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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Attack on visiting CHT Commission by Bengali settlers in Rangamati, 3 injured & 2 vehicles vandalised

Attack on visiting CHT Commission by Bengali settlers in Rangamati, 3 injured & 2 vehicles vandalised

On 5 July 2014 members of the International Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission (CHTC) came under brutal attack by Bengali settlers, who have been protesting the visit of the commission members in Rangamati. Three people including a member of CHTC and Officer-in-Charge (OC) of local police station were injured in this attack. Two cases were filed with Kotwali police station by coordinator of CHTC Hana Shams Ahmed on 7 July and by OC on 6 July. However, nobody was arrested so far in this connection.

The CHT Commission is independent and fully committed to an approach of constructive engagement with all stakeholders in Bangladesh. Its mandate is to promote respect for human rights, democracy, and restoration of civil and political rights, participatory development and land rights in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh, including monitoring implementation process of the CHT Accord of 1997. Before, the Commission conducted its mission in the CHT with its national and international members. However, this time they were visiting the CHT with only its national members.

Bengali settlers in the name of six fanatic organizations namely Parbatya Chattagram Somo Odhikar Andolon (CHT Equal Rights Movement), Parbatya Gono Parishad (Hill Tracts People Council), Bangalee Chhatra Parishad (Bengali Students Council), Parbatya Nagorik Parishad (Hill Tracts Citizens Council), Parbatya Bangalee Chhatra Oikya Parishad (Hill Tracts Bengali Students Unity Council), and Parbatya Juba Front (Hill Tracts Youth Front) protested the visit of CHTC, terming it controversial and questioning the impartiality of the commission. They alleged that the Commission is instigating communal conflicts between Bengali and indigenous peoples in the hills. Declaring the CHT Commission unwanted in the region, on 5 July around 10:00 am, the settlers put barricade on the main road leading towards Rangamati town by felling logs when they came to know about the arrival of the commission members in the district.

Six organisations of Bangalee settlers on 4 July called on 36-hour road and waterway blockade in Rangamati protesting the commission’s visit to the hilly region. Later, they withdrew the blockade knowing that the commission returned to Chittagong. It is mentionable that, in their visit in Khagrachari district, the CHT Commission also faced the same situation created by the Bengali settlers. 

In Rangamati, the CHTC team came under attack around 1:30 pm in front of the local DGFI office in Omda Miah Hill area while they were leaving Rangamati Parjaton Motel, where they were staying at, for Chittagong with police protection. 

Commission member Dr. Iftekharuzzaman, also executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), Monu Sohel Imtiaz, officer-in-charge of Rangamati Kotwali Police Station, and Ilira Dewan, a researcher of CHT Commission, were injured when the protesters threw brick chips on their vehicles. Two vehicles - one of the commission and the other of the local police - came under the attack. The microbus, carrying CHTC members were damaged badly. According to the witnessed, the attack carried out by some 100-150 people led by Mr. Piar Ahmad of Somo Odhikar Andolon, Mr. Jalal Uddin Ahmed of Parbatya Gono Parishad, Md. Imran of Banglaee Chhatra Parishad, Ms. Noor Jahan Begum of Parbatya Nagorik Parshad, Mr. Ujjal Pal of Parbatya Bangalee Chhatra Oikya Parishad and Md. Hannan of Parbatya Juba Front. Police fired three blank shots to disperse the attackers. No one was detained at that time. Immediately after the attack police took the CHTC members to the nearest Kotwali police station for security. Later, one of the injured – Ilira Dewan was admitted to Chittagong Medical College Hospital for treatment. Deputy Commissioner (DC) and Superintendent of Police (SP) of Rangamati Md. Mostafa Kamal visited the spot learning the incident. 

Different national and regional organizations condemned the heinous attack on the CHT Commission. They all condemned the “pre-planned” attack on CHTC members. They also expressed grievances since no one was arrested in connection with the incident. They alleged that this attack was committed by the vested elements who do not want to see implementation of the CHT Accord of 1997 and who want to fishing in muddy water by making CHT situation turmoil. They also said that this attack was not made possible without the blessing of vested interest groups of the government and state machineries.

The Member of the Parliament from Rangamati constituency, Mr. Ushatan Talukdar, in a press statement, condemned the attack and demanded immediate arrest of the culprits involved behind this brutal attack and examplary punishment to them.

Press Conference at Chittagong Press Club

At around 3.30 pm the CHTC team went to Chittagong with police escort and held a press conference at Chittagong Press Club. In the press conference Co-chair of the CHTC Sultana Kamal and members of the Commission – Dr. Iftekharuzzaman, Khushi Kabir, Barrister Sara Hossain, Dr. Swapan Adnan and other officials of CHTC were present. Speaking in the conference Sultana Kamal, also formal advisor of Caretaker Government, alleged that the people who had been at risk of losing land occupied illegally might be behind the attack. The CHTC blamed six settlers’ organizations of the CHT, which it said had been defying the conditions of the 1997 CHT Accord from the very beginning. The commission also pointed out one of the suspects Noor Jahan Begum, leader of Parbatya Nagorik Parishad, who led the protest in front of the Parjaton Motel in Rangamati.

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