformist-MN Larma), United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF) and UPDF (Ganatantrik) – in the region appear to be at odds with one another. They have no ideological disagreements but are involved in inter-conflict for narrow self-interest rather than protecting the minority rights. All factions have specific armed wings with advanced weapons such as rocket launchers, automatic sniper rifles, and heavy machine guns, according to law enforcement. They extort wood trade, cooking markets, livestock markets, transportation, and a variety of other services, each on their own turf. Ransom for the abduction of ethnic groups and Bangalis are also a major source of income. Contractors also have to pay at the rate of 10 percent of the original budget. To stay safe, locals were forced to maintain good relationships with all parties. They are compelled to pay monthly tributes to remain in their homes. There are even reports of indigenous women being abducted and raped by rival groups. They are so vulnerable and frightened that they do not even move after the sunset. The inter-group conflicts have claimed more than 1100 lives since the signing of the peace accord. Although according to the terms of the accord, the guerrillas were to surrender and surrender their weapons but many haven’t surrendered arms yet.

What’s to blame for the present unrest?

The agreement’s lethargic implementation has reignited separatist tendencies among the Paharis. Recently, the Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF), an insurgent organization of small ethnic group, demanded a separate state in CHT with full autonomy and threatened strict armed movement. Prior to this, The UPDF, a breakaway group, continues to oppose the treaty and seeks full regional autonomy.

The most pressing concern in CHT, however, is extensive Christianization among the tribal population. ‘Evangelization’ is generally carried out by the missionaries through a number of NGOs operating under the umbrella of “development partner.” Christian missionaries use money and other worldly trappings to entice poor tribal people to become Christians. So far, 4344 families in CHT became Christian in the last two decades and the number of churches increased dramatically from 274 in 1998 to 644 in 2022. It’s worth noting that more than a third of the Bandarban district’s tribal population is now Christian.

Impact of the Peace Accord on the Situation of ethnic People

Certainly, the Peace Accord made room and rendered opportunities for the CHT’s development. In these 25 years, comprehensive and systematic development efforts have contributed to the socio-economic development of the Pahari people, which immensely contributed in reducing the gap between the Pahari and Bengalis. Many tribes are well-integrated into mainstream middle-class Bangladeshi society, with officers and ambassadors serving in Bangladesh’s military and diplomatic corps.

With its contrasting topography of hilly terrains, immense lakes, wide-open spaces, as well as rich ethnic and cultural diversity, tourism industry flourished in the CHT. Tourism boosted due to the infrastructural projects connecting the remote and mystic parts with the main areas of the country and security ensured by the law enforcement agencies from the precarious hilly terrain to the remote bordering area. The treaty also integrated the CHT people into the mainstream economy, while permitting them to retain their specific ethnic and cultural identities.

The ‘Small Ethnic Groups Cultural Organisation Act 2010’ was passed in order to safeguard and foster the cultural expressions of Bangladesh’s small ethnic groups. Small ethnic groups’ rights are now more recognized by the government in Bangladesh than before. The development allocation per capita in the CHT districts is significantly higher than in the rest other districts. The government has amended some laws to allow for the implementation of the peace accord mainly the formation of the ‘CHT Regional Council’ and the ‘Ministry of CHT Affairs’, establishing the ‘Land commission’ to deal with conflicts over land and natural resource rights. The government is also gradually reducing military camps. The number decreased from 546 to 206. Another feature of post-agreement development in the hills has been the influx of development partners and the extension of NGOs and INGOs in the CHT area.

Way Forward

The first and foremost, the Bangladesh Government must take into cognizance the factors behind the failure of establishing peace in CHT areas to ensure peace in the hilly region. Secondly, the implementation of the remaining articles should also need to be prioritized. So far, out of 78 provisions, 48 provisions of the Accord have been implemented. Hill people strongly believe that the implementation of the Accord is the key to solving problems in the CHT. Thirdly, it is crucial to control the armed factions to evict violence and restore peace to CHT on an urgent basis. Fourthly, both the Hill and the Bengali people emphasize that land disputes need to be resolved immediately. And finally, there is a need for consolidating the progress achieved so far.

Nevertheless, an established misconception is prevailing among the hilly people that their voices are not heard and they are treated differently from the rest of the Bengalis. To eradicate this misconception and build trust and harmony, more initiatives should be undertaken by the government.

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