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Monday, March 29, 2010

Implement peace deal to stop unrest in hills

Source: The Daily Star News

PCJSS leaders urge govt

Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samity (PCJSS) chief Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, popularly known as Santu Larma, who is also chairman of Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council, addresses a rally at the inaugural session of the 9th national council of PCJSS on the premises of Rangamati gymnasium yesterday.Photo: STAR

Leaders of Parbattya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samity (PCJSS) yesterday reiterated their demand for full implementation of the CHT peace agreement and urged the government to curb all sorts of anti-peace activities in the hills.

They said due to delay in implementation of the peace deal, various anti-peace forces are spreading extremism, militancy and fundamentalism in the hills.

The PCJSS leaders were addressing a rally on the premises of Rangamati gymnasium in the town organised on the occasion of 9th national council of PCJSS.

Inaugurating the three-day council, the PCJSS chief and CHT Regional Council chairman Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, popularly known as Santu Larma, said the ethnic people in CHT are passing their days in extreme insecurity.

He blamed the indifference of security forces for the recent killing and arson attacks on indigenous people at Baghaihat and Khagrachhari.

Calling upon the government to take immediate steps for proper execution of the CHT deal, Larma said, “We do not want to see any further delay. Implement the accord fully and as early as possible.”

Presidium member of Gono Forum Pankaj Bhattacharya, secretary of Workers Party Anisur Rahman Mollik, member of Communist Party of Bangladesh Shah Alam, information and publicity secretary of PCJSS Mongal Kumar Chakma and Pahari Chhatra Parishad (PCP) president Udayan Tripura also addressed the meeting.

Pankaj Bhattacharya said militancy, fundamentalism and extremism are spreading allover the CHT as full implementation of the treaty is being delayed.

Pankaj said those who failed to keep peace in CHT must be reprimanded for deaths of two indigenous people during the recent ethnic violence.

Leaders and workers of PCJSS, CHT Mohila Samity, Hill Women's Federation and Pahari Chhatra Parishad (PCP) from three hill districts joined the council.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Food ration in hills: Most beneficiaries of public money Bangalee settlers

Source: The Daily Star News

The government has to spend over Tk 100 crore a year to provide food rations to 40,335 families, mostly Bangalee settlers living in 81 cluster villages in Chittagong Hill Tracts.

And it has been shouldering the expenditure for years without solving the problems in CHT region.

A total 26,220 Bangla-speaking families living in the 81 cluster villages in Khagrachhari and Rangamati districts have been getting the ration since October 1988. The remaining 14,115 families are repatriated indigenous refugees and members of the Shanti Bahini who have been given the ration since 1998.

Many said most Bangalee families are quite well-off for getting the food ration of 85kg rice a month each, but the government has never stopped providing it.

In 1986, when massive violence erupted in the region HM Ershad's government built the cluster villages for Bangalee settlers near army camps to ensure their safety and security and later decided to provide them with food ration initially for three years.

On the issue, some Bangalees living in Baghaichhari upazila of Rangamati said the government has not increased the number of recipients for years.

"Population has increased in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Now they should review and increase the number of ration recipients," said Abdul Kalam, who moved to Baghachhari from Dighinala, Khagrachhari, three years ago.

Indigenous recipients comprise those who returned from the Indian state of Tripura after the CHT Peace Accord was inked in 1997 and brought an end to the decades of bush war in the hilly terrain.

Over 65,000 members of the 12,170 ethnic families have been receiving 5kg rice each for adults and 2.5kg for minors every week since January 1998.

As per the peace accord, the repatriated indigenous people were supposed to get ration for only one year by when they were supposed to get back their land and be rehabilitated by the government.

However, the government is yet to rehabilitate many of them and ensure their safety and security.

"We want safety and security of our lives and we want to get back our land," said Santashito Chakma Bakul, general secretary of the Repatriated Jummah Refugee.

"Since our return to the country in 1998 Bangalee settlers have attacked us 11 times," he said, adding, "If the government can ensure these, we will not need the rations anymore."

A total 1,945 members of Shanti Bahini have the ration cards and have been receiving 100kg rice a month each as per the CHT Peace Accord.

In 2003, the BNP-led four-party alliance government stopped food rationing only for the indigenous people for six months. It, however, resumed it amid protests.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bengali settlers constructed makeshifts on the Recorded lands of Jumma people at Pablakhali in Baghaichari

Source: PCJSS, Chittagram Hill Tract

Settlers constucted houses in Pablakhali.jpg

Picture (courtesy: PCJSS, CHT): Bengali settlers constructed makeshifts on the Recorded lands of Jumma people at Pablakhali in Baghaichari

Very recently Bengali settlers in the name of Bangladesh Muktijuddha Punarbasan Society (Bangladesh Freedom Fighters Rehabilitation Society) constructed around five hundred makeshifts on the recorded lands of Jumma people near Bhangamura army sub-zone camp at Pablakhali area under Khedarmara union and Amtali union of Baghaichari upazila in Rangamati.

It is also learnt that on behalf of Bangladesh Muktijuddha Punarbasan Society, its district president Md. Bacchu Mia and district commander Mokhlesur Rahman submitted application to Land Minister and State Minister for CHT Affairs on 5 January 2010 to get settlement of following 3,200 three thousand two hundred acres of lands situating at the following places -

(1) Along the roadsides of Longadu to Naniarchar road;

(2) Along the roadsides of Merung to Maini road

(3) 500 acres of land from Chibe Aga to Kathaltali

(4) 175 acres of land of Amtali and Gulshakhali mouzas under Longadu and Baghaichari upazila respectively

(5) Pablakhali area.

It is noted that without prior approval of the concerned Hill District Council (section 64 of its Act) settlement, lease, sale and transfer of any land is restricted. In this connection, the Land Ministry issued circular in 1989 and the MoCHTA in 1998. In addition, since 2003, MoCHTA issued a letter to stop settlement of land in CHT.

In spite of the above circular and letters about and settlement, on 27 January 2010 Md. Motahar Hossain, Additional Deputy Commissioner (Revenue) of Rangamati Hill District issued a letter to the Upazila Nirbahi Officer of Longadu upazila (sub-district) to send inquiry report on the matter of the application.

In the mean time, in September 2009 Bengali settlers affixed a signboard of Bangladesh Muktijuddha Punarbasan Society occupying reserve forest land of Pablakhali range under Baghaichari upazila. As continuation of this land grabbing, Bengali settlers occupied grove land and paddy land of indigenous villagers at this area and constructed around 500 makeshifts at Pablakhali in Baghaichari upazila.

Among others, the land of Rupantu Chakma (35), Amar Kanti Chakma (38) and Pritimoy Chakma (42) were forcibly occupied by Bengali settlers. Jumma villagers alleged that Bengali settlers destroyed crops of their farmlands. Bengali settlers ordered Jumma villagers to leave the area; otherwise severe consequences would have to be faced. Tension is has been prevailing in this area, particularly at Pablakhali area due to threatening of Bengali settlers. At least six Jumma villagers removed their children and aged to safe area.

On the other hand, it is learnt that all the leaders of the Bangladesh Muktijuddha Punarbasan Society are fake freedom fighters. In order to get sympathy and patronization from the administration as well as government, they themselves claimed as freedom fighter. It is also learnt that Bengali settlers included some Chakma as freedom fighter though they are also not freedom fighter.

On 12 March 2010 Chairman of Baghaichari upazila Mr. Sudarshan Chakma and Vice Chairman Diptiman Chakma, Upazila Nirbahi (Executive) Officer of Baghaichari upazila Basirul Haque Bhuiyan, Upazila Executive Officer of Langau upazila Khairul Rahman, Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Baghaichari and Longadu police station Nayeem Uddin and Julfikar Mahammad Gajjali, Chairman of Khedarmara and Atarakchara union Sachitra Chakma and Mangal Kanti Chakma visited the spot. No leader of the Bangladesh Muktijuddha Punarbasan Society was present during that time. Those who were present at that time claimed that they are general member of the Society. But they failed to show certificate of freedom fighter. However, they claimed they were relatives of freedom fighters and landless poor.

As they occupied land illegally, the visiting team ordered the Bengali settlers to destroy the makeshifts and to vacate occupied lands within 15 days. Otherwise, action would be taken against them.

It is important to note here that the settlers occupied the lands with the secret support of the army authority of Bhangamura Army sub-zone camp under Langadu region and unless the army authority stops its patronization, the settlers must not dismantle the makeshifts. Rather they may set fire on them at any moment so that they can caim reief and rehabilitation for the advantage of their permanent settlement there.

Minority Hindu Girl Gang Raped

Source: The Daily Star News

Criminals gang-raped a schoolgirl at a remote village in Baufal upazila of Patuakhali district on Friday night.

Police arrested Basir, 25, and Hanif, 30, of Kaina village in the upazila for their alleged involvement in the crime.

A Class Nine student of Dharandi village under Patuakhali Sadar upazila went with her brother Shyamol Chandra to his father-in-law's house at Rajnagor village under Baufal upazila, police and locals said.

After passing several days there, the two siblings started for their house by a hired motorbike on Friday night. When they reached Dhauravanga area a gang of 8/10 criminals allegedly led by Forkan and Masun waylaid them. They assaulted Shyamol, tied his hands and legs, forcibly took the girl to a nearby field and raped her.

Hearing her scream, locals informed police who recovered her and to Baufal Upazila Health Complex.

Police arrested two of the alleged rapists while others managed to flee.

A case was filed with Baufal Police Station in this regard on Saturday.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

20 injured as Bangalees, Santals clash

Source: The Daily Star News

At least 20 people were injured in a clash between indigenous people and Bangalees yesterday over a piece of land belonging to a Christian missionary establishment at Baldipukur in Mithapukur upazila.

Of the injured, 10 were rushed to Mithapukur upazila health complex and Rangpur Medical College Hospital. They include two leaders of local Santals-- Silvions and Bipin.

Twelve of the injured are Santals and the others are Bangalees.

Mithapukur police said the clash broke out as the authorities of St Mary's Christian Missionary establishment started constructing a boundary wall on a plot of land adjacent to Adibashi Primary School run by it and Shah Abul Kashem High School established on land donated by it.

At this, a number of Bangalees attacked Santals with lethal weapons and the latter made a counter-attack with bows and arrows.

Contacted, Leo Deshai, priest at St Mary's Church, alleged that president of the managing committee of the high school Habibur Rahman led the attack.

He claimed that on March 18, the upazila administration removed some business establishments from the land and handed it over to them as per a court order.

But Habibur Rahman said the school authorities wanted the land to remain open as a playground of the school.

"And when construction of boundary wall on the land started, local people opposed it. This enraged Santals and they attacked the locals with bows and arrows,” he claimed.

Later, Additional District Magistrate Ruhul Amin Khan and Mithapukur Upazila Parshad Chairman Zakir Hossain visited the spot and asked both the sides to maintain status quo concerning the land.

US report sees some improvement in HR situation in Bangladesh

Source: The Financial Express

Despite some improvement in the government's human rights record, there were slight increase in the number of extrajudicial killings by security forces, custodial deaths, arbitrary arrest and detention, and harassment of journalists in Bangladesh, according to a Human Rights Report 2009 released by U.S. Department of State Thursday.

With the return of an elected government, reports of politically motivated violence increased 3.3 per cent, said the report prepared by Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

The failure to investigate fully extrajudicial killings by security forces, including the deaths in custody of alleged mutineers from the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) border force, remained a matter of serious concern, the report said.

Violence against women and children remained a serious problem, as did trafficking in persons. Violence against religious and ethnic minorities still occurred, although many government and civil society leaders stated that these acts often had political or economic motivations and could not be attributed only to religious belief or affiliation.

Members of the security forces committed numerous extrajudicial killings. The police, BDR, military, and the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) occasionally used unwarranted lethal force.

According to government statistics, there was a 3 per cent increase in the number of killings by all security personnel, and the government did not take comprehensive measures to investigate these cases despite public statements by high-ranking officials that the government would show "zero tolerance" and would fully investigate all extrajudicial killings by security forces, the report added.

According to media reports, local and international human rights organizations, and the government, law enforcement officials were responsible for 154 deaths, 129 of which were attributed to crossfire.

There were hundreds of daily and weekly independent publications. Although there were significant improvements over the previous year, newspapers critical of the government experienced some government pressure.

Attacks on journalists continued to be a problem. There was an increase in individuals affiliated with the government or ruling party harassing, arresting, or assaulting journalists. According to Odhikar and media watchdog groups, at least three journalists were killed, 84 were injured, one was arrested, 45 were assaulted, 73 were threatened, and 23 had cases filed against them during the year. According to some journalists and human rights NGOs, journalists engaged in self-censorship for fear of retribution from the government.

The government generally respected this right in practice. Religion shaped the platforms of some political parties, but the government was sensitive to the religious sentiments of most citizens. Violence against religious and ethnic minorities was a problem occasionally.

Discrimination against members of religious minorities, such as Hindus, Christians, and Buddhists, existed at both the governmental and societal levels, and religious minorities were disadvantaged in practice in such areas as access to government jobs, political office, and justice. The secular AL government, however, appointed some members of the minority communities to senior government and diplomatic positions. In the new cabinet, three of the 38 ministers were non-Muslims.

On January 22, the country held elections to the newly created upazila parishads, or subdistrict councils, throughout the country. There were reports of violence, intimidation, vote rigging, and low voter turnout. The candidates backed by the ruling party won most of the upazila posts, although the election was not officially party based. The election commission organized repolling in a number of upazilas where elections were suspended due to violence.

According to Odhikar, there were 454 reported incidents of rape during the year, including 211 against women and 243 against children. According to human rights monitors, the actual number of rape cases was higher because many rape victims did not report the incidents due to social stigma. Prosecution of rapists was not consistent.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Green light to cut 4,000 trees

Submitted by: Kapaeeng Foundation
Source: The Daily Star News

Over 100 trees already chopped down after HC directive; ethnic people, environmentalists protest

A timber trader chopped down over 100 trees and destroyed two betel leaf enclosers at Kailin Punji near Nahar Tea Garden in Srimangal yesterday after the High Court gave the go-ahead to cut down 4,000 trees. Earlier, 1,200 trees were already felled in 2008.

The HC bench comprising Justice Md Mamtaz Uddin Ahmed and Justice Naima Haider in the go-ahead on February 22 allowed the garden owner to cut the trees.

Indigenous people of neighbouring Khasia Punjis (villages) and environmentalist group Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (Bapa) apprehend displacement of indigenous people from their ancestral homesteads, loss of traditional livelihood and environmental degradation as a consequence of the wholesale tree felling.

The Ministry of Environment and Forest dubiously issued a permit on June 30, 2008 in favour of Nahar Tea Garden in Moulvibazar allowing it to chop down a total of 4,000 trees in exchange for Tk 47.51 lakh as royalty to the public treasury.

Nahar Tea Garden, however, made a deal with M/s Salim Timber and Traders to sell the 4,000 trees in October, 2006, two years prior to obtaining the permit. The deal involved Tk 1.5 crore.

Following protests by the Khasia community and Bapa, forest ministry on October 19, 2008 suspended the permit.

Before the suspension, the contractor, however, had cut 1,200 trees and removed them with elephants. The court in its February 22 directive did not mention the number of trees already felled.

Interestingly, Sylhet Divisional Forest Officer Md Delwar Hossain issued a fresh permit on February 2 this year allowing the garden owner to cut down 2,350 trees and asked to spare 450, as those are located in the Khasia Punjis (1200+2350+450=4000).

Following a writ petition filed by the timber trader Salim Uddin Mohalder and Nahar Tea Garden Manager Pijush Kanti Bhattacharya, the court on February 22 directed the forest department authorities and local administration to allow the felling of trees as per the earlier work order.

In the Sylhet Divisional Forest Office permit, the garden owner was asked to pay the government an enhanced royalty of Tk 1.19 crore for the trees as per revised rate of forest goods.

The HC in its February 22 rule also asked authorities including environment and forest secretary to show on what legal grounds they had imposed the enhanced royalty and reduced the number of trees by 450 and stayed the permit for three weeks.

"The timber trader started cutting the trees around noon with the backing of several hundred musclemen," said father Joseph, a religious leader of the local Khasia community.

Environment and Forest Secretary Mihir Kanti Majumdar said he would take initiatives to file an appeal today against the HC directive that allowed the felling of trees.

As to why the ministry gave permission in the first place to wipe out as many as 4,000 trees, he said, "We shelved it for some time."

The then Sylhet Divisional Forest Officer Abdul Mabud in a letter to the Nahar Garden manager in August, 2008 said 3,754 of the total 4,000 trees grew naturally and the rest were planted. The trees had 87,174 cubic foot timber and 75,508 cubic foot of firewood.

The trees included Cham, Gamar, Gorjon, Jaam, Koroi, Bonak, Rongi, Shimul, Awal, Khami, Bolos, Lud, Belpoi, Dumur and others.

Khushi Kabir, chairman of Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD), said tree felling on this scale would adversely affect environment, life and livelihood of the local indigenous people. "Forest area in Bangladesh is already very low compared to requirement," she said.

Bapa General Secretary Md Abdul Matin referring to locals' estimate said even though the tea garden has a lease for 864 acres of land, it is on over 1,200 acres of land including 200 acres of Khasia community land.

The garden owner has been realising money by sub-leasing 100 acres of the leased-land in violation of the terms in Bangladesh Tea Management Directory, alleged Bapa Member Secretary Sharif Jamil.

The owner has realised a total of Tk 2 crore illegally in the form of land tax since 1984 from the Khasia communities, said Md Abdul Matin.

Deputy Commissioner of Moulvibazar Mofizul Islam said Khasia community is dependent on the trees for their livelihood by the betel leaf cultivation. He received no complaints about realising tax from the community, he said.

There are around 60 Khasia families in two Khaisa Punjis--Akilam Punji and Kailin Punji--in and around the garden.

The tea garden's manager Pijush Kanti said they needed to cut the trees to expand the garden by 60 acres every year. On realising tax from the Khasia, he said they do not do that anymore but the previous owner used to do it.

Government resumes initiative to conduct land survey in CHT violating CHT Accord

Source: PCJSS

Following the recent communal attack on Jumma villagers in Baghaihat and Khagrachari by Bengali settlers with the support of military forces, government of Bangladesh resumed initiative to conduct land survey in Rangamati, Khagrachari and Bandarban hill district of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).

As part of this initiative, Land Ministry called an inter-ministerial meeting at the ministry in Dhaka on 11 March 2010 where Land Minister Md. Rezaul Karim Hira presided over. Land Ministry also invited a representative of CHT Regional Council (CHTRC). However, no representative from CHTRC attended the meeting. Hence the land ministry has failed to decide when the government would begin the land survey in the CHT intended to resolve ongoing disputes over land ownership. Land Minister, however, said he hoped these matters would be finalised at the next meeting in mid-April which was being held in one of the three districts of CHT.

CHTRC sent a letter to Land Ministry arguing that land survey would be contradictory to the CHT Accord if it is done before resolution of land disputes through land commission and rehabilitation of returnee refugees and IDPs as per CHT Acccord.

It is mentionable that the clause 2 of part D of the CHT Accord stipulates, “After the signing the Agreement between the Government and the Jana Samhati Samiti and implementation thereof and rehabilitation of the tribal refugees and internally displaced tribals, the Government shall, as soon as possible, commence, in consultation with the Regional Council to the constituted under this Agreement, the Land Survey in Chittagong Hill Tracts and finally determine the land-ownership of the tribal people through settling the land-disputes on proper verification and shall record theirs land and ensure their rights thereto.”

In violation of this provision the officials of the government have been all the time interested to have cadastral survey of lands in CHT with a view to providing land titles mainly to the Bengali settlers on the lands they forcibly occupied or illegally allotted by the government.

Land Commission issues public notice urging application on land disputes from affected land owners

On 14 March 2010 Secretary of CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Md. Abdul Hamid issued public notice asking affected land owners to lodge application on land disputes with Land Commission. The notice said that application must be filed within 60 days; otherwise no application would be accepted.

Please find the attached notice of Land Commission (in Bangla) for kind information.

It is mentionable that this notice was issued without the decision of the Commission. Since after the appointment of present Chairman of CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission, the only meeting was held on 27 January 2010 in Khagrachari. The meeting was ended without taking any concrete decision.

It is mentionable that the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001 was passed by the then Awami League government. However 19 provisions contradictory to the CHT Accord were included in this Acts. These contradictory provisions are yet to be amended so far. Among others, the most importance contradictory provisions are as follows

§ Clause 4, Part D of the CHT Accord contains a provision for settling the disputes of those lands and hills, which have been so far illegally settled and occupied, in addition to settling land disputes of the rehabilitated Jumma refugees. But the Section 6 (1)(a) of the CHT Land (Dispute Settlement) Commission Act 2001 only speaks of the “settlement of the land-disputes of the rehabilitated Jumma refugees”. Consequently, all other land-disputes of the Jumma refugees repatriated from India under the 20-point package will remain unsettled.

§ Section 7(5) of the Act provides, “The Chairman, on the basis of discussion with other members present, shall take decision on consensus on the subjects and other related matters stated under Section 6(1). But if no consensus is reached, the decision of the Chairman alone shall be considered as the decision of the Commission”. This provision of the Act can easily turn other members of the Land Commission into rubber stamps. It will make the Commission an undemocratic institution by empowering its Chairman with a dictatorial power.

In order to amend the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 200, two meeting were held at Land Ministry on 26 August 2009 and 06 December 2009 respectively. But no concrete decision was taken these meetings. However, without amendment of this Act, government is trying to start resolution of land disputes. The land problem of CHT will be more complicated if the government starts resolution of land disputes without amendment of contradictory provisions of the Act. It means that the Government of Bangladesh is not yet prepared to amend the Land Commission Act and to resolve the land disputes at all.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rights group calls for UN intervention over “Genocide of Bangladeshi Buddhists by Muslim settlers”

Source: Blogosphere


The U.S. media pretty much ignored the mass killings of women and babies by Muslims in Nigeria last week, so it’s no surprise to find out the same thing is happening in Bangladesh, and it is never reported in the media. From the Hindi weekly, Organiser, A call for UN intervention Genocide of Bangladeshi Buddhists by Muslim settlers:

KOLKATA: Brutal killings of hapless Chakma Buddhists living for centuries in Chittagong hill tract and burning of of their houses and pagodas by powerful gangs of Muslim land mafias in Bangladesh on February 19-20 have evoked sharp reactions from Kolkata’s Bengali intelligentsia. It is these intellectuals who are the main source of inspirations of the general people in West Bengal who are now determined to vote out the present Left government in the next Assembly elections slated for May, 2011. The same intellectuals lent their full support to the Campaign Against Atrocities on Minorities in Bangladesh (CAAMB), a human rights organization, at a meeting in Kolkata Press Club on March 3 and asked the Indian government to intervene. They unequivocally condemned unprovoked killings of 10 Buddhists Chakma villagers attempt to grab their land and houses. The intellectuals have described the ghastly incident as an attempt to sabotage the friendship treaty signed between Bangladesh and Indian governments recently.

According to intellectuals like Tarun Sanyal, Debabrata Bandopadhyaya and Sujat Bhadra, who were present at the press meet, apart from killings of 10 poor Chakmas, at least 200 houses in 11 Chakma villages were burnt to ashes by marauding goons on the night of February 19. At one point during the clash, the military personnel started firing indiscriminately on fleeing Chakma villagers only to help encourage attacking Muslim settlers. Chittagong is Bangladesh’s only district having a significant Buddhist population. Army was called in after a pagoda and an office of a UN-funded project were set on fire. A statue of Lord Buddha installed at the Banani Buddhist Monastery was damaged and another statue was looted. Enraged Chakma villagers prevented Dipankar Talukdar, the minister for Chittagong Hill Tracts and other senior administration officials from visiting the remote Gangaram Mukhi area of Bagaichhari upazila on February 21. Chakmas demanded immediate withdrawal of 400 army camps from Chitagong hills alleging that Bangladesh army personnel are actually helping outsiders to settle in Chakma villages by grabbing their land and premises.

The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) has demanded the intervention of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) Navi Pillay to ask Bangladesh government to take appropriate action on the burning of tribal Buddhist villages and indiscriminate killing of tribals by the Bangladesh Army and illegal settlers. “This attack on the indigenous Buddhist people shows that the government of Bangladesh has failed to change its policy of indiscriminate killings of tribal and minorities win order to occupy their lands and implant more illegal plains settlers instead of implementing the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord of 1997,” stated a Chakma tribal representative present at Kolkata Press Club. There have been many attacks on Buddhist and Hindu villages since 1997 in Bangladesh which have now become occupied by Muslim villagers and landowners. Many critics call this a genocide of non-Muslim minorities by neighboring Muslim villages.

Just like in the Nigerian slaughter, accusations of the local Army actually helping Muslim attackers. All the more interesting as the Oregon (USA) National Guard and Bangladesh military leaders recently participated together in a State Partnership Program.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

BD Army raped two Jumma women: Blogosphere allegation

Source: CHT News Update Blog

Two Jumma women are alleged to have been raped by army in Matiranga in Khagrachari district. The victims have been identified as Barun Bala Tripura (30) wife of late Jala Kumar Tripura and Kalpana Tripura (30) wife of late Shashindra Tripura. Both of them hail from Shonkhola Para village in Matiranga.
The rape of the two women comes one day after the whole world celebrated 100th International Women’s Day on 8 March.
According to sources, on the day of incident, 9 March, the victims went to a jungle near Toikatang army camp under Matiranga zone to collect sun grass.
Around 9AM six army personnel led by Sepoy Habib (known as dariwala or bearded one) from the camp caught and raped them for 4 hours in the jungle.
Around 1pm some Jumma villagers, who were passing by the same jungle, saw the army personnel dragging and pulling the two women.
The women screamed for help and the army men were forced to let them go when they saw the villagers.
The camp commander Mehedi was not present in the camp when the incident took place. He went out on a duty to Matiranga bazaar, putting Kamal in charge of the camp.
Following the incident, the Matiranga zone commander visited Toikatang camp and called the local village elders to a meeting where he threatened them not to publicize the rape.
Ms Renu Bala Tripura, a member of Guimara Union Council, confirmed the incident and accused the army of a cover-up.
“The army is putting pressure on the village elders not to publicize the incident.” she said.
HWF Vice President Nirupa Chakma strongly condemned the rape of the two Tripura women and urged the government to bring the culprits to justice.
“As long as the army and the settlers are there in the CHT, there will be a perennial threat to the security of the Jumma women.” she said.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Respect indigenous rights

Source: The Daily Star News

Fakhruddin Ahmed

Photo: Wahid Adnan/ Drik news
IN Bangladesh, a nation with limited land and unlimited population, land grabbing by the mighty has assumed alarming proportions. Every village has stories of the powerful enlisting the assistance of goons to grab lands from the poor and the hapless -- lands that the poor had owned for generations.

Laws in Bangladesh tend to favour the criminal and the powerful, and penalise the law-abiding and the weak. An innocent person can be cast into jail in Bangladesh only on a criminal complaint, whereas a criminal convicted on several counts of murder, but with powerful political connections, can be free on bail ad infinitum. No nation can prosper unless laws apply equally to every citizen.

Utter lawlessness has descended on the Chittagong Hill Tracts since the third week of February. By all accounts, and according to reports published in The Daily Star, violence and death have been triggered by the illegal land grab by the Bengali settlers, sometimes aided and abetted by local army personnel.

Many Jumma indigenous people have been killed, several more injured, and many of their dwellings have been set on fire by the Bengali settlers. Bengali settlers, too, have suffered deaths, injuries and arson in retaliation, although much fewer in number. The 1997 Chittagong Hill Tracts Accords delineates certain areas as indigenous land; Bengalis have absolutely no legal right to settle on or grab those lands.

Of all the districts allotted to "East Pakistan" during the partition of India in 1947, the Chittagong Hill Tracts had the fewest number of Muslims -- less than 2 percent of the population. Buddhists constituted 85 percent of the population, followed by the Hindus (10 percent) and animists (3 percent). While the rest of the "East Pakistanis" were ethnically homogenous (Bengalis), the Jumma, or the indigenous people, were different -- they belonged to the mongoloid race.

The writer was fortunate enough to attend Faujderhat Cadet College, which had a few Jumma students. It was a revelation! The Jumma students looked different, spoke in a different tongue, ate different food, and their songs, religion and culture were totally different.

As a part of Faujderhat Cadet College's Outward Bound and Adventure Camp, the writer made his first trip to Rangamati as a seventh grader in 1959. We swam in the Karnaphuli river, were feted to a sumptuous lunch by Raja Tridiv Roy, and we all fell in love with a gorgeous Chakma girl named Jayasree, after her beautiful rendition of Lata Mangeshkar's immortal Bengali song: "Banshi Keno Gai, Amare Kadai…"

Underneath all the fun and festivities, there was an undercurrent of sadness. We were repeatedly told that the "old" Rangamati was going to be under water soon, and that our subsequent camps would be in "new" Rangamati. Being young and naïve, we were wondering: how could the natives be happy if their town was going to go under water soon?

Sure enough, catastrophe hit the natives in 1961 when the Kaptai dam was opened! Vast areas of the pristine forest and native households went under water forever. The natives lost their ancestral homes of generations. It is doubtful that they were consulted or compensated by the Pakistani government who constructed the dam.

It is now generally acknowledged that such hydroelectric dams are of marginal benefit, but are ecological disasters. After fifty years, it is now time to rethink the wisdom of keeping the Kaptai dam functioning. If the dam could be dismantled, Bangladesh would be able to recover about 1 percent of its land, and restore some of the lands to its rightful Jumma owners.

Over the years, as population pressure built all over Bangladesh, more and more Bengalis started settling in the Hill Tracts. Many of us who saw the injustice of it remained silent. With no political solution in sight the indigenous population resisted, and the Shanti Bahini led an insurgency for twenty years until the Peace accord of 1997. One thought that the matter had a happy ending there, but it did not. Many of the terms of the Accord have not been implemented, leading to frustration, which has triggered the current explosive environment.

The eleven tribes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts that constitute the Jummas deserve the sympathy and generosity of their fellow Bangladeshis. Land may be in short supply in Bangladesh, but that is no reason for Bengali settlers to illegally grab land that belong to the Jummas. The Awami League government had signed the CHT Accord in 1997. Now that they are back in power, it is their duty to ensure that every facet of the Accord is implemented.

Bangladeshis and the Bangladesh government must honour the agreements they sign. Because, if we do not, the likes of Amnesty International and the European Union will lecture us forever about how naughty we are! I have always been amazed at how much patta or importance we offer to personnel from Amnesty International in Bangladesh. They are treated like celebrities, featured on the front pages of the newspapers, are feted and interviewed like superstars. Yet, all they ever do is criticise us. And we grovel to, and worship them for it! How about some self-respect and backbone for a change?

Whenever the Amnesty International criticises US policies, they are dismissed with utter contempt. Amnesty International personnel are not featured in, or interviewed by The New York Times. Amnesty International is treated as a pariah in Israel, which, in case anyone has not noticed, has been stealing lands from the Palestinians for the last 62 years! If the Israelis ever allowed Amnesty International into their country, believe me they would not be treated like heroes/heroines like we treat them in Bangladesh; they would be castigated for their "bias" towards the Palestinians!

A wrong has been committed against our Jumma brothers and sisters. Let us correct it ourselves. Let us restore their lands to them, compensate them for their losses, and punish those responsible for their suffering. Let us not let foreigners tell us what we should do; let us do what is right ourselves.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Women Vow to Remove Gender Discrimination in Bangladesh

Source: The Daily Star News

ON 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY: 1) Rural women bring out a long procession at remote Sathibari village of Durgapur union under Aditmari upazila in Lalmonirhat district yesterday demanding end to wage discrimination against women workers, 2) A colourful procession jointly arranged by the district administration and different organisations parades the main roads of Dinajpur town, 3) Acid Survivors Foundation in association with Prothom Alo arranges a procession as part of their campaign against acid violence at Gopalganj, and 4) Rajshahi University chapter of Bangladesh Mohila Parishad brings out a procession on the campus.Photo: STAR

Criminals brutally torture minority women while evicting family

Source: The Daily Star News

Victim of brutality yesterday morning, pregnant Shoma Ghosh lying at Dinajpur Medical College Hospital.Photo: STAR

An eight-month pregnant woman living at a Dinajpur suburb is battling for life at Dinajpur Medical College and Hospital (DJMCH) as criminals brutally tortured her while evicting her family from a disputed land yesterday morning.

The woman, Shoma Ghosh, 19, was admitted to gynaecology department in a critical condition at 9:30am, DJMCH sources said.

Child in her womb got displaced as criminals dragged her out from the house after kicking her indiscriminately at the abdomen, said sources quoting the doctors who visited her.

Visiting the spot yesterday, this correspondent learnt that families of Narayan Chandra Ghosh and Naresh Chandra Ghosh have been living on a 2.5 decimal land at Pak-Paharpur in Dinajpur town for about 35 years as land owner Bimal Chowdhury had let them live on the land.

Bimal Chowdhury now lives in Manikganj district, said members of the two families.

Claiming ownership of the land, about 200 people backed by Swapan and his brother Tapan Kundu attacked the two families with wooden sticks and flattened their thatched houses when they were preparing breakfast in the morning, said villagers.

The miscreants kicked Shoma at the abdomen and attacked her mother-in-law as she came forward to save the pregnant woman, said witnesses, adding that the criminals looted the houses and evicted the two families from there.

Process was on to file a case as of filing this report.

The two families alleged that land owner Bimal Chowdhury took Tk 2 lakh 2 thousand from them in July last year to sell the 2.5 decimal land to them.

But the land was again sold out to Swapan Kundu.

Swapan and his brother along with about 200 men made the attack to take the land into their possession although there is a case over the land, said the victim families.

Dalit miseries told in drama

Source: The Daily Star News

A group of Dalit girls described their tales of suffering in their everyday lives by staging a drama at Sarak Deep at Dhaka University campus yesterday.

The girls used the occasion of International Women's Day to highlight how Dalit girls and women are being deprived of opportunities in various sectors, including education and work.

After the play concluded, the Dalits made an eight-point demand to have their economic, civil, and human rights recognised.

The play was arranged by the Horitri Foundation, which is run by members of Dalit community.

The foundation also hosted a fair with hand-made products on display, including eye-catching clay ornaments.

Former adviser to caretaker government Rokia Afzal Rahman formally inaugurated the programme.

Chief guest Rokia said she was delighted to attend the function and promised to work with the community to strengthen their rights-based movement.

Rokia placed emphasis on ensuring access to technology to working women.

Executive Director of the Foundation Adan Islam said women of Dalit community are the most vulnerable in society as they are deprived of many basic human rights.

Dalits speak different languages as they are a mixed population of various caste groups across South Asia.

They are traditionally regarded as the lowest caste.

Hundreds of Dalit women also assembled at DU campus to voice their social, economical and human rights.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

JS body pledges action against CHT arsonists

Source: The Daily star News

The Jatiya Sangsad body on Chittagong Hill Tracts affairs ministry yesterday assured the arson victims in Rangamati and Khagrachhari of proper probe and exemplary punishment of the culprits.

The parliamentary standing committee on CHT affairs ministry yesterday visited the areas that were rocked by violence between settlers and indigenous people recently.

Head of the committee legislator Mohammad Shah Alam, who led the five-member parliamentary team in the daylong CHT visit, told newsmen, "We have come here to collect information on the recent violence. The culprits involved in arson will be identified as soon as possible and exemplary punishment will be delivered."

The team visited Baghaihat of Rangamati's Baghaichhari upazila in the morning and affected areas of Khagrachhari town and its adjoining neighbourhoods in the afternoon. They had separate meetings with indigenous people and Bangalee settlers in the arson-affected areas where riots and arsons cost three lives in February.

The committee told the press that they would meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on March 9 and finalise the next course of action on the issue.

Other four members of the team were lawmakers ABM Fazle Karim Chowdhury, Ethin Rakhain, Gias Uddin Ahmad and Jatindra Lal Tripura.

Later on while briefing newsmen at Satbaiyapara, an affected area in Khagrachhari town, Fazle Karim claimed that the local administration has identified the criminals behind the violence and tough action would be taken against them.

He, however, refused to disclose their identities and said the violence was planed ahead to create unrest in the hills.

Earlier when the lawmakers visited various affected areas, Bangalee settlers and indigenous people expressed their dismay. They gave their accounts on how things went wrong between February 19 and 23.

Victims at Gongaram Mukh of Baghaihat blamed the Bangalee settlers for the killings and arson. They also demanded withdrawal of the army from Baghaihat area.

In Khagrachhari town, Hasina Akhter 34, a Bangalee settler, said the area turned into a war zone after fire burned everything the indigenous people owned at Mohazonpara. The indigenous people torched 10 houses in revenge.

Khagrachhari Government High School assistant teacher Milon Chakma said her home was set ablaze by youth who attacked wearing helmets.

Mizoram Chakmas protest atrocities on Jummas of CHT, Bangladesh


Photo (courtesy: Mizoram Chakmas protest atrocities on Jummas

Since 19 February 2010, at least eight Chakma tribals have been killed, over 400 houses, a Buddhist temple and a church burnt down and over 2000 tribals displaced in the communal attacks by Bangladesh army and Bengali settlers in CHT, Bangladesh.

ON MARCH, 4, 2010, the Chakmas of Mizoram joined the worldwide movement denouncing the ongoing human rights violations against the minority Jummas (tribals) in Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh.
Thousands of Chakmas held a protest rally at Chawngte (also called Kamalanagar), the headquarters of Chakma Autonomous District Council (CADC) in Mizoram to protest against the recent attacks on the religious minorities namely Buddhists and Christians in CHT by the Bangladesh army and illegal settlers. The residents of Kamalanagar, and from neighbouring villages participated in the protest rally.

During attacks from 19-23 February 2010, at least eight Chakma tribals have been killed, over 400 houses burnt down and over 2000 tribals displaced. The settlers from plains also burnt down a Buddhist temple and a church beside a UNDP-run health centre.

The attacks are still on. On the night of 4 March 2010 the settlers launched fresh attacks on the indigenous tribals (also called Jummas) burning down half a dozen more houses and one UNICEF-run community school at Daney Baibachara village in Rangamati district. The houses that were burnt down were located just a few hundred yards away from a police station but the police personnel stayed mute spectators.

The Bangladesh government has failed to bring the culprits to justice. It has also refused to investigate the alleged roles of army officials in the attacks. All it has done is to transfer two army officials from the riots affected areas.

The “Settlers” and “Aborigines” of the Chittagong Hill Tract

Source: Asian Tribune


The subject of minorities is a very touchy one in any country, especially in nation-states where a national heritage or culture or identity (often dictated by the majority population) defines the characteristic of the state.

Such modern concepts of states get complicated if there are other minorities that live in the state, each claiming to be a separate “nation” by virtue of its religion, language, culture, etc.

Bangladesh has about 12% religious minorities, including approximately 10% Hindus, the remainders being Buddhists, Christians, agnostics, atheists and animists. Roughly one percent of the population lives in the high hills, e.g., Jayintia, Garo Hills and Chittagong Hill Tract (CHT) districts.

Historically the Bengal delta was husbanded by people who resorted to wet cultivation while the people in the hills, who were outside tax collection from ruling authorities, resorted to dry cultivation for their staple food. In the olden days of the Mughal rulers the authority of the state sometimes ended where the hills began.

As we all know it was the marauding attacks from the Maghs (Arakanese Buddhists) and Portuguese pirates, which were sponsored by the Buddhist Kings of Arakan, that led to Shaista Khan's campaign to re-conquest Chittagong and its hilly districts, ensuring these territories' sovereignty within the Mughal rule. His campaign stopped shy of the present-day Arakan that demarcated itself from Bangladesh by the Naaf River. During the subsequent Nawabi rule of Bengal and British Raj the territorial boundary remained the same, i.e., both those districts remained integral to Bengal and outside Buddhist rules of Arakan, Burma and Tripura.

Unlike the Mughal and Muslim Sultanates of Bengal, the British Raj (esp. during the Company era) was more interested about collection of revenue and had little concern about the goodwill of the local people and their legitimate grievances whether or not such taxes were burdensome. It was their heavy handedness that led to the horrible famine of 1769-1773 (corresponding to Bangla Year 1176-1180, and more commonly therefore known as “Chiatturer monontor”) killing some 15 million people of Bengal (that included Bihar and Orissa). One in every three person perished in that great famine.

During the British Raj a more drastic and concerted effort was taken to reclaim hilly areas under taxation. In order to increase revenue collection, the Raj created local tribal chiefs in the Hilly districts, Rajas, who would ensure payment of such revenues. For the planes, it had by the 19th century already instituted a similar scheme of collecting revenues from the zamindars (not to be forgotten in this context the Sunset Law), who essentially became the enforcer of collecting such revenues in the form of money or kind (e.g., paddy) from the raiyats - peasants, and petty merchants. That is, the role of the zamindars was similar to a revenue collector in modern times.

The CHT districts with their deep forests, much like many other hilly parts of pre-modern era India, often became refuges to rebels and revenue- and tax-evaders who would settle (without its true connotation) there to escape from being hunted down by the ruling authority. In 1784 in the nearby Arakan there was a massive genocidal campaign that was steward-headed by the racist Buddhist king of Burma -- Bodaw Paya -- who had invaded the independent state. Arakan - the land of poets Alaol and Dawlat Kazi - had a significant population of Muslims (commonly known as the Rohingya people) who had lived in the other side of the Naaf River for centuries. [As shown elsewhere by this author, the origin of the Rohingya people of Arakan pre-dates the settlement of the Tibeto-Burman people there.] The genocidal campaign by the Buddhist king led to a mass scale forced eviction and exodus of hundreds of thousands of people of Arakan to the nearby territories of British India, esp. to Chittagong and CHT districts of today's Bangladesh. Nearly a hundred thousand people, mostly Muslims, were killed by the Burmese extermination campaign. The Mahamuni statue of Buddha itself was stolen away from the Arakan. Many Muslims were taken as slaves and forced to live elsewhere, e.g., in places like the Karen State of Burma.

Those Rohingya Muslims who were able to save themselves from Burmese annexation of Arakan, like many Magh Arakanese, settled mostly in the Chittagong and CHT districts. The Muslim refugees and their descendants that had lived and settled in those places came to be known by the local name Ruhis, depicting their Rohingya/Arakan origin. During the Anglo-Burmese War of 1824-26, Arakan and subsequently the vast territories of Burma came under the British Rule. The exiled Rohingya/Ruhi Muslims and Maghs of Arakan, and their descendants, were allowed and encouraged to resettle in those territories south of the Naaf River. While many did return, others remained behind in Chittagong and CHT districts. The British policy and the subsequent process of return of the Arakanese exiles, esp. the hard-working wet cultivating Rohingya people, facilitated the cultivation of vast territories within Burma, which had hitherto remained barren and uncultivable. This enriched the coffer of the British Government through collection of revenues and taxes. Many descendants of the exiled Rohingyas (or Ruhis of Chittagong) would also become seasonal laborers in Arakan.

Today, the bulk of the ethnic minorities that live in the Chittagong Hill Tract districts are the descendants of those fleeing refugees from Arakan who fled the territory during Bodaw Paya's extermination campaign. They are our Chakma and Marma people. (There are two other ethnic minority groups living in the CHT - the Kukis and the Tripuras. The former are also known as the Chins in Burma and Mizo in India; while the latter lives mostly in the Tripura state of India.)

Their history to the territory cannot be traced with any authenticity before that historical event of 1784. This does not mean that there was no migration of people over the hills; in fact, there was migration in those days of porous borders where geography was not often attached with politics, state and administration. Like any nomadic people, the hilly people had no permanent settlement to the territory - they moved to and fro between porous borders of today's Bangladesh, Tripura (India) and Burma. Their migration from outside, much like the Ruhis of Chittagong and CHT, cannot be traced before 1784.

Since the British rule of the territories dating back to 1826, many Bengali Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims have moved to the CHT for a plethora of reasons, including administrative jobs, logging, trade and commerce, a trend that was to continue well unto the Bangladesh period with development of industrial infrastructure there.

After the emergence of Pakistan in 1947, the CHT was made part of East Pakistan. During the War of Liberation, its Raja (Tridib Roy) openly aligned itself with the Pakistan regime, thus leaving a strong sense of betrayal and mistrust between the local Bengali or Chittagonian people and the Hilly people. During the war of liberation and in the post-liberation era, many Bengalis were kidnapped and killed by the extremist elements of the Hilly people. [A relative of mine was one such casualty who was kidnapped and later presumably killed, never to be found later.] Crimes of this nature continued unabated making the territory unsafe and insecure. Outside the towns, there was virtually no functioning of the government. The territory became impassable and unlivable for most Chittagonian and Bengali speaking people. They would be kidnapped, and often times killed, even when ransom money had been paid to the kidnappers.

The so-called Shanti Bahini comprising of armed hilly bandits and extremists demanded autonomy and they were aided and armed by anti-Bangladeshi forces from outside. With the assassination of Bangabandhu Sk. Mujib, as the political scene changed drastically inside Bangladesh, the Shanti Bahini had a new sponsor - India - to destabilize the country. This led to tense situation between the government of Bangladesh and the Hilly people, leading to the deployment of the BDR and Army. The era of instability persisted during the military-supported governments of Zia and Ershad when hundreds of soldiers and officers died fighting against the criminal hilly terrorists.

After the overthrow of the military dictatorship, the situation improved somewhat, especially with the signing of peace treaty in 1997 under the first Hasina administration which stipulated total and firm loyalty towards the country’s sovereignty and integrity for upholding the political, social, cultural, educational and economic rights of all the people living in the hilly region. Unfortunately because of its demography and geography, the region continued to see infiltration of arms from outside, which inevitably have gone to forces that are destabilizing the region. Thus, even to this day, criminal hilly gangs who are opposed to the peace treaty and armed by anti-Bangladeshi governments and NGOs continue to harass the local police, BDR and military outposts, and kidnap and kill Bengali-speaking population, including members of the local and foreign NGOs that work on various projects aiming to improve the economic and social condition there.

In the last two decades, the CHT has also seen the incursion of narcotics and harmful drugs from Burma and India. Outside drug-traffickers, the territory has also become a natural hideout for many refugees and secessionist groups from Burma that are opposed to the SPDC oligarchy.

As noted elsewhere, some of the Arakan National Congress (ANC) member parties are terrorist organizations (e.g., ALP) and are heavily involved in drug trafficking. It is worth noting that ANC is a racist, chauvinist, ultranationalist Rakhaine organization that opposes to Rohingya human rights. In the past they have carried armed excursions from the CHT against the hated SPDC regime ruling in Burma.

In recent years some NGOs have emerged with ulterior motives that are at odds with aspirations of the people and territorial integrity of Bangladesh. No place offers them a better venue than the Hilly Districts where a sizable number of ethnic minorities live. They want withdrawal of Bangladesh Army that has preserved the territorial integrity. They want enactment of fascist ghettoization laws that would confine a particular ethnic or religious group into living in enclaves or reserves. They want forced removal of Bengali Muslims and Hindus from the hilly districts. It goes without saying that such demands are unrealistic and are sure recipes for dismemberment of Bangladesh. Their anti-Bangladesh activities are also bolstered by some human rights activists with foreign affiliations whose agenda includes weakening the sovereignty of Bangladesh. Not to be forgotten in this context are also some local players that are opposed to the current government. The latest unrest in the CHT may well fall into their scheme to destabilize the government.

As Bangladesh government renews its pledge for harmony, territorial integrity and stability, it cannot afford to appear weak against forces that threaten its very existence. Any measure that offers exclusion over inclusion, ghettoization over pluralism, discrimination over equal opportunity is undesirable and must be avoided.

As hinted earlier, economics has been a key driver shaping the demography within our planet. And Bangladesh (whose GDP owes much to the foreign remittance of her economic labors working overseas) with scarcity of land is no exception to that grand rule. In the post-liberation period, with the sharp growth of job opportunities within the hilly districts, some Bangladeshis have settled into the CHT. Many hilly people likewise have found jobs in the planes of Bangladesh, away from their traditional homes in the hills. This is quite natural for a country whose constitution allows for pursuit of freedom of movement, employment, economic prosperity and happiness for all. With a high fertility rate among Bengalis and Ruhis, it is no accident that they are a majority in some Hilly districts today.

The Hilly people are aware of these trends and have immensely benefited from the overall economic prosperity of the region. Most of them are against the extremists within their community. They also understand that they are the best protectors and preservers of their language and heritage, something that is becoming rather difficult for small minorities in a global economy of our time. In that balancing act between preserving cultural heritages and ripping the benefits of economic prosperity they would be better advised to follow the American/Canadian Amish/Mennonite example as opposed to that of the Native Americans living in the Indian reservations.

In closing, to qualify as an aborigine a member of an indigenous people must exist in a land before invasion or colonization by another race. More stringent definitions require that the aborigines have resided in a place from time immemorial; i.e., they are the true sons and daughters of the soil. From this definition, the Koori, Murri, Noongar, Ngunnawal, Anangu, Yamatji, Nunga and other aboriginals in Australia, the Maori of New Zealand, the Uyghurs of Xinjiang Autonomous Region in China, the Chechens in Chechnya of Russia; the Siberian Tatars, Khanty, Mansi, Nenets and Selkup people of Siberia in Russia; the Native Indians of the USA and Canada, Eskimos of Canada and few other races in Central and South America are the true aborigines (or more correctly, aboriginals) of our world.

It is not difficult to understand why the British anthropologist T.H. Lewin (1839-1916) did not consider the tribal people living in CHT as aborigines. The brief analysis above also confirms that view. Thus, the Mongoloid-featured hilly people are as much settlers to the CHT as are the Chittagonians/Ruhis and other Bangladeshis living there. Calling these latter people “settlers” while calling the Mongoloid featured Hilly people as the “adibashis” or aborigines would be false and insincere! Simply put: all the people living in the CHT are the adhibashis (residents) there.

Dr. Siddiqui has authored two books and co-edited another one on the Rohingyas of Burma. His book – “The Forgotten Rohingya: Their Struggle for Human Rights in Burma” – is available from

- Asian Tribune -

Police chief of town that saw violence removed

Source: Gulf Times

Bangladesh on Thursday removed the police chief of Khagrachharhi Sadar town that witnessed violence against Buddhist tribals in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).
Mohammed Shahriar Khan was transferred to Rajshahi in the western region eight days after clashes between the tribals and Bengali-speaking Muslims, Star Online reported.
The government says one person was killed in the violence that saw tribal places of worship being vandalized. The tribals claimed six people died.
Hundreds of houses were burnt down last month in the region forcing the administration to impose curfew for five days.
CHT has witnessed recurring violence between the Buddhist tribals and Muslims settled as part of the policy of successive governments to keep control of the region bordering Myanmar.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Chakmas in CHT being subjected to ethnic cleansing

Source: PTI

Chakmas community living in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh are being subjected to "systematic ethnic cleansing" by a section of that country's military and Islamic fundamentalists who conduct arms training camps for terrorists there, a community leader alleged today.

"Islamic fundamentalists, along with a section of the Bangladesh military, are carrying out ethnic cleansing of the Chakma community in the CHT. Islamic militants are also running arms training camps there," Secretary General of the World Chakma Organisation, Venerable Bimal Bikhhu told a press conference.

Bikhhu said a series of attacks in various parts of the CHT between February 19 to 24 left at least six indigenous Chakmas dead and 50 injured.

Over 400 tribal houses, along with a Buddhist temple and a church, were burnt down during the attack, while 2,000 people were displaced, he claimed.

Monks call on UN to stop attacks in Bangladesh

Source: Radio Australia News

Bangladeshi Buddhist monks want the United Nations to intervene. [Reuters]

Bangladeshi Buddhist monks want the United Nations to intervene. [Reuters]

Ron Corben, Bangkok

Last Updated: Fri, 5 Mar 2010 20:09:00 +1100

A group of Bangladeshi Buddhist monks have called on the United Nations to intervene and halt attacks on Buddhist communities in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region of south-eastern Bangladesh, which borders both India and Myanmar.

They say attacks by Bengali Muslims and the Bangladesh military in late February have left at least two people dead, dozens injured, and still more missing after a village was set ablaze.

Speaking at a protest outside the United Nations in Bangkok, a member of the Bangladesh Jumma Buddhist Forum, Monk Arjun Chakma, said the Baghaichari massacre occurred in Chittagong Hill Tracts between February 19 and 23.

"The whole village was burned down by the military and the Bangladeshi Muslim. The illegal Muslim they try to grab our land and since in the long time the Bangladesh government try to clean the indigenous people and Bangladesh government try to make us Muslims but we are Buddhist people, we never want to come back into other religions," he said.

Monk Arjun Chakma showed reporters photographs taken of the scene of the attack. It included the destruction of a Buddha statue given to the community by Thailand.

"They put the fire into the village and all the village destroyed, right, you see. That person was shot by the military but he was taken to the medical treatment and the hospital but he is not alive now.... This is a military truck whom oppress the Jumma Buddhist people and this is the village burning down."

"We would like to request to the United Nations to take the action and to send news to the Bangladesh Prime Minister to end the military operation on Jumma indigenous people, stop the looting, stop the grabbing land, stop the human violence."

Rights group Amnesty international has called on the Bangladesh government to carry out an independent investigation into the attacks.

Amnesty says while government officials confirmed two deaths, local people feared at least six more Jumma indigenous people were killed on 20 February, but their bodies were not recovered.

6 indigenous houses burnt in Rangamati

Source: The Daily star

Six houses of indigenous people were brunt down in a remote area in Baghaichhari Upazila of Rangamati Thursday night.

Unidentified criminals set the houses ablaze at about 8:45pm in Dane Baipachora area in the upazila, our Rangamati correspondent reports.

The upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) of Baghaichhari upazila visited the spot Friday morning and confirmed the incident.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

UN monitoring situation in south-eastern Bangladesh following recent violence

Source: UN News

2 March 2010 – The United Nations system in Bangladesh is closely monitoring the situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region, which has been the scene of recent violence between different ethnic groups, and stands ready to assist those in need, a spokesperson for the world body said today.

According to media reports, the clashes that began over a week ago between Muslim settlers and Buddhist tribals in the region has led to several deaths and many injuries. In addition, several hundred homes have been burned and thousands left homeless.

The UN “hopes that all will unite to help the recovery from this tragedy in a spirit of peace for the greater good of the nation,” spokesperson Martin Nesirky told reporters in New York.

“The United Nations stands ready to provide targeted assistance to those in need, in close collaboration with the Government,” he added.

Conspiracy for communal attack continues in Baghaihat and Khagrachari

Source: PCJSS

Conspiracy for communal attack is still continuing in Baghaihat and Khagrachari. It is reported that today (on 4 March 2010) at 8.30 pm four houses of Jumma villagers at Daine Bhaibachari village under Baghaichari upazila in Rangamati district were set fire allegedly by military forces and Bengali settlers. The owners of the houses were identified as Dayal Kista Chakma, Kina Chan Chakma, Bidya Sadhan Chakma and Alo Rani Chakma. It is also reported that the Bengali settlers burned their two abandoned makeshifts first. Then they proceeded to Daine Bhaibachara along with army to set fire the Jumma houses.

Earlier, on 2 March 2010 at 4.00 pm Bengali settlers of Salbagan Adarshagram in Khagrachari municipality set fire their three houses. Witnesses said that Bengali settlers kept out the valuables of the houses and then set fire the houses. In connection with this conspiracy, police arrested one Abul Kalam who set fire his house and spread rumours.

Extortionists murdered Minority Businessman in front of police

Source: The Daily star

Goldsmith shot dead for reporting to police after Tk 35 lakh toll demand; muggers shot industry staff in Narsingdi, take away Tk 69 lakh

Prem Krishno Roy

A group of extortionists murdered a jewellery shop owner in front of police near Victoria Park in Dhaka's Sutrapur yesterday morning after he filed a general diary against them.

Prem Krishno Roy, 36, of Kailash Ghosh Lane in Kotwali, had received threats from the gang for the last three to four weeks.

Prem's wife, Swapna Rani, said the gang first demanded Tk 25 lakh but raised the amount to Tk 35 lakh when her husband refused to pay the sum.

Four days after receiving the first threat, Prem filed a general diary regarding the matter with Kotwali police station.

When the extortionists learnt that Prem had sought police help, they told him he would be killed in front of police at the earliest opportunity.

Prem was gunned down around 8:00am while returning home after dropping his two nieces at their school at Laxmibazar in Sutrapur.

A female witness who spoke on condition of anonymity said, "I heard several gunshots and looked backwards to see a young man fall down.

“Three youths fled the spot where a police team was standing."

Prem was rushed to Dhaka Medical College Hospital where doctors declared him dead.

Dhaka Medical College Hospital morgue sources said his body bore seven bullet wounds.

Prem and his elder brother Amal Roy owned the jewellery shop on the third floor of Mitra Vandar Market in Tantibazar.

Locals said a tense situation prevails among the traders in Tantibazar, who are regularly threatened by extortionists.

Officer-in-charge (OC) Mohammad Salah Uddin Khan of Kotwali Police Station said, "Tantibazar is a crime-prone area, which is why we deployed five police check posts to beef up the traders' security."

The deceased's wife, Swapna Rani Pal, of Kotwali, believes the extortionists are cadres of Dakait Shahid.

Prem returned from Dubai around three months ago and married Swapna a month later.

Swapna is expecting her first child.

In a separate incident yesterday, armed muggers shot and wounded three Tharmex Group employees and made off with Tk 69 lakh at Itakhula of Shibpur in Narsingdi.

The victims were carrying the money after drawing from a Sonali Bank branch.

Shibpur police said the armed muggers intercepted the victims' microbus in Itakhula, Narsingdi around 3:00pm and snatched Tk 69 lakh.

The bus was carrying Assistant General Manager (AGM) Zahidul Islam, Deputy General Manager Faruq Ahmed and Asad Mian, who was driving.

The muggers shot at AGM Zahidul and beat up the rest as they tried to resist the muggers.

OC Mujibur Rahman of Shibpur police station said they are trying to nab the muggers.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Refugee for life

Source: The Daily Star

28 years on, Nirupa Chakma still hopes for a home

Adivasis stage a sit-in in front of the Jatiya Press Club yesterday morning demanding immediate arrest and punishment of the persons responsible for the arsons and killings in Rangamati and withdrawal of the army from Baghaichhari. Photo: STAR

Every time Nirupa Chakma lost her home she hoped it was the last, and she always prayed that her next home would be cosy and warm.

She has spent the last 28 years vainly trying to find a safe haven.

Nirupa said, “Ever since I was born, I have had to experience life as a refugee.

Time and time again I have been made a refugee, and once again I have no home."

The latest incident that caused Nirupa to become a refugee was the clash between Bangalee settlers and indigenous people.

On February 20, Nirupa lost all her belongings, including her house and shop, in Purbapara Balughat.

Bangalee settlers stole Nirupa's television set, CD player, fan, and other items worth around Tk 1 lakh.

Bangalee settlers also took away seven of her 11 goats and three cows.

All this was committed in front of her eyes, before the looters set her house and shop on fire.

“When I saw the law enforcers I felt a little safer, thinking they would control the injustice.

"But the law enforcers were bogus -- they allowed the settlers to take away my things and destroy my home,” she added.

As a class 2 student in 1986, Nirupa endured the nightmare of losing her home in Mainee in Khagrachhari when Bangalee settlers attacked it.

The loss was to become a recurrent theme in her life.

She said, “I remember my father telling me the story of losing our home in 1979 in Longdu, Rangamati.”

Nirupa also lost a home in Gangaram Mukh, during an attack by Bangalee settlers on April 20, 2008.

Already too cornered and tired to move to some other place after losing her home so many times, she now feels that she is left with no other choice but to fight back as long as she lives.

Nirupa Chakma could not conceal her deep resentment when she said, “If I have to die, I should die here -- and if I have to survive, I should survive here.

"Anyway I have no other place to live.”

Monday, March 1, 2010

Raw Video: Gathering and speach before visiting Bangaldesh Embassy in Japan / 25 Feb 2010

Raw video: The protest procession against Killings in Baghaihat / on 25 Feb 2010 Japan

A 15-year old indigenous girl gang-raped

Source: Bangladesh Institute of Human Rights (BIHR)

A fifteen year old indigenous girl from the Hazong community has been gang raped by a gang of local Bengali lechers at Bandra village in Moddhonagar police station under Sunamgong district. On 26 February 2010 around 6.30 pm, Angoli Hajong, daughter of Shailon Hazong was abducted while washing her face at the tube well in front of her house. Her family at the time was engaged in their daily chores outside of the house. She was taken to the baank of nearby Moheskhali River tighten her mouth by towel (Gamsa) and repeatedly raped mercilessly. The alleged perpetrators are Al Amin, Shimul, Nirob, Mojnu and Alamgir. The perpetrators left her there when she became unconscious.

By night time, her family began to search for her when she remained absent. By 8 pm that evening, she was found unconscious by the side of the Moheskhali River. On 27 February 2010 family members of the victim tried to lodge a complaint against the perpetrators at Moddhonagar Police station but the officer in charge refused to file it. Later, with the help of the Hazong community leader, a case has been filed against the five perpetrators by Mr. Nayeb Hajong who is the uncle of the victim. The case number is 7/9-1/30 dated 27.02.2010 under Nari O Shishu Nirjaton Doman Bishesh Ain. Moreover the medical examination has been completed by the RMO of Sunamgong district yet no perpetrators have been arrested. Furthermore the victim’s family is being intimidated to withdraw the case by a local influential Bengali community leader.

BIHR has taken the initiative to talk to the officer in charge of Moddhonagar Police station on 28 February 2010 around at 7:14 pm. and the OC said that there is no incident regarding the rape of a Hazong girl since no case had been filed under his jurisdiction. He refused to give out anymore information regarding this incident.

Bangladesh Institute of Human Rights (BIHR), Bangladesh Rehabilitation Center for Trauma Victims (BRCT) and Bangladesh Hasong Development Association is deeply concerned and demand that the perpetrators be brought to justice as well as give the exemplary punishment by arresting them immediately. It also demands that the victim and her family be given adequate financial, physiological and psychological support ASAP