Chittagong Hill Tracts: Call for UN Intervention on the Persecution of Bangladeshi Buddhists
Brutal killings of hapless Chakma Buddhists living for centuries in Chittagong hill tract and burning of of their houses and pagodas by powerful gangs of Muslim land mafias in Bangladesh on February 19-20 have evoked sharp reactions from Kolkata’s Bengali intelligentsia. It is these intellectuals who are the main source of inspirations of the general people in West Bengal who are now determined to vote out the present Left government in the next Assembly elections slated for May, 2011. The same intellectuals lent their full support to the Campaign Against Atrocities on Minorities in Bangladesh (CAAMB), a human rights organization, at a meeting in Kolkata Press Club on March 3 and asked the Indian government to intervene. They unequivocally condemned unprovoked killings of 10 Buddhists Chakma villagers attempt to grab their land and houses. The intellectuals have described the ghastly incident as an attempt to sabotage the friendship treaty signed between Bangladesh and Indian governments recently.
According to intellectuals like Tarun Sanyal, Debabrata Bandopadhyaya and Sujat Bhadra, who were present at the press meet, apart from killings of 10 poor Chakmas, at least 200 houses in 11 Chakma villages were burnt to ashes by marauding goons on the night of February 19. At one point during the clash, the military personnel started firing indiscriminately on fleeing Chakma villagers only to help encourage attacking Muslim settlers. Chittagong is Bangladesh’s only district having a significant Buddhist population. Army was called in after a pagoda and an office of a UN-funded project were set on fire. A statue of Lord Buddha installed at the Banani Buddhist Monastery was damaged and another statue was looted. Enraged Chakma villagers prevented Dipankar Talukdar, the minister for Chittagong Hill Tracts and other senior administration officials from visiting the remote Gangaram Mukhi area of Bagaichhari upazila on February 21. Chakmas demanded immediate withdrawal of 400 army camps from Chitagong hills alleging that Bangladesh army personnel are actually helping outsiders to settle in Chakma villages by grabbing their land and premises.
The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) has demanded the intervention of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) Navi Pillay to ask Bangladesh government to take appropriate action on the burning of tribal Buddhist villages and indiscriminate killing of tribals by the Bangladesh Army and illegal settlers. "This attack on the indigenous Buddhist people shows that the government of Bangladesh has failed to change its policy of indiscriminate killings of tribal and minorities win order to occupy their lands and implant more illegal plains settlers instead of implementing the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord of 1997," stated a Chakma tribal representative present at Kolkata Press Club. There have been many attacks on Buddhist and Hindu villages since 1997 in Bangladesh which have now become occupied by Muslim villagers and landowners. […]