Chittagong Hill Tracts: Town of Chakma Villagers Attacked and Houses Burned Down
On 16 December 2014 a Chakma town in the Chittagong Hill Tracts was attacked as dozens of homes were burned down and a Buddhist temple was allegedly vandalized. There are reports that the attack was carried out by Bengali settlers. The police have started an investigation and authorities handed out some provisional supplies, including blankets, to people who lost their homes in the attack.
Below is an article published by The Daily Star:
At least 50 houses and several shops of indigenous people were torched and vandalized in Burighat union of Naniarchar upazila on Tuesday, 16 December 2014.
Victims accused Bangalee settlers of the attack and said they also vandalized the Karuna Bihar Buddhist temple and took away several bronze idols during the hour-long attack.
Some 400-500 settlers from the nearby Bogachhari area swooped on Suridaspara, Camppara and Amtola villages near the Rangamati-Khagrachhari road around 8:30am. At least fifty houses were set on fire during the attack, the indigenous people alleged.
Police believe the attack was in retaliation for the destruction of around 4.5 lakh pineapple and 20,000 teak saplings allegedly by some members of the indigenous communities on Monday night, 15 December 2014. The indigenous people claimed Bangalee settlers had planted the saplings on the land belonging to them but was "taken away" by the relocated Bangalees.
“The Bangalees were enraged when they saw this in the morning. They held the indigenous people responsible for this and launched the attack,” Officer-in-Charge Mohammad Rashid of Naniarchar Police Station told The Daily Star over the phone yesterday, 16 December 2014.
He said about 450 Bangalees took part in the attack in which 48 houses were damaged and torched.
The OC however denied the allegation of attack on the temple. "In fact, army personnel were deployed to protect the temple," he said.
The victims claimed the extent of damage caused by the attack would be much higher, and they had nothing to do with the destruction of the pineapple and teak plantation.
The villagers fled to nearby jungles during the attack. They returned only after the attackers left, and police and local administration officials arrived.
When this correspondent reached the scene about 12:30pm, he found several houses and granaries still burning.
“At least 125 mounds of rice was gutted in the fire. How will we survive now? Why have we been attacked?” Chanchaladevi Chakma, 38, said while wailing intermittently.
Head of Suridaspara village Ram Karbari said the villagers could save nothing as the attacks were carried out all of a sudden.
Deputy Commissioner Mostafa Kamal of Rangamati, Superintendent of Police Amena Begum, Chairman of Naniarchar upazila parishad Shaktiman Chakma, Upazila Nirbahi Officer Md Nuruzzaman and Commander of Naniarchar zone of army Lt Col Md Sohel visited the spots.
At a brief meeting, they called upon the indigenous communities to maintain peace in the area and assured them of arresting the attackers.
The district administration gave Tk 1 lakh to each of the victim families. Besides, the DC assured the victims of providing with corrugated iron sheets for building houses and other relief materials, including blankets.
Immediately after the incident, the United People's Democratic Front (UPDF) blocked the Rangamati-Khagrachhari road, suspending vehicular movement for several hours. Later, police and army personnel freed the road.
In separate statements, the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Shanghati Samity, the UPDF and the Parbatya Chattagram Nagarik Committee condemned the incident and demanded arrest and punishment of the culprits.
The local administration formed a 12-member committee headed by the Naniarchar upazila parishad chairman to settle the dispute.
No case was filed and none was arrested in this connection till 12:20am on Wednesday, 17 December 2014. Army and police personnel were deployed in the area.
Photo courtesy of The Daily Star 2014