Chittagong Hill Tract: Ethnic Violence Continues
Curfew was reimposed as ethnic violence in Khagrachhari resumed late on Wednesday night after a day long calm. It's now been six days since the clashes began between Muslim settlers and the Buddhist tribals in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).
Below is an article published by: The Times of India
Seven houses in Golabari, the tribal neighbourhood and five houses of Bengali-speaking settlers in Mollah Para and Ganj Para were set on fire on Wednesday night.
"The flames were licking the night sky while electricity supply in the town was cut off. Screams, yells, wailings, and sirens of rushing fire trucks were filling the air amid a curfew that went into effect at 10 p.m., scheduled to be lifted at 7 a.m. on Wednesday," The Daily Star said.
The six-day violence has claimed three lives and injured 70 while more than 500 houses were set on fire, over 400 of which belonged to tribals. The violence made 3,000 tribals and 500 Bengali settlers homeless, the newspaper said. Journalists visiting the affected areas were pursued on motorcycles by settlers who sought to intimidate them and block their routes, the newspaper said.
State Minister for Home Shamsul Hoque Tuku who visited Khagrachhari and Rangamati Wednesday, alleged that the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the Jamaat-e- Islami Bangladesh "are hatching conspiracies to create unrest in the country". Despite orders banning any demonstration, Parbatya Bengali Chhatra Parishad, a student organisation of Bengali settlers, announced a daylong transport strike in all three hill districts on Thursday.
All through Wednesday, security forces comprising the army, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), and police patrolled the streets of Khagrachhari town. The law enforcers arrested 70 people, including 42 tribals. However, the drives ended up flaring the ethnic tension as many indigenous people complained that many of those who were arrested were innocent. Located in southeastern Bangladesh bordering Myanmar, CHT, home to Buddhist tribals, has witnessed ethnic violence. Bengali-speaking Muslims were settled in the area to keep the militancy-affected area under control.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina reached an accord with the tribals in 1997, but most of the provisions remain to be implemented.