Violence in Khagrachari Hill Tracts (CHT), Bangladesh
- Violence in Khagrachari Hill Tracts (CHT), Bangladesh
On the 25th of August communal riots between the Jumma (Indigenous Minority People) people and the Bengali people took place in the sub-district of Mahalchari of the Khagrachari Hill Tracts in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), Bangladesh. The sub-district administration reported that 150 homes were burned and 210 families were victimized. In the riot one Jumma person was killed and many others were seriously injured. 2 young girls from the village of Babupara, Picraching Marma (12) and Mamyaching Marma (15), are still missing. As a result of the incident a number of people are being treated in the hospital. With the assistance of the army personnel, the police have arrested 47 Jumma and Bengali people in relation to the incident. Thousands of Bengali settlers in the area surrounded the Police Station of Mahalchari to demand the release of the Bengali people whom they believe to be not at fault.
The incident took place when a Bengali timber-businessman, Rupam Mohajon, was allegedly abducted by Jumma terrorists who were disguised as supporters and activists of a political organization in CHT. Rupan Mohajon had gone to the village of Sindukchari to watch games and upon returning to his house it is said that he was abducted by the armed Jumma terrorists. Hearing the about the abduction of Rupam Mohajon, the Bengalis began the violence.
The Sindukchari Union Council Chairman, Sunupru Chowdhury (Marma), went to the market of Mahalchari to try to reach a compromise and instill peace in the area but he was captured and tortured by the Bengalis and was released after one day. In the incident several villages, Babupara, Tilapara, Saw-Millpara, Pahartali, Khitish Karbaripara, Kerangatolly buildings and homes have been burned. The Bengalis have also burned the Lamuchari Jumma village 5 kilometers away from the Headquarter of Mahalchari.
On the 26th of August 2003, Md. Wadud Bhuyian MP, Chairman of CHT Development Board, Army Regional Commander, Bridger General Jahurul Alam, Deputy Commissioner (DC), Md. Humayun Kabir, Superintendent of Police (SP), Md. Matiur Ramhan, Municipality Chairman, Mr. Mong Kya Ching Chowdhury held a meeting at the office of Mahalchari Thana Nirbahi Officer. On the 27th of August 2003, the Chief of General Staff, Major General Ikram Haque, General Officer Commanding (GOC), Major General Moin U. Ahmed, Regional Commander, Bridger General Jahurul Alam, DC and SP visited the place of incidence. During their visit the Chief of General Staff told the victims that the people who were responsible for the incident whether Bengali or Jumma must be punished.
During the incident the Bengali people also destroyed a Buddhist temple, Triratna Bouddha Vihara, in the village of Lemuchari. The Jumma people claimed that a number of Buddha status have been broken and stolen by the Bengali people.
This happened for many reasons - the Jumma youths have been demanding money from Bengali people and abducting people. Also the Bengali people have been trying to increase the area for establishing their homes threatening indigenous people with violence if they do not get off their land. An Army Officer told the newsmen that they have been encountered by the indigenous terrorists and have been trying to counteract the movement. The Bengali people got the opportunity to burn the villages and looted and tortured homes and people.
The police of Mahalchari said that so far 4 cases have been filed with the Mahalchuri Police Station. In-between the cases of killing former Union Council Chairman, Mr. Binode Bihari Chakma and burning houses of Jumma people for which more than 1000 Bengalis were accused. Mr. Hafijur Rohaman, Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Mahalchari Police Station told that on Wednesday night a total of 28 Bengali people from Jarungchuri village were handed over to police.
But a non-government source said that a total of 300 houses in 9 villages under 5 Mouzas have been burned. The Chairman of Mahalchari Union Council demanded that one man has been killed an unknown number of people received injuries and 2 young girls are currently missing.
The Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti (PCJSS), the political party based in the CHT blamed the Bengali settlers for the incident. They also blamed that the government is involved in the incident and supporting it by not implementing the CHT Peace Accord. The government has been backing the UPDF and helping the Bengali settlers in such incidents in the past in the CHT.
On 29th August 2003, Md. Wadud Bhuyan MP along with Former Khagrachari District Council Chairman, Mr. Samiran Dewan and District Council Member, Mr. Animesh Chakma visited the accident place and distributed relief. Local Army Commander also distributed Taka 2,000.00 (US$ 34.00) among the victimized families.
Another team of the CHT Regional Council lead by Mr. Raktopal Tripura, Md. Jafar Ahmed including others visited and distributed some monetary relief.
Many Jumma people claimed that most of the burned homes could have been saved if the army personnel had taken necessary steps. Mr. Ugyazai Marma, a resident of Babupara village, showing a wound on his body, reported that he was beaten by army personnel for not identifying the Jumma terrorists. Many Jumma people who complained have displayed their wounded bodies to people including the Rangamati District Awami League President, Mr. Dipankar Talukder and Convener of Khagrachari District Awami League, Mr. Jatindra Lal Tripura.
Transportation with other areas is remaining closed and prices of goods in the market are higher then days previous to the incident. Schools and college are also remaining closed.
Most of the affected people have not returned to their villages in fear of more attacks by Bengali settlers and army. Some families have returned to their homesteads and started living under trees or in cattle-houses. A number of families are still hiding in the forest while some have taken shelter in their relatives' homes far away from the place of incident. The victimized Jumma people could not save any clothes, stored food/grain, goods, cooking items or moveable properties. The victimized families' children who attend school and college also lost their books in the incident.
The latest news in the area reports that 9 ethnic indigenous women were raped and other assaulted during the eight hours of attacks on 10 villages. It is now reported that 400 home in those villages as well as two Buddhist temples were set ablaze and an indigenous man was killed during the attacks. An eighth month old baby was also a victim as he dies of suffocation while his family was fleeing the attackers. A 72 road blockade has been called by the UPDF towards realization of its 6 point demand including formation of a judicial committee and probing into recent incidents of killing and arson against the indigenous people in the area.
There is no step yet taken by the Government or non-government organization to come forward to help the victimized families by rehabilitating them or providing them with housing facilities, since most of the victimized have been living under poverty lines. To save the victimized relief in the form of both goods and money are required immediately.
Sources: Witnesses, Daily Newspapers (The Prathom Alo, The Daily Star, The Bhorerkagoj), relevant government sources.
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