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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

4th May 2011:22nd Anniversary of Longodu Massacre

4th May 2011: 22nd Anniversary of Longodu Massacre

22 years ago, on this day: 4th May 1989, following the death of Abdur Rashid, a Muslim Bengali community leader, reprisal attacks on the Indigenous people of Longodu took place led by the Bangladesh Army, the Village Defense Party (armed group formed by the Bangladeshi settlers) and the Muslim Bengali settlers which killed more than 40 Indigenous people including women and children. Hundreds of Indigenous Jumma people were severely wounded and atleast 700 houses belonging to the indigenous people were burnt to ashes including several Buddhist temples and two Christian churches. The dead bodies of the Indigenous people were never returned to the relatives to perform religious rituals and cremation. After the incident, more than 6000 Indigenous people who survived the attack by fleeing to the jungle crossed the nearby border and became refugee in Tripura of India. Among the fallen victims were the wife, children and grand-children of the former chairman of the local council Mr. Anil Bikash Chakma. The Bangladesh Army had grabbed his land and settled the Bangladeshi settlers around his homestead. Mr. A.B. Chakma's friends and relatives had warned him of the potential danger of living so close to the Bangladeshi settlers. But he had no where else to go. On that day he was not in home, and that saved his life.

One of the survivor of the attack recalls the incident:
"The Muslim settlers and the VDP people backed by the military attacked our village at night and they were screaming saying "Allahu Akbar" and "narayana takbir". I started running to the jungle along with my wife and two children..... When we were running to the jungle I saw, Bengali people were killing our village people with Dao (local Knives), Bollom (local knives) and some bengali persons were holding guns and shooting at people like birds. I think they were army personal without uniform. While we were running , I saw wounded neighboring people drenched with blood shouting for help.... "

Amnesty International reports on the incident:

"reprisal attacks on tribal residents of the Langadu area started about two and a half hours after Abdur Rashid Sarkar was shot dead near his office on 4 May 1989, between 4 pm or 5 pm. Abdur Rashid Sarkar was a non-tribal resident of Langadu and Chairperson of the sub-district council. The Shanti Bahini was blamed for his death, but Amnesty International is not aware the means by which this was established. At least 36 tribal men, women and children - all of whom have been named - are reported to have been murdered in the reprisal attacks, although the figure could be higher. Members of the regular security forces are not alleged to have participated in these killings. However, members of the Village Defence Party (VDP) are said to have been among the non-tribal settlers who attacked and killed tribal people, using guns, spears and daggers. The VDP is a government sponsored civilian defence force, recruited from non-tribal settlers in the Hill Tracts and trained by the police ... At Ieast six villages were attacked during the night of 4 May.,,hundreds of houses belonging to tribal people were burnt, as were several Buddhist temples and two Christian churches. The surviving tribal residents are said to have fled to the hills and forests for refuge, and a considerable number crossed the border into the Indian state of Tripura as refugees. Between 14 May and 31 May 5,800 tribal people are reported to have crossed into Tripura.”

source: http://amnesty.name/es/library/asset/ASA13/004/1991/es/28846e87-ee43-11dd-99b6-630c5239b672/asa130041991en.html

The International Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission, an independent body established to investigate allegations of human rights violations in the hill region of southeast Bangladesh chaired by Douglas Sanders (Professor of Law) from Canada and Wilfried Telkaemper (Vice President of the European Parliament) from Germany carried out investigation from November 15th 1990 to January 1st 1991 on Human Rights Violation in CHT. The other Commissioners were Rose Murray (Aboriginal Community Worker) from Western Australia, Leif DunfjeId (Sami lawyer) from Norway and Hans Pavia Rosing (Representative in the Danish Parliament) from Greenland.

These "Longodu Massacre" part has been extracted from their 108 pages report "Life is not ours":

The Commission interviewed a refugee in Tripura about the incident:

"I am from Sonai in Langadu. Army men without uniform came to this village and burnt all the houses. Settlers, about 45, were also there. The killing was done by the settlers. Bono Bante had a temple there, in Tintilla. The image of the lord Buddha which was brought from Thailand was totally destroyed by the army on the same day. When I was running away I saw this, Sonai is three miles distance from Langadu. When all this happened, I ran away towards the jungles. Tintilla and Langadu were visible from my place and I saw houses burning there."

On December 9th, the Commission visited Langadu Tintilla and saw the temple. Although the concrete structure and tower remain standing the interior has been severely damaged by fire. None of the temple furniture remains and banister rails are charred. The image of the Buddha showed signs of being slashed with daos and one ear lobe had been cut off. Another smaller figurine of the Buddha was completely burnt. 

source:( Life is not ours pg.77)

The local army officer explained the incident as an example of communal rioting after a Bengali Upazilla Chairman, Abdur Rashid Sarkar, had been killed by the Shanti Bahini.

"Immediately after hearing of his death the Bengalis got very agitated. Then on a spontaneous reaction, Bengalis went and rampaged the tribals which are living closer to the settlers ... By the time they (the army) could realise what had actually happened, the Bengalis maintained the rampage and later on the army came out and brought the situation under control. But meanwhile about 700 houses were burnt ... because we don't have actually that many forces to go around, because before you realise what is this, because there are also times when insurgents come and burn houses. So when the army has to go on the security work they have to be sure what is ... and it was in the month of Ramadan, when we have a lower activity." 

The officer did not mention that the army was involved in the attacks. Amnesty International's findings on the Langadu massacre note that armed Bengalis from the Village Defence Party (a civilian defence force with official status) were directly involved. Furthermore it is not at all clear exactly who kiIIed Abdur Rashid.

Reports from other sources which the Commission received say that the attack took place two hours after the killing of the Upazilla chairman and had continued throughout the night.

source: Life is not ours (pg 42)


Even though some incidents and massacres, like the one in Langadu, may not have taken place directly with the army in the forefront, it is clear from various eyewitness reports given to the Commission, that the army was present behind the settlers in their attacks. The Commission heard many accounts of killing, torture, rape and other violations of human rights which the army had committed since 1987. 

Apart from personal interviews, the Commission received a list of atrocities from January to October 1990. On this list 53 occasions were mentioned when a total of 173 hill people had been arrested, of whom four had been tortured to death and two shot dead in custody. On 23 occasions army operations had been carried out, which involved the burning and looting of houses, as well as beating and arresting people. Two of these army operations had been in Bandarban District. For each single incident the names of the villages, persons affected and the army officers responsible were given.

In 1991 the Commission received yet another detailed account of military intervention in the CHT reporting 612 incidents of' human rights violations covering the time between January and December 1990. The Commission, however, acknowledges that this list is far from being complete; the real number of cases of human rights violations seems to be much higher.

source: Life is not ours ( pg 43)

source: Life is not ours  
The report can be downloaded from here: http://www.iwgia.org/sw28374.asp

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