Dec 12, 2005

Chittagong Hill Tracts: Monthly Report

Several incidents reported, including the latest on the Parliamentary Standing Committees earlier decision to summon indigenous representatives who partook at the UN Permanent Forum 2005

(Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti)
Kalyanpur, Rangamati-4500, Chittagong Hill Tracts
Tel+Fax: +880-351-61248

Monthly Report of November 2005

Innocent Jumma student injured by the army in Khagrachari

On 2 November 2005 at 12.00 noon a group of army from Rabi Chandra Karbari Para camp under Dighinala upazila injured an innocent student named Mr. Dipan Chakma (14) s/o Murati Mohan Chakma of village Rangapanichara under Khagrachari upazila. Dipan Chakma is a student of Class IX of Khagrachari Vocational Textile Institute.
It is learnt that the army led by one captain went out for patrolling operation at Bagara Para and Natha Para area under Khagrachari upazila in Khagrachari district. At a stage they wanted to know about the way of Natha Para from Dipan Chakma, but due to misunderstanding he showed the way of Bagara Para. As a result, the army (name not available) became angry and he chopped Dipan Chakma with spade taking it from him (Dipan). He got serious wound on his leg and was admitted at Khagrachari hospital. The army gave Taka 100 for treatment and ordered to his guardians not to do anything in connection with this incident.

UPDF and army attack to foil programme of death anniversary of M N Larma

On 9 November 2005 at around 10.00 a.m. a group UPDF cadres made armed attack on PCJSS and PCP workers in Panchari (near Panchari Buddhist temple) under Khagrachari district while they were taking preparation for commemorating 22nd death anniversary of M N Larma. But the workers of PCJSS and PCP escaped narrowly from injuries.
Soon after the UPDF’s attack, a group of army from Panchari zone led by zone commander Moin Chowdhury and 2IC Major Nasim rushed there and arrested Information and Publicity Secretary of PCP (Hill Student Council) Mr. Narmal Jyoti Dewan (26) s/o Sukiran Dewan. He was taken into Shanti Ranjan Karbari Para and tortured by army. Zone commander Moin Chowdhury ordered him to leave PCP and join UPDF by 13 November; otherwise he would be faced physical torture. On the other, he would be given money if he joins UPDF and works for army. He was released in the evening.

Follow-up of GoB summons to indigenous leaders

On 9 November 2005 the 22nd meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on CHT Affairs Ministry was held. The indigenous activists were not summoned to attend the said meeting for giving explanation on alleged anti-state statements during the last meet of the United Nation’s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), held in May 2005 at the UN Headquarters in New York.

But Mr. Abdul Wadud Bhuiyan, ruling party MP from Khagrachari hill district and communalist raised the issue why the indigenous activists were not summoned. Md. Mosharaf Hossain, Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee replied that it would be discussed only among the 7-member of Parliamentary Standing Committee. He explained that there is no need to summon the indigenous activists. He also mentioned to have received protest letter from several national and international organizations against the decision of the Parliamentary Standing Committee to summon indigenous activists.

It is notable that in the 21st meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee held on 31 August 2005, the committee took decision to summon Mr. Mangal Kumar Chakma and Mr. Mrinal Kanti Tripura (PCJSS leaders), Mr. Devasish Roy (Chakma Circle Chief), Ms. Ina Hume (Jumma Peoples Network, London), and Mr. Albert Mankin (Garo/Mandi leader from Madhupur) for giving alleged anti-state statements during the last meet of the United Nation’s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), held in last May at the UN Headquarters in New York. Parliamentary Standing Committee alleged that statements of said leaders do not match with the reality of the country. Hence, the committee would ask for action if the indigenous people leaders fail to respond with appropriate replies.

Two innocent students kidnapped by the army in Rangamati

On 13 November at 10.30 a.m. two Jumma student were kidnapped by the army from TTC Road in Rangamati. The students were:

  1. Mr. Pranayan Chakma (18) s/o Utpal Chakma, student of class IX of Rangamati Technical Training Centre;
  2. Mr. Raman Chakma (18), student of class IX of Rangamati Technical Training Centre.

The army arrested them while the victims reached at TTC Road near College Gate area. The army picked them up on their vehicle and tied their eyes up. Then they were taken into a camp where they were interrogated till mid-night on whether they involved with terrorist activities and Hill Student Council (PCP). They were released at night around 2.00 a.m. in front of Gauchia Market of College Gate area on the condition that they would not disclose the incident. As their eyes were tied up, they could not identify the camp and name of the army.

Returnee PCJSS members arrested by army in Panchari

On 14 November 2005 in the evening the following PCJSS members were arrested from their houses by the army of Panchari zone led by 2IC Major Nasim.

The army told them first to go to the camp as the zone commander called them. But they were arrested and started torture while reached at the office of the local Union Council. Seeing this, local villagers rushed there to rescue them from army torturing. But the army zone authority sent more army to bring arrestee to camp. After bringing arrestees at zone headquarters, the army took photograph with country-made gun and then handed over to Panchari police station with arms after brutally torturing. A false arms case was filed against them.

It is mentionable that the arms that were given with the arrestees were received from UPDF cadres namely Tejomitra Chakma alias Happy from Tarabanya of Panchari on that day at 3.00-4.00 p.m. After that, Sushil Kumar Chakma alias Sohel and other three persons have been taken from their houses. A public representative of local Union Council and a Bengali elder told that they did not see any arm while the arrestees were being taken into camp.

Protesting the conspiratorial arrest of the PCJSS members, the PCJSS and its wing organizations observed down-to-dusk road blockade programme in Khagrachari-Panchari road under Khagrachrai district on 16 November and protest procession in Rangamati on 17 November. A memorandum on behalf of residents of Khagrachari district was submitted to Prime Minister of People’s Republic of Government of Bangladesh protesting the military atrocities on 16 November. They demanded to immediate release of arrestees and to stop military atrocities on PCJSS members and supporters as well as general public of the district. But no action has been taken so far.

Workshop on Land Issues in CHT stopped by the Government of Bangladesh

On 23 November 2005 workshop on Land Issues in Chittagong Hill Tracts was stopped by the Government of Bangladesh in Rangamati. The six indigenous NGOs and POs, namely, Hill Tracts NGO Forum, Kapaeeng, Mrochet, Movement for the Protection of Forest and Land Rights (MfPFLR), Maleya and Taungya with the support of Human Rights and Good Governance-Programme Support Unit, Royal Danish Embassy/Danida arranged the workshop on 23-24 November 2005. The objectives of the workshop were:

  • To identify key land related issues, strategic priorities and possible programme and initiatives for the intervention for the promotion and protection of the land rights of the CHT.
  • To identify and assess the constrains, and opportunities of various actors on the issues of land rights of the CHT at local, national and international level.
  • To provide an opportunity for the CHT peoples to further strengthen their network on the issues of land at the local level.

The workshop was divided into four core issues, such as, (1) Present land related situation of CHT and land dispute between indigenous people and settlers, (2) Land settlement, acquisition and transfer system and lease, (3) Mouza Forest and Reserved Forest AND (4) Jumma Refugees and Internal Displaced Persons.

Ms. Nathalia Feinberg, Deputy Head of Royal Danish Embassy was supposed to inaugurate the workshop. But she could not inaugurate the workshop as she was also asked not to attend the workshop from her Embassy. On the other, as per schedule, the workshop was started at 9.30 on 23 November. After the morning session, Deputy Commissioner of Rangamati district referring an order of Prime Minister’s office issued to the organizers to stop the workshop and informed police authority to take necessary action for the same. Soon after receiving the order, the police also rushed the workshop venue for taking necessary action. Consequently, the organizers were compelled to stop the workshop and the participants including six organizing organizations decided to hold press conference protesting the Government order to stop workshop. In the workshop 65 participants from three hill districts both from indigenous Jumma people and permanent Bengali residents attended. Many representatives from governmental bodies and civil society and other professional organizations and indigenous elders also attended the workshop.

In the press statement the participants and organizers opined that land is a burning issue in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. We know that the government of Bangladesh has kept taking various initiatives for implementation of the 1997 CHT Accord, and many Ministers expressed commitment for the same on various occasions. Land is one of the crucial issues addressed in the CHT Accord. Implementation of the CHT Accord is not possible at all without a solution to this issue. We organized a two-day long workshop with an aim to extending our cooperation to the government for implementation of the Accord. The main purpose of the workshop was to identify the land-problems and make recommendations, which are of great importance for the Land Commission and the government as well in terms of solution to these problems. However, by dint of an order No. 2016/Joint Ops (A)/1304 dated 21 November 2005 issued from the Prime Minister Office, Deputy Commissioner of Rangamati sent a letter to the office of the Hill Tracts NGO Forum ordering stop of the workshop. Extract of the letter:

We, the undersigned leaders of various development organizations, express our indignation and protest this undemocratic and unconstitutional order of the government. We think that this order has violated our fundamental right to expression of opinion and freedom of speech, and it is against the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution. The order from the Prime Minister Office to stop the workshop without any reason is not understandable to us. As citizen of a democratic country everyone has the right to participation in meetings peacefully and to expression of his/her opinion. This order amounts to violation of the right to speech of the people of the CHT.

We think that this undemocratic and autocratic order of the government is a threat to democracy, human rights, good governance, and development, and such unlawful order will definitely hamper the implementation process of the Accord.
We have called this press conference to take up this matter with the people of the country through the media friends present here. We call upon the government and the people of Bangladesh to ensure the fundamental rights of the people of the CHT and to solve their land-problems.

One NGO worker killed by Bengali settlers in Dighinala

On 5 December 2005 Ms. Jyosi Chakma, BRAC Field worker has been killed in Jamtali Settler village under Dighinala upazila in Khagrachari while she was going back to her home after collecting installment of loan of the Micro-credit program run by her organization. She was stabbed with knife as she was disagreeing to give the money to the miscreants. The robbers stabbed her and run away taking 20,000 taka which she collected from the field. She was taken in to hospital, but after some while the doctors declared her dead and they found she is 7 months pregnant. The policemen arrested one Bengali settler guy in the evening and still looking for the second suspect. MSF-Holland (Medicines Sans Frontiers) has temporary stopped their operations in Dighinala.

The incident has lead to increase tension between the Bengali settlers and the indigenous peoples in Dighinala. On 6 December 2005 the indigenous communities has organized a protest rally in Khagrachari Sadar to protest such type of attack on the development worker. On 6 November the local and national NGOs working in Khagrachari are going to organize one preparatory meeting to response the attack.