Thursday, May 5, 2011

Massive Communal Arson Attack upon Indigenous Jumma Peoples by Bengali Settlers in Ramgarh & Manikchari

PCJSS (Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti)
On 17 April 2011 Bengali settlers with the direct support of local administration committed massive communal arson attack on five indigenous Jumma villages of Hafchari union of Ramgarh upazila and two villages in Manikchari upazila under Khagrachari district of Chittagong Hill Tracts. In this attack around 100 houses belonging to indigenous Jumma villagers including two Buddhist temples were completely burnt to ashes. At least 20 Jummas including three women were injured while 4 Bengali settlers died. Many Jummas remain still missing. The Jummas have fled in to the jungle in the face of the settler attack. Till 19 April 2011, no relief has been provided to the victims who have been living under open sky in the jungle.
Background of the attack:
Bengali settlers led by Md. Joynal pc of VDP have been trying to occupy 15 acres of land belonging to one Jumma villager named Ruihla Aung Marma s/o Pija Aung Marma at Hatimura area of Hafchari union under Ramgarh upazila in Khagrachari district.
While most of indigenous Jumma people were engaged in enjoying the traditional Bizu or Sangrai or Boisu festival, the Bengali Muslim settlers led by Md. Joynal pc started occupying said lands of the local Jumma people. The local Jumma people, who are owners of the lands, demanded to stop it. The local Jumma people informed of the matter to the local authorities including army authority. But it resulted in vain.
Summary of attack:
On 17 April 2011 in the morning around 10 a.m. the Bengali settlers started clearing bushes and making temporary makeshifts and at the same time, attacked on the Jumma people, who finding no other alternatives were compelled to resist them. Consequently about 10 Jumma persons including a woman were injured and 5 Bengali settlers were precariously injured among whom 3 died on the way to hospital. They were identified as Ayub Ali (38) of Kochubhante area, Noab Ali (60) and Sunil Sarker of Boro Pilak village.
As a repercussion to it, the Bengali settlers under the protection of security forces started attack upon Jumma people of Shankhola Para, Toikarma Para, Reemaram Para, Suludong Para and Pathachara villages of Hafchari union under Ramgarh upazila. The houses of the Jumma people have been looted and set ablaze. Though military forces were patrolling through out areas but they did not oppose Bengali settlers from setting fire to Jumma houses. The army kept patrolling along the road sides, on the other, Bengali settlers started setting fire entering the Jumma villages. In this attack, 32 houses including one Buddhist temple at Shankhola Para were completely burnt to ashes, 15 houses at Toikarma (Kachu Bhante) Para, 15 houses at Reemaram Para, 25 houses at Suludong Para and 16 houses at Pathachara were set fire.
On the other, Bengali settlers made attack on Jumma passengers getting them down from public buses including Shanti Paribahan who were coming from Chittagong and Feni to Khagrachari. At least 10 Jummas including 2 women were wounded in this attack. The victims were identified as Ms. Mithu Marma (13) d/o Mehla Prue Marma of Battali village of Guimara area and Ms. Paikra Marma (50) w/o Mongsa Marma of Bazaar Chowdhury Para of Joutha Khamar area of Ramgarh. Mithu Marma was admitted with serous condition at Manikchari hospital.
Around 6.00 pm Bengali settlers brought out a procession at Manikchari bazaar under Manikchari upazila shouting slogans against the Jumma people along with dead body of a Bengali settler. It is alleged that administration did not oppose Bengali settler while they were bringing out procession with dead body. No sooner of ending the procession, Bengali settlers set fire on Jumma houses at Mahamani areas of Manikchari upazila headquarters. At least 15 houses of Jumma villagers of Kyajai Karbari Para were completely burnt to ashes in this attack and 5 shops and 10 houses belonging to Jumma people were looted and ransacked. The Jummas, whose shops were looted, were identified as Mr. Mongsajai Marma, Mr. Ranghla Aung Marma, Mr. Uzzal Rakhaine and Mr. Chaihla Prue Marma. Besides, almost all the houses of the Jumma people situating on both sides of the Chittagong-Khagrachari roads from Manikchari sadar to Jalia Para covering about 7-8 kms and Jalia Para to Gacchabil another 10 kms have been looted and many houses ransacked.
It is also reported that many Jummas still remain missing. Among others, two Marma women from Thana Para who went to jungle to collect vegetables remain missing. Ashish Chakma son of Bigya Chakma of Rupakari under Baghaichari who was coming from Chittagong to Khagrachari remains missing.
It is learnt that a dead body of Bengali settler was recovered on 18 April 2011. In this regard, in the evening Bengali settlers gathered at Pathachara, Amtali and Chiuli Para areas and shouted slogans against Jumma people. Though rumour spread that a few dead bodies of Jumma people were recovered in Guimara, but no body confirmed the fact. However, it is reported dozen of Jummas remain still missing.
Intention of the attack:
Due to non-implementation of CHT Accord and non-resolution of land disputes in CHT as per CHT Accord, the Bengali settlers with the help of local administration and army authorities have been continuing to occupy Jumma people’s land through out the CHT. For this purpose, time to time Bengali settlers have been conducting communal attack on indigenous Jumma peoples by creating lame excuse for making attack on Jumma villagers. It is apprehended that it has been a planned attack patronized by the Islamic fundamentalist elements with the intention to capture the remaining lands that still in the hands of the Marma people.
At the same time, anti-CHT Accord terrorist group UPDF have been instigating communal tension in order to hinder implementation process of CHT Accord by making CHT situation unstable. Reliable sources confirmed that a few armed cadres of UPDF fired few rounds of bullets while clash between Bengali settlers and Jumma villagers continued at Shankhola Para area. It is also reported that local Jumma people get agitated against UPDF armed cadres due to their continuous repressive activities on Jumma villagers. In addition, UPDF tried to collect tolls from Bengali settlers by allowing them cultivation of grove land belonging to Jumma villagers, but failed to collect. Hence, it is to be believed that in order to drive local Jumma villagers into unwieldy situation and to get revenge on Bengali settlers, UPDF took the opportunity to create communal tension by opening fire few rounds.
Government action:
The local administration banned gathering, rallies and carrying firearms by imposing Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure for 24 hours in these places beginning 8:00 p.m. on 17 April as the violence was spreading.
On 18 April 2011 in the morning local Member of Parliament of ruling party Awami League Mr. Jatindra Lal Tripura visited the spot under strict military control. Chairman of Khagrachari Hill District Council Mr. Kujendra Lal Tripura and Deputy Inspector General of Police of Chittagong Range Md Nawsher Ali accompanied Mr. Tripura. They held a public meeting at Jalia Para Government Primary School premises in the afternoon. Mainly the Bengali settlers attended the meeting while a few Marma leaders also attended the programme.
General Officer Commanding (GOC) of Chittagong division Maj General Ashab Uddin, Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Khagrachhari district Anisul Haque Bhuiyan, Superintendent of Police Abu Kalam Siddique, local leader Konjuri Marma, Ramgarh upazila chairman Belayed Hossain Bhuiyan also took part in the meeting.
In the meeting, Jatindra Lal Tripura MP assured the victims to provide sufficient compensation. Kujendra Lal Tripura announced three bundles of corrugated iron sheets and necessary financial assistance to each of them from Khagrachari Hill District Council while district administration also declared to distribute rice and corrugated iron sheet among the victims.
GOC Maj General Ashab Uddin said that the incident was occurred due to land dispute. He said Bengali settlers were asked not to go disputed land, but they went. This incident were not happened if settlers heard army instruction. He also declared Tk 25,000 each among families of the deceased and Tk 5,000 each among other victims.
It is alleged that a delegation of leaders of Marma Unnoyon Sangsad was not allowed to visit the affected areas. They were halted at Guimara area in the name security.
Meanwhile, the DC formed a three-member committee with Additional Deputy Commissioner (General) Mohammad Salahuddin as the chief. Other members of the committee are: Additional Superintendent of Police in Khagrachhari Delwar Hossain Sayedee and Ramgarh Upazila Nirbahi Officer Gopal Chandra Das. The committee has been asked to submit its report in two working days.
On 18 April 2011 Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) of military forces issued a press release on this incident which mentioned Bengali settlers as ‘innocent’ saying that the incident was started due to attack on innocent/unarmed Bengalis by terrorist Hill people equipped with sharp weapons. Even ISPR also mentioned that a number of houses of both Bengalis and Jummas were burnt down in this attack. But no single word was mentioned about the setting fire by Bengali settlers on Jumma houses in the press release.
PCJSS and PCP condemned this heinous communal attack on Jumma people and demanded that the culprits be brought to justice. On 18 April 2011 in the morning PCP brought out a procession at Dhaka University campus. PCP demanded to the government to provide adequate compensation, treatment and rehabilitation to the affected Jumma villagers and to withdraw all temporary camps including de facto military rule ‘Operation Uttoron’ from CHT.
Case filed
It is learnt a case was filed with Manikchari Police Station on charges of arson and looting of Jumma houses while Sub-Inspector Manjurul Afsar of Guimara police station filed two separate cases with Guimara police station in connection with killing of Bengali settlers and setting fire on houses. No body has been arrested so far.
Appeal to the Humanitarian Community
The PCJSS appeals to the national and international humanitarian community to write to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh and send a copy thereof to the Home Minister of Bangladesh and the State Minister for the CHT Affairs, Bangladesh asking for the following redress with an aim to stop such heinous arson attack on Jumma people and to ensure permanent solution of CHT problem:
1.      To provide adequate compensation, treatment and rehabilitation to the affected Jumma villagers;
2.      To arrest and make examplary punishment to the persons involved with this arson attack;
  1. To take necessary steps to stop repetition of this kind of incident in the CHT;
  2. To resolve CHT land disputes by amending the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001 as per recommendation of CHT Regional Council;
  3. To ban terrorist group UPDF and take necessary action against its terrorist armed activities;
  4. To rehabilitate the Bengali settlers outside CHT with dignity;
7.      To ensure speedy implementation of CHT Accord.

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