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Lawsuits against 1900 Regulation: CHT Commission expresses deep concern

The International Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission (CHTC) in a statement today expressed deep concern over the ongoing lawsuits against the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regulation, 1900, and called for its defense.

"The CHTC firmly believes that the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regulation, 1900, holds immense significance for the indigenous peoples of the CHT region, as it provides for limited self-rule through traditional indigenous institutions and upholds customary laws, conventions, usages, and practices relating to lands, territories and resources and the family laws of the peoples concerned," said the statement.

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"It is a testament to the rich cultural heritage and unique traditions of the indigenous peoples in the area. The recent attempts to question the validity of the 1900 Regulation through legal proceedings are a matter of grave concern," the statement reads.

If the regulation were to be declared invalid or otherwise weakened, it would further marginalize the indigenous peoples of the CHT and destabilize the region. This will endanger the progress of implementing the CHT Accord and the efforts of the CHT Land Commission, it said.

It could also have adverse consequences for Bangladesh's secular, non-communal, and multicultural character," the CHT Commission said in the statement.

Co-Chairs of the CHT Commission--Sultana Kamal, Elsa Stamatopoulou, and Myrna Cunningham Kain-- signed the statement.

The CHT Accord of 1997, a historic agreement, recognizes the importance of the 1900 Regulation and emphasizes the need for consultations and advice from local authorities in case of amendments, they said in the statement.

Any attempt to declare the regulation as a "dead law" or repeal it is fundamentally inconsistent with the spirit of this Accord.

In the statement, the CHT commission said the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court on November 22, 2016, declared the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regulation 1900 as a valid and effective law.

This was followed in 2017 by the apex court's decision, in which it overruled the High Court judgment that had declared the 1900 Regulation to be a "dead law".

However, in 2018, two Bengali migrant inhabitants of Khagrachhari with unknown social or political antecedents challenged the aforesaid two verdicts at the SC through review petitions, which are only sparingly allowed, the statement added.