Tuesday, June 22, 2010
One person was injured when the settlers attacked the Jummas protesting a land grab attempt on 7th june 2010 in Ramgarh in Khagrachari district.
Sources said a group of 20 – 25 settlers led by Kashem and Belal from Thulipara began clearing jungles to occupy approximately 15 acres of land belonging to the Jummas in the village of Pilabhanga under Batnatoli Union.
“The settlers have been trying to occupy the land for the last few days.” a local Jumma leader told chtnews.com.
The land belongs to three Jummas – Jubolal (30) son of Prabhat Chakma, Ripon Chakma (18) son of Buddha Dhan Chakma and Nilong Dhan Chakma (45) son of Urbopeda Chakma.
They had their old homesteads in this land, and there are mango and jackfruit trees still to be found on it which they had planted.
“The settlers came yesterday morning and begun clearing jungles. When we tried to restrain them they attacked us and Nilong Dhan was injured in the attack.” one of the victims was quoted as saying.
After that, more Jummas came to the scene and forced the settlers to go back.
Monday, June 21, 2010
|Photo 1 of 2|
Hundreds of ethnic Chakma, a Buddhist tribal group indigenous to Chittagong Hill Tracts, lost their homes in February
BAGHAICHHARI, Bangladesh — Bangladesh's southeastern hills are again simmering with ethnic tension, raising concerns that a fragile peace reached 13 years ago will collapse.
Hundreds of ethnic Chakma, a Buddhist tribal group indigenous to the Chittagong Hill Tracts, lost their homes in February when violence broke out between them and Muslim Bengali settlers, prompting a harsh army crackdown.
"With the assistance of the army, the settlers came here to attack us," said Joshna Chakma, who lost her house and says her village has been plagued by violence since Bengali settlers and an army post arrived around two years ago.
"Last year, there were 78 houses burned down by the settlers, helped by the army," said Joshna, who is a member of the local council in the remote Baghaichhari district.
"This year, it was the same: the Bengali settlers came into our village chanting slogans. We know that the chant is a signal, so we ran into the forests, and when we got back the houses were all burned down," she said.
The three-day bout of arson, violence and arrests left three dead and scores injured in the impoverished area, while Joshna said 410 houses and several pagodas were torched.
Two tribal people were killed when the army opened fire on villagers protesting the arson attacks. A Bengali settler from a nearby village was killed in clashes with tribals two days later.
It was the worst violence since a peace deal was signed in 1997, ending the tribal groups' slow-burning insurgency, which official figures say has claimed more than 2,500 lives since the early 1980s.
Villagers say the episode and how it was handled by the Bengali-dominated army, with bullets and mass arrests, is proof tribal people are second-class citizens in Bangladesh.
"The army tell us: if you have courage, live here, if you do not then run away, as for us to kill you is like a tree losing its leaves in the winter," said Ganandu Chakma, who is leader of a land committee in the area.
Joshna's account of settler-led, army-backed violence was supported by Pornomas Bhikkha, a Buddhist monk, who said he was forced to flee when his temple was attacked by 35 settlers with help from around 50 soldiers.
"I could see the settlers, they had sticks, knives and other weapons. The army was just behind them. I went out and they tried to attack me, so I ran away and they broke into the temple and burned it to the ground," he said.
The army had come back after the incident to cut down the teak trees on the grounds of the pagoda, he said.
Villagers say the settlers encroach on tribal land, including ancient burial grounds and fields which are periodically left fallow, and view the arson and army brutality as an attempt to drive the tribal community away for good.
"Where are our rights? Why does the state only respect the Bengali settlers not us?" asked Joshna, lowering her voice to point out the gun-toting army patrols that inspect the dusty, burned-out village on a daily basis.
Bangladesh's sprawling hills and their ethnic inhabitants have for decades been a source of tension in this majority-Muslim nation of 144 million, which is one of the most densely populated countries on earth.
Since the early 1980s, successive governments pursued policies of Bengali settlement in the area, moving poor, landless farmers like Mohammad Abu Hamid, 47, to the hill tracts and giving them five hectares (12.4 acres) of land to farm.
"This land was given to me by the government but the ethnics demand it, saying it was their forefathers' land. But I have documents, they have none, and I have farmed this land for decades," Hamid told AFP.
Such policies meant that by 1991 49.5 percent of the local population was "non-tribal", up from just 2.0 percent in 1947. No figures were given in the 2001 census, but tribal leaders say Bengalis are now likely the majority.
The hundreds of thousands of settlers have been "used by the Bangladesh state as political pawns," said Bhumitra Chakma, a tribal academic who teaches politics at England's Hull University.
The militarisation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts and the Bengali settlement policy means "ethnic cleansing is going on and in a way which is rather indirect and gradual, but effective," he said.
The February violence was a textbook example of the type of army-backed settler-led violence that has for decades underpinned all land grabs in the region, and which goes ignored by central and local authorities, he said.
The key provisions of the 1997 peace deal were to resolve land disputes and dismantle major army camps, but both have faltered, and violence like that seen in February makes implementation harder, tribal leaders say.
The Awami League government, which does not support new settlements and negotiated the 1997 deal, condemned the February attacks and hinted anti-accord elements of the Islamist-allied opposition may be involved.
"There is no question of anything like ethnic cleansing or anyone driving the tribal people off the land -- that's not possible," said Abdus Sobhan Sikder, the most senior official at Bangladesh's home ministry.
"The tribes have been living there with the Bengalis for years and the government is trying to make the region more peaceful," he added.
The government provided rice and construction materials to help the victims of February's violence.
Local police chief, Mohammad Abu Kalam Siddiq, who was moved to his post shortly after the violence as part of a "routine rotation", said that his brief was to attempt to get the community to live in harmony.
"As far as land goes, it is a national problem and it is a problem for policymakers to solve," he said.
Other local officials such as Rangamati's deputy district administrator, Viswajit Bharttagharya, called the fires "an accident, an act of god, like an earthquake".
"Most of the victims are anyway living on land that should not be theirs," he said, adding that it was illegal to live on or own Forestry Administration land.
For Hull University's Bhumitra, who has carried out extensive field work in the hill tract area, the result of such mixed messages and government inaction will be a new insurgency.
"Many (young tribal people) vowed to take up arms again. It is highly likely that violence will become more intense in the coming years," he said.
Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.
Counting the indigenous people in
THE finance division of the ministry of finance is now working to finalise the national budget for FY 2010-11, which will be placed before the Parliament in June. The finance minister has concluded pre-budget consultations with the chairman and members of the Parliamentary Standing Committees, representatives from Economic Reporters Forum and NGOs, editors of electronic and print media, economists and professionals and secretaries of all ministries and divisions. According to the web-site of the ministry of finance, the finance division has also met all the line ministries and divisions to finalise the budget proposals.
As the time of declaration of the national budget comes nearer, people from all walks of life are expressing their desires and expectations to be reflected in the proposed budget. Expectations from different pressure groups, including women rights activists, marginalised professional groups, farmers, disabled people and others have already been aired. But the issue of proper representation of indigenous people in the national budget is seldom raised.
With a population of approximately 140 million, Bangladesh is a multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-lingual country. Although a majority of the country's population belongs to one ethnic and linguistic group, about 1.2% of the population are indigenous, living in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) and in the plain land regions with their distinct languages, scripts, literature, religions, numerical systems and cultures. At present, there are more than 45 indigenous groups (adibashis) in Bangladesh.
No ethnographic survey has been carried out so far in the history of Bangladesh. However, according to the 1991 population census, the "ethnic population'' of Bangladesh is 1.2 million. Unfortunately, the constitution of Bangladesh has no formal provision and policy regarding the indigenous peoples of the country.
Only the "backward section of the society" has been emphasised, rather than a clear indication of the indigenous community, in Article 28 (4) of our Constitution: "Nothing in this Article shall prevent the state from making special provision in favour of women or children or for the advancement of any backward section of citizens."
Although the ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) affairs was formed soon after the 1997 CHT Accord was signed, there has been no further government initiative to expand the scope of the ministry to include other indigenous groups like the Garo, Khasi, Manipuri, Santal, Munda, Mahato, Oraon, Buno, Mahali, Rajbangshi, Bhumij, Bagdi, Rakhine or others in the plain lands of North Bengal, Tangail-Mymensingh-Sylhet region, Khulna-Jessore-Satkhira region or the coastal areas.
Abul Mal Abdul Muhit, the minister of finance, while delivering the budget speech in June 2009 observed: "We believe in harmony amidst all the religions, castes and racial denominations. This is why we wish to eradicate all sorts of violence, discriminatory behaviour and oppression against the minority community forever. We would ensure political, administrative, legal and social security to attain this goal.
In case any communal violence takes place, we would make provision for stringent punishment by promulgation of draconian laws. We would make special provisions for preservation of traditional or hereditary rights of the indigenous people in the forest areas. We would ensure special opportunities for religious and ethnic minorities as well as indigenous people in employment sector and educational institutions." (Clause 256)
"We would implement the CHT peace accord fully. We would preserve the distinct character of the language, literature, culture and lifestyle of the ethnic minorities, indigenous and other groups of people by recognising their rights and undertake extended measures in development of backward regions of the country, and would implement priority based programs for balanced development." (Clause 257)
The atrocities in Baghaihat, Sajek Union of Rangamati in CHT in February of this year seriously question the peace initiatives and development endeavours for the indigenous people. How can the government and the civil society be expected to work together for a better environment, peace and prosperity if the minimum requirements for stability and ethnic reciprocity are not fulfilled?
This is why the concerned indigenous people and all the development organisations and individual activists working to promote a better understanding on this issue today wish to raise the valid claim that the government should be more reflective in implementation of the peace treaty in the CHT region, create the proper environment for peace and stability in the trouble prone CHT region, allocate more fund for indigenous people in the coming national budget and extend the concerned ministry's area of work for the indigenous people in the plain land regions of Bangladesh.
Audity Falguni is a development activist.
Kalpana Chakma addressing a public rally at Baghaichari, November 19, 1994.
Kalpana Chakma’s unresolved
abduction, 14 years on...
The legacy of a disappearance
Kalpana Chakma had a rightful place in the politics of this country ... By demanding accountability and raising the plight of the Jumma people, she had joined the ranks of leaders, Bengali and non-Bengali before her, who had wanted Bangladesh to be one that was accepting of differences. Her disappearance signifies how far we have yet to go before we can truly call ourselves a democratic nation, writes Tazreena Sajjad
HER name was Kalpana Chakma. She was twenty years’ old. She was from Lallyaghona village, a Jumma rights activist and a leader of the Hill Women’s Federation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
On June 12, 1996 she disappeared.
Fourteen years since her forced disappearance, what do we know about what had happened?
Some facts have been known for over a decade: Lieutenant Ferdous with 11 soldiers from the Kojoichari army barrack allegedly raided Kalpana Chakma’s home; at 1:00am, 6 hours before the general elections, Kalpana was forcibly abducted along with her two brothers; while they managed to escape, she never made it back home; on July 14, 1996 several women’s organisations jointly submitted a memo to the home minister of Bangladesh who advised the team to meet the prime minister since ‘the home ministry is not concerned with law and order in the CHT’, the CHT, being an operational zone, is the affair of the general officer in command of the Chittagong Division of the Bangladesh Army; in an ironic twist, the Bangladesh Army circulated leaflets from a helicopter on July 18, 1996 declaring Tk 50,000 for the whereabouts of Kalpana Chakma; the government formed an inquiry committee but its report is yet to be published; human rights activists have continued to demand answers for over one decade and a half; and, her family is still waiting to know where she is.
On the 14th anniversary of Kalpana’s disappearance, there is much reason for humbling reflection and even more inspiration for action.
What has the government of Bangladesh achieved in terms of effectively addressing the tensions in the CHT since the signing of the peace accord? Have the lives of the Jumma people improved despite official proclamations of military drawdown? And have we come far enough in making this country a home for the minorities that live within our borders?
The answer is a resounding ‘no’. The relations between the settler population, the military and the adivasi communities continue to falter, because of the grotesque culture of impunity that allows gross human rights violations to prevail creating a constant cycle of distrust. It allows for Sajek to burn, for the destruction of religious institutions, for dispossession, for rape, torture, and for voices of protests to be silenced.
Bangladesh’s democracy still does not allow for voices of opposition, except for those of the old guard, it has still not acknowledged the challenges of a multiethnic nation, which comes with the responsibility to protect and participate in pluralistic politics. Kalpana Chakma had a rightful place in the politics of this country – a right to demand for culpability of violations committed against a minority group, a right to voice her dissent, and a right to be involved to political mobilisation. By demanding accountability and raising the plight of the Jumma people, she had joined the ranks of leaders, Bengali and non-Bengali before her, who had wanted Bangladesh to be one that was accepting of differences. Her disappearance signifies how far we have yet to go before we can truly call ourselves a democratic nation.
And so, the best laid plans of those who silenced her on June 12, 1996 really have come to naught. Hers is the legacy of a 20-year old, whose courage to challenge the military is no less than the courage of those who fought for the Bengali language in 1952, those who fought for independence in 1971, and those who have battled to reclaim democracy in Bangladesh over and over again.
No, we have not forgotten. She was a Jumma activist, a women’s rights activist. Someone’s daughter and a sister. Her name was Kalpana Chakma. She was only twenty years’ old.
Tazreena Sajjad is a member of the Drishtipat Writers’ Collective and can be contacted at email@example.com.
We owe it to Kalpana Chakma, so
does the foreign minister
by Khushi Kabir
JUNE 12, 1996. This was the day of the much-awaited national elections to form the new parliament. Under a caretaker government, formed in response to a movement after the questionable February elections, expectations were high. It was on this day, as the people went to cast their votes, that we were shaken with the news of the abduction of Kalpana Chakma.
Kalpana Chakma, general secretary of the Hill Women’s Federation, was abducted from her home by the military. In Bangladesh and internationally, the struggle of the CHT people and the role of the army in repressing them have been raised many times. Kalpana was an activist, someone who could not and would not be shut up by threats alone. She was an independent, strong-willed, politically-aware young woman who had protested against atrocities taking place in the hill districts. Just a few days before her abduction, she had an altercation with a Lieutenant Ferdous, stationed in her area. It was this same Ferdous who allegedly abducted her.
Women’s groups, citizens’ groups protested. Activists immediately visited her home, met her family, people in the area. We held protests, formed human chains, sent petitions to relevant authorities, met with the three elected representatives from the CHT, all hill people themselves. Despite the fact that by now we had a democratically elected government, it seemed demanding accountability from the army was not yet on the cards. We wait to see the day when such accountability can be ensured. The lieutenant probably remains in service and may have been given promotions. The military wheels turn secretly and silently to ensure protection to its own and distancing from civilians. The citizens of this country, Bangladesh, that won its independence through its people taking up arms to liberate themselves, do not need to be informed or taken into confidence, when it comes to the armed forces.
Rumours were floated stating that Kalpana was sighted in Tripura. Rumours that did not fool anyone. Till today, the case remains unresolved. A three-member committee was set up by the then Awami League government, comprising retired Justice Abdul Jalil, Professor Anupam Sen and the-then commissioner of the Chittagong division, who we were informed had submitted their report. Despite many petitions and demands, the report has never been made public. Going through past records, we see that on the occasion of the 12th year of Kalpana’s abduction, on June 12, 2008 our present foreign minister, along with others, demanded that the report be published and Kalpana’s abduction case be taken up. The Awami League government is back in power. We are awaiting their role in making the report public and ensuring that Kalpana’s case is taken up.
We owe it to the memory of Kalpana and her family, we owe it to the indigenous women and peoples of the CHT, we owe it to all marginalised peoples and their struggles, we owe it to ourselves and to our country.
Khushi Kabir is a development activist and coordinator of Nijera Kori
Living under state surveillance
for 14 years
by Saydia Gulrukh
‘Do the words of all witnesses count equally?’ asks Kalpana Chakma’s brother Kalicharan Chakma. He brings out his diary as he talks to me and says, ‘I have learned from the tragic mistake that I need to keep a record of every encounter that we have with the military, the BDR. Our words do not count.’
I was talking to him after a public gathering at Baghaichari, Rangamati, organised by the Hill Women’s Federation, on the thirteenth anniversary of her abduction, June 12, 2009.
Kalicharan Chakma flipped through his notebook and told me of the countless number of times either he had to visit the zone commander, or the latter paid him a visit at his house. He read out, June 27, 2000, Marisya Zone commander came to our house. And then, these dates, July 26, 2000. August 2, 2005. July 3, 2006. July 26, 2006. Baghaichari Thana, Ughalchari Camp, and then Baghaichari Thana.
It was a routine that continued at uneven intervals. BDR members too would stop him in the bazaar (market). Harassment was at its worst in 2008, he said, after newspaper articles on Kalpana Chakma had been published. New Age, June 12, 2008. Star Magazine, June 20, 2008. After the public meeting in Dhaka. His family had to spend many sleepless nights.
July 3, 2008. July 8, 2008. July 11, 2008. August 11, 2008. August 15, 2008, he read out more dates. Major Iqbal and Subedar Shahjahan along with some BDR jawans came to our house. They were looking for Kalicharan Chakma, they said. We have information, Kalpana is in India. We’ll give you money to bring her home. Kalpana’s brother Ajeet Chakma was reluctant to accept the Tk 3,000 but he was afraid to refuse. With pain and anger in his eyes, he asks, ‘What kind of harassment is this? It has been more than a decade, we don’t know what happened to our sister. We are the victims of a crime, we were standing in the water with her when they fired on us. I saw Lt Ferdous with my own eyes, I saw VDP members Saleh Ahmed and Nurul Huq. I see them walking around everyday in Bangali Para. Nobody ever interrogates them.’ Voice choked in anger, he paused, then went on, ‘At Baghaichari thana on August 15, 2008, the police officer accused me of defaming the Bangladesh military. They accused me of hiding Kalpana in India. I asked him, if you know so well that she is in India, why don’t you arrange for her return? But they got angry when I asked these questions, we are not supposed to raise our voices, we are merely Chakma, we are merely tribal people.’
Kalpana Chakma’s sister-in-law told me it’s not only BDR and police surveillance (nojordari). There are other things, too. After the BDR mutiny (February 25-26, 2009), rumours flew that Lt. Ferdous, the government had spun tales that she had eloped with him, now, rumour had it, that he was killed in the mutiny, Kalpana is now widowed with two children. Her sister-in-law asks me, who on earth spreads such rumours? What do they gain? I also listened to the tremendous social pressure that her family has been facing for the last two years, to perform the last rituals for Kalpana. Her brother says, they think that if they can get me to perform dharma for Kalpana, the government can use that as a reason to close the case.
Others, Kalpana’s neighbours, who had accompanied Kalicharan Chakma to the army camp, and to Baghaichari Thana, requested me to leave out their names, they had witnessed the argument that had taken place between Lt Ferdous and Kalpana in 1996, but they were afraid. After all, they have seen at close quarters what life has been like for Kalpana’s family for the last 14 years. Constant state surveillance.
In Road To Democracy, a private TV channel’s popular talk show (August 18, 2009), Dr Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, an Awami League presidium member, who also had played a central role in negotiating and signing the Peace Treaty, let the cat out of the bag. While discussing the ethnic conflict in the CHT, he publicly acknowledged that Kalpana Chakma had been abducted by a lieutenant of the Bangladesh Army.
The government can no longer look the other way. We demand that the whole truth be made public. And that the harassment and surveillance of Kalpana’s family members should cease.
Saydia Gulrukh is a PhD student in anthropology at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), USA.
Hill Women’s Federation
KALPANA Chakma was a victim of state repression to which Jumma women are more vulnerable than any other sections of women in Bangladesh. The heavy presence of army personnel and illegal settlers continue to pose a serious threat to the safety of Jumma women in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Innumerable cases of rape and murder of Jumma women, committed since the signing of the so-called peace accord in 1997, testify to this. What is more worrying is that not a single person has ever been punished for committing these heinous crimes. Such blanket impunity cannot but contribute to the culture of sexual violence against Jumma women in the CHT.
We have waited for 14 years to know where Kalpana Chakma is, whether she is dead or alive, but each and every government has let us down. Our patience has run out, we do not want to wait another day. We demand that the government publish the inquiry report.
Biplobi Nari Sanghati (Revolutionary Women’s Solidarity)
KALPANA Chakma’s abduction day is a day to get organised for the struggle she had been part of in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, since the causes that she fought for, have not yet been fulfilled in the CHT. Kalpana fought for women’s emancipation and the political autonomy of Jumma people. She fought against military rule in her land.
We take pride in our language movement of 1952. We take pride in 1971, our struggle for freedom in Bangladesh. But unfortunately, we remain inactive and silent about violence against paharis (hill people) in the CHT, including the abduction of Kalpana Chakma. This silence casts shame on our nationalist pride. We, at Biplobi Nari Sanghati, demand that those who abducted Kalpana be brought to justice, and that a system which allows such violence to occur be brought to an end.
Ganosanghati Andolon (People’s Solidarity Movement)
KALPANA Chakma was a comrade in our struggle against ethnic domination, a women’s rights activist, and most importantly, she was a politically aware citizen. Her abduction raises three important questions about our national politics. First, Bangladesh is a country of many nations/ethnicities. There are other ethnic communities along with Bengalis. How do the state and its constitution treat these other ethnicities? It is impossible to establish a democratic state without resolving this question. Second, the fate of Kalpana not only tells us about the marginality of ethnic minority women, but also indicates women’s reality in the larger context of Bangladesh. Thirdly, how does our current nation state treat the majority of its citizens?
Fourteen years later, we still don’t know what happened to Kalpana. The government insists that Bangladesh is a democratic state. Kalpana’s struggle reminds us that in the name of democracy, we live in a state of fascism.
Department of Anthropology
KALPANA’S abduction signifies the battle between the dominant patriarchal nation-state and the dominated community. Kalpana was abducted in 1996, and she remains missing, as she had raised her voice against the injustices committed against her people/nation.
The government of Bangladesh has never provided a satisfactory answer to her disappearance. The name of the army officer who picked her up from her home is well-known, as is well-known that it was the army as an institution that was directly involved, not a single errant officer. But 14 years on, we still do not have any clue about what happened to Kalpana, whether she is dead or alive. What does this mean? That the state knows what happened to Kalpana and is fine with that fact? Or does it mean that the state doesn’t know and doesn’t want to know? Why? Should we take this to mean that allegations against the state’s policy, i.e. it supports Bengali settlers, are true? That the violence conducted by the army in the CHT has the sanction of the state? That the abduction of ethnic-minority women, that incidents of rape and killing are a part of the state’s strategy in disciplining those ‘others’ who live there?
Kalpana’s letter to Rupok Chakma
MY GREETINGS. The letter you wrote to me while I was taking my exams has reached me. I wrote to you before my exams began, did you get it?
Last 13th, on the occasion of education week, we presented a memorandum after holding a huge students’ rally, where we also protested against the abuse of women by infamous army personnel.
You wanted to know how my exams went, well, if I have to tell you about my exams, there’s not much to be said. Maybe, by now, you know the situation in Kachalong College. It is still uncertain whether the results will be announced at all, just like last year. Panel members [exam invigilators along with the thana nirbahi officer] plus the principal’s report, a very hostile atmosphere. In the end, they reported on the students [this expresses her anxiety that if 1 or 2 students were caught cheating, the results of the examination centre would be cancelled]. The students had no idea about all this. But this is grapevine news. I don’t know how much truth there is to it. My English 2nd paper exam was very bad. Hence, I don’t have hopes that I will pass. I’m uncertain about what to do having failed to be victorious in the exam of life. I had thought I won’t take part in [political] struggles until I pass my exams but it’s impossible to not protest when sheer injustices take place right before one’s eyes. It forces me to protest.
At present, there are risky goings-on in Baghaichari because of the collaborators [lejur]. On the 13th, after the rally ended, a collaborator hurled abuses at the PCP, calling it a dacoit and mastaan [thug], leading to his being thrashed. The members can give you more details. Nothing else to write, do write and give me news from your end.
PS: I’ve written this letter in a rush, if there are any mistakes please correct them.
Rupok Chakma, dedicated activist, president, Pahari Chhatra Parishad, 1999-2000; election coordinator, UPDF, 2001. [Killed, September 21, 2001].
Source: Kalpana Chakmar Diary, Dhaka: Hill Women’s Federation, 2001, pp 55-56.
Translated by Rahnuma Ahmed.
June 12, 2010
AT least 17 persons including 4 journalists have been injured when a group of settlers attacked participants of a half-day sit-in programme in Manikchari as road blockade called by Hill Women’s Federation ended in Rangamati.
The road blockade and sit-in programme, called in protest against the refusal of administration to allow HWF to hold a rally in Rangamati town to mark the 14th anniversary of abduction of Kalpana Chakma, was also supported by Democratic Youth Forum, Hill Students’ Council and
Sajek Nari Samaj.
HWF sources said the settlers led by Sagir Ahmed, president of Jubo Dal, Sapchari Union Branch, and Abu Bakr Siddiqe, a leader of the so-called Sama Odhikar Andolon, attacked them at 1:30pm at Manikchari intersection, while the police and army stationed there looked on.
At least 9 HWF activists including its vice president Nirupa Chakma, 4 activists of Democratic Youth Forum and 4 journalists were injured in the attack.
The settlers used machetes and sticks during the attack. There was not the slightest provocation on the part of the programme participants.
The injured journalists are Nandan Devnath of Channel I, Md. Solieman of Diganta TV, Milton Barua of The Samay, a Bengali daily, and Pulok, a local correspondent.
The attackers also broke Nandan Devnath’s lap top and a camera to pieces.
An independent television channel, ATN News, showed footage on the attack.
HWF vice president Nirupa Chakma, who also sustained minor injuries, said “The attack was so sudden and so unexpected that it took quite sometime to make out what was happening.”
“We retreated to Manikchari Brick Field, about one kilometer from the place where the attack took place, as the settlers chased us. The police were along with them during the chase. But they did not take any action to restrain the attackers. Rather, they helped them” she said.
The other injured are Mita Chakma (25) from Krishnama Chara, Sharmila Chakma, joint convenor, HWF Baghaihat unit; Rimi Chakma, member, HWF Laxmichari Unit; Shwarna Lata Chakma (20), member, HWF Rangamati Unit; Kalodevi Chakma (45) from Keretchari village, Gurimila Chakma from Atharo Mile; Sohagi Chakma (22) from Betchari; Riku Chakma, president, HWF Khagrachari unit; Binoy Chakma (20), member, DYF; Shakil Chakma,
member, DYF Kudukchari Unit; Jibon Chakma, DYF Belaichari Unit and Samir Chakma (22), DYF, Belaichari Unit.
Samir Chakma sustained injuries in his head as he was chopped with a machete and was being rushed to Chittagong Medical College Hospital.
HWF president Sonali Chakma, PCP president Aongay Marma, DYF convenor Mithun Chakma and UPDF Rangamati Unit Organiser Shant Dev Chakma condemned the attack and urged the district administration to bring the culprits to book.
In other parts of the district, the sit-in and road blockade programme ended peacefully.
In Khagrachari district, the HWF tried to bring out a procession in defiance of a ban on political demonstrations in observance of the Kalpana Chakma Abduction Day today.
Hundreds of HWF activists assembled at Kashem Saw Mill area in the morning, but the police blocked the road resulting in a minor scuffle between them.
Later, the HWF changed route of their procession which went through Khabangpujya and ended at Swanirbhor.
HWF and other Jumma leaders lashed out at the government for refusing to make the inquiry report on Kalpana Chakma public.
They urged the government to publish the report and punish those responsible for her abduction including Lt. Ferdours without further delay.
news source: chtnews.com