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The dailystar News: Life wiped out of Shova's eyes in highlands of lost hope

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    ... Life wiped out of Shova s eyes in highlands of lost hope http://www.hrcbm.org/NEWLOOK/cht-090803.html Note: Minorities in Bangladesh are victims of
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 11, 2003
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      >===== Original Message From Dhiman Chowdhury <hrcbm@...> =====

      Life wiped out of Shova's eyes in highlands of lost hope

      Note: Minorities in Bangladesh are victims of "Genocide". A systematic and
      planned annihilation is underway. The news herein will depict some of the
      "Elements of Crime" as defined in the "Genocide convention" and preparatory
      documents of "International Criminal Court". Please refer to Genocide
      convention at http://www.hrcbm.org/genocide for further details.

      Report: The Daily Star News:
      Pinaki Roy back from Khagrachhari.


      Padma Shova Chakma stared vacantly at her burnt-out house, holding a charcoal
      of a betel nut tree. Piles of coal of what constituted her property a few days
      ago were strewn all over.

      Picture (courtesy: The Daily Star News): Hanging on......Villagers in
      Lemuchhari stand around the remains of burnt-out houses after Bangalee
      settlers set fire to them.

      "I don't know why they ruined my life. I've lost everything. I don't know
      where to go and what to do with my five daughters," Shova said, tears welling
      up in her eyes.

      The 40-year-old woman and her family lost everything at their Lemuchhari
      village on the afternoon of August 26 when a mob of Bangalee settlers from
      neighbouring Chanrachhari village torched their village at will.

      Lemuchhari was not the lone village of indigenous people that was reduced to
      ashes; seven other villages of Babupara, Pahartali, Keranganal, Durpajjanal,
      Ramesshu Karbaripara, Sawmill Para and Basanta Para also stood in ruins.

      Burnt-out houses, piles of charcoal and blackened trees marked the villages of
      ethnic people. Only a few worn-out dishevelled villagers were milling around
      the ruins of their house in the hope of salvaging the petty things for
      rebuilding life. Most of them lost all their clothes, except for those they
      were wearing.

      "Many of us have been starving since the nightmare," said Paingcraio Marma, a
      villager of Babupara. "Only a few lucky families have got rice handouts from
      the government."

      A few animals, mostly pariah dogs, pet pigs and poultry birds, roamed the
      battered homesteads seemingly in a daze.


      The indigenous people claim that Bangalees, both Hindu and Muslim, torched and
      looted about 350 houses in the villages under Mahalchhari Police Station,
      killing two and raping at least 10 women.

      The marauders also ransacked three Buddhist temples and razed one and took
      away four Buddha statues, they alleged.

      The abduction of a Bangalee youth, Rupan Mahajan, allegedly by a gang of
      indigenous people on August 24 triggered the violence.

      Rupan's family said the hostage-takers demanded Tk 5 lakh in ransom.

      "I was working at my yard, unaware of the disturbance brewing elsewhere.
      Suddenly a group of 60 to 70 Bangalee settlers came shouting towards our
      village. They were armed with machetes, sticks and spears and jerrycanful of
      kerosene," said Shova.

      "Before I could make out the situation, they stormed houses, looting and
      burning everything. I saw some people of the neighbouring village with whom
      our villagers had good relations, in an unbelievably marauding mood."

      "Our villagers ran helter-skelter for cover. They were crying, calling out
      relatives and running towards the Kalabanya jungle. I asked my daughters to
      follow me and run to save life. We had no time to think of property or
      anything else."

      She said the gang in their two-hour frenzied attack on the village torched all
      the 63 houses one after another. "They looted valuables, farm animals and
      burnt everything including rice, wheat and maize in their scorched earth
      policy," Shova said.

      "I came out of the jungle the next day to find the village of lost hope.
      Nothing was standing, ashes of burnt thatched houses were scattered all over."

      Proggajyoti Chakma of Lemuchhara village said some hills people rushed to the
      police camp, just 100 metres off the village, to inform them of the raids, but
      the law-enforcers never responded to their cries for help.

      "We had no other way but to flee to the jungles," he said.

      "Our people say the situation in all the eight villages is the same. Even
      seven days into the arson, we've got only a handful handout of rice from the
      government," Shova said.

      She and other villagers like Joyotibikash Chakma, a schoolteacher, Sonaratan,
      headman of the village, Amal Kumar Chakma, Union Parishad member -- all live
      in the Kalabanya jungle.

      They have no shelter and no way to save them from monsoon rains. Those who had
      flimsy shelters in the jungles were drenched in the cloudburst yesterday.

      Living a precarious life in the jungles is better than living in damaged
      houses under the spectre of unceasing fear of mindless acts of bestiality, say
      the indigenous people.

      Avinas Chakma, a student of Dhaka State College and a resident of Babupara
      village, had read about the incident when he was in Dhaka. He went to his home
      village five days after the incident to see the scars of the plunder.

      "What remain of my house are only ashes. If I tell the barbaric story to my
      friends in Dhaka, they won't believe it. It's totally unbelievable in a
      society that claims itself to be democratic," he said.


      The indigenous people allege that the administration is soft-pedalling on
      bringing the criminals to justice and trying to shift the blame onto rival
      political groupings of indigenous people.

      The administration has no definite information on how many houses were burnt
      and how many indigenous people became homeless.

      According to the indigenous people, 63 houses were burnt in Lemuchhari village
      alone and the loss ranged between Tk 30,000 and Tk 12,00000 a house.

      The Bangalee settlers say the violence was the act of ethnic people. Some of
      them set fire to a house in their simmering conflict raging in the area and
      the fire soon leapt to neighbouring houses and villages, they claim.

      Local legislator Wadud Bhuiyan said it was not the Bangalees, but the
      indigenous people were their own enemies.

      The Prime Minister's Office is planning to allocate Tk 30 lakh for the
      rehabilitation of the victims.
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