New Delhi, 27 February 2008
According to the latest information received from Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, the Bangaldesh army has renewed its efforts to settle illegal Muslim settler families from the plains on the lands of the indigenous peoples in CHTs.
On 7 February 2008, Dui Tila army camp commander Subedar Mohammad Malek called a meeting with five Jumma elders and three Bengali setters at his camp. In the meeting, Subedar Malek told the Jumma elders that they must allow settlement of about 50 illegal Bengali settler families at Tin Tila area under Baghaichari Upazilla of Rangamati district.
The three Bengali settlers suggested at the meeting that all the lands of Tin Tila are Khas (government) land and so they should be allowed to settle down! This is very funny to suggest that the indigenous peoples who have been living on their lands for centuries do not own their lands.
But Subedar Malek served his diktat on the Jumma peoples and warned the Jummas that: “If the settlers face any troubles (with the settlement), you and all the Pahari people (of the area) will be held responsible for that”. In the unspoken words, it means that the army will take military action against any Jumma who did not allow settlement of the illegal settlers.
The army commander also ordered nine Jumma indigenous villagers to leave their homes to make way for the illegal settlement. They are Gongotya Chakma (45) of Betagichara village, Banshi Chakma (40) of village Betagichara, Sambhulal Chakma (50) of village Betagichara, Kishor Chakma (35) of village Betagichara, Chikondhan Chakma (35) of village Hazachara, Kanti Chakma (35) of village Hazachara, Kishtojoy Chakma (35) of village Hazachara, Kalomoni Chakma (35) of village Moghban and Purnadarshi Chakma (45) of village Tintila.
In a separate incident, on 17 February 2008, the army personnel from Kiang-ghat camp in Khagrachari did not allow the Buddhists to carry out uplift work at Sarnath Arannyo Kuthir, a Buddhist temple. The army personnel have been deployed at the Kuthir area since January 3 to harass Buddhist Jummas and prevent any kind of construction works. On 17 February 2008, army personnel also did not allow one Pabullya Chakma, son of late Chigono Chakma to build a house on his own land at Karallyachari village, about half a kilometer from Sarnath Arannyo Kuthir.
In addition to land grabbing and obstruction to religious rights of the Jummas, the army personnel have been engaged in other gross human rights violations such as torture and arbitrary arrest and detention in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
On 23 February 2008, three Jumma indigenous villagers were tortured by Bangladesh army at Tulaban village in Baghaichari Upazila under Rangamati district, CHTs. The army from Korengatoli camp raided Tulaban village and tortured Shankar Chakma (30), son of Melallya Chakma, Manek Bosu Chakma (25), son of Bindu Lal Chakma and Mongol Kusum Chakma (30), son of Dhan Chan Chakma when they stated ignorance about the killer/s of one Tapan Chakma, a member of the JSS (reformist) group who was killed on 22 February 2008.
Earlier, on the midnight of 11 February 2008, a group of army personnel arrested Horidhar Chakma from his home at Harangi Mukh Para, Kawkghali in Rangamti district of CHTs and took him to the Ghagra zone headquarters. He was illegally detained at the army camp for three days before he was released.