Coronavirus: Human Rights in CHT
A widely celebrated festival of the Jumma peoples in the Chittagong Hill Tracts has been postponed to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Thousands of Jumma workers in other parts of Bangladesh have had to return to the CHT to look for work, in spite of road closures forcing them to travel the hazardous route by foot and face harassment by regional border authorities. Furthermore, April 2020 has seen farming lands confiscated and burned, and people abused by both army-backed land robbers and Bengali authorities in the region, continuing the trend of increasing human rights violations in the CHT during the pandemic.
Below is a report on the human rights situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts by the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) (United Peoples Party). Photo credit: Dhaka Tribune.
April 2020: Monthly Report on Human Rights Situation in CHT
The traditional national festival of the indigenous Jumma peoples living in Rangamati, Bandarban and Khagrachhari hill districts of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) called Biju, Boisu, Sangrai, Bishu and Bihu was postponed, due to worldwide outbreak of coronavirus, including Bangladesh. Decision for postponement of the most endearing festival was taken to avoid mass gathering and maintaining social distance in the interest of preventing the Covid-19 infection.
Thousands of Jumma wage earners working in different districts of the country including in the Dhaka, Chittagong and Comilla cities found themselves to have landed in extreme financial hardships due to consecutive declaration of general holidays prompted by total closure of factories and industries wherein they work and not receiving salaries and allowances from their respective authorities. As a result, these Jumma working youths of both males and females, while risking their lives, began to return to their respective homes in Rangamati, Bandarban and Khagrachhari towards mid of April 2020. As the public transport was closed down, they had to continue their journey amid extreme hazard during which also they had to undergo untold harassment and repression of the army and law & order forces at the points having common boundary of three hill districts with the Chittagong district.
As in other parts of the country, CHT is also in no exception to the outbreak of deadly coronavirus and its impact. As a result of lockdown for prevention of the COVID-19 infection, joblessness, food crisis among the working people and panic of coronavirus infection also reigns over the CHT region alongside the country wide plight of sufferings. Even amid such disaster and crisis, military operation of the army, BGB and law & order forces takes no pause in its course. Illegitimate occupation of lands by the influential individuals in the power and the outsider land robbers continues with a great pomp. This April 2020 also witnesses illegal land occupation, arbitrary arrest and detention, meting out atrocities, unwarranted searching of houses and continuation of supporting the armed terrorists by the army at its full swing.
The chronology of atrocities in April 2020 reveals many incidents of human rights abuses that include: 7 innocent persons held, 13 persons tortured and harassed, 8 persons detained for the time being, 13 houses searched with a blank fire for no reason and what appeals the most was the death of a pregnant indigenous woman who was detained for almost an hour in the name of security searching on her way to the hospital. In Bandarban hill district, 5,000 acres of rubber plantation of the indigenous people, were burnt down by the ruling party Awami League leader and outsider land robber gang aimed at grabbing the lands; threatening the indigenous Jumma villagers to vacate their villages; and arresting the innocent villagers under the projected cases filed by the land grabbers in collaboration with the persons sitting in the power and administration. Continuation of the earlier illegal occupation process of community Jum lands measuring some 4.5 thousand acres was further accelerated amid Covid-19 crisis in last April 2020.
On the other hand, undue incidents that were perpetrated by army-backed Reformist group and so-called UPDF (democratic) elements include: 3 persons shot death and 4 persons including 1 student kidnapped and a huge amount of money collected as ransom for their release. These armed elements have become stooges of the state functionaries obviously to ruin the movement for preservation of national entity and the entity of birth land of the indigenous Jumma peoples. They have already set up their bases adjacent to the army camps from where they watch and search the motor vehicles and boats. They are taking active part in the military operations along with the army and bring out undue harassment to own Jumma people. They are using the army vehicles to hunt their targeted individuals and after killing them, they return to the army camps. They are kidnapping innocent persons as per their prospective list and realizing huge amount of money as ransom. Thus, even world pandemic COVID-19 is incapable of refraining the army from atrocities, the land grabbers from illegal occupation of lands and the army-back armed stooges of indigenous origin from their heinous perpetrations upon the innocent people to earn for themselves and to satisfy the army at the same time.
Please find full text of the report in English and Bengali attached.