Jan 14, 2015

Chittagong Hill Tracts: Peace Procession in Rangamati

The local administration of the Rangamati District in the Chittagong Division coordinated a peace march aimed to alleviate tensions between the Bangalee and indigenous communities. At the same time, Chittagong Hill leaders ask for the CHT Agreement to be implemented before the Government starts operating a new medical college in the region, but the leaders in Dhakka want to keep the two issues separate.

Below is an article by The Daily Star:

Photo courtesy of Md. Ismail@flickr

The Rangamati district administration organised a “peace procession” in the town yesterday noon [Tuesday 13 January 2015] to tame the tension between Bangalee settlers and indigenous people over their conflicting priorities.

Adivasi leaders demand that the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) land dispute resolution commission law be amended before the operation of Rangamati Medical College begins while Bangalee leaders say such a development issue should not be linked to the implementation of 1997 CHT peace accord.

Leaders of the two groups discussed the law and order situation at a special meeting before the procession but could not reach a consensus on the key issues that had raised the tension.

The administration lifted Section 144 for a brief time for the procession to took place but later resumed it. It, however, did not resume the curfew, which was in place from Monday [12 January 2015] 5:00pm to 7:00am yesterday [Tuesday 13 January 2015], as no untoward incident occurred since Sunday [11 January 2015] midnight, reports a correspondent.

In the meeting, Bangalee and indigenous leaders demanded that the administration take measures against those who spread rumours and instigated ethnic clashes.

Ethnic clashes keep occurring in Rangamati as those people have never been punished, said the speakers at the meeting. An inquiry committee formed after an incident of violence in September 2012 held a number of people responsible in its report but no action was taken against them.

Senior citizens, local government representatives, political leaders, law enforcers and officials from the local administration were present in the meeting.

The meeting decided to impose restrictions on the purchase and carrying of objects like marble, Jaaler kathi (iron sticks used in fishing nets) and catapults that had been used in Sunday [11 January 2015]'s violence. Traders were asked to inform the district administration of their stocks of those things and to keep the name and address of the buyers.

However, fishermen would not be barred from buying jaaler kathi, meeting participants said. 

Ordinary people did not join the peace procession, as the situation was yet to be normal in the town. Vehicular movement was thin and most of the shops were closed. No inter-district buses or water vessels left Rangamati.

Meanwhile, king of Chakma circle Raja Debashis Roy appreciated the administration's stringent action to stop the violence. He recommended forming a joint citizens' committee in all neighborhoods to maintain peace and a police force comprising Bangalees and indigenous people.