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Monday, December 9, 2013

CHT Peace Accord: AL bluffed about full implementation

CHT Peace Accord:

AL bluffed about full implementation

Say indigenous leaders, rights activists

08 December 2013


Although the Awami League’s electoral pledge was to fully implement the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Peace Accord, it has done nothing but making empty promises one after another in the last five years of its rule, indigenous leaders and rights activists said yesterday.
This government’s only visible attempts in this regard were limited to holding five meetings of the CHT Accord Implementation Committee, they told a human chain in front of the capital’s Jatiya Press Club under the banner of Nagorik Samaj.
Meanwhile, due to lack of effective steps to withdraw the more than 300 “temporary military camps” from the region, military dominance continues as before, they said.
“We cannot but feel more worried, as the election draws closer. We’re uncertain what policy the new government will adopt about implementation of the accord,” said rights activist Sultana Kamal.
No matter which party comes to power or whatever situation the country is in, the demand for defending the rights of such a large population must be more vociferous, she added.
“The indigenous people have been deprived of basic human rights for many years. Implementing the peace accord will be the first step towards protecting their rights.”
At a discussion at Dhaka Reporters Unity following the human chain, speakers urged all political parties to prioritise the issue of the accord’s implementation in the next parliamentary election.
“If the state’s attitude towards the indigenous peoples of the hills remains unchanged for long, they will be wiped out from their native land in near future,” said Sanjeeb Drong, general secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum.
Parbattya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS), an organisation of indigenous communities of the CHT, signed the accord with the then AL-led government on December 2, 1997.



Courtesy: The Daily Star

Democratic, non-communal and progressive people urged to be vocal for CHT Accord implementation

Democratic, non-communal and progressive people urged to be vocal for CHT Accord implementation

9 December 2013

Civic rights groups and indigenous rights activists urged the democratic, non-communal and progressive people to be vocal for implementing the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Accord. They also said that although the Awami League government’s electoral pledge was to fully implement the CHT Accord, it has done nothing but making empty promises one after another in the last five years of its rule.

Civic rights groups and indigenous rights activists raised this appeal on 7 December 2013 in a human chain and roundtable discussion. The human chain was formed in front of National Press Club in Dhaka at 2:00 pm, demanding full implementation of CHT Accord of 1997 on occasion of 16th anniversary of the CHT Accord. Engineer Sardar Amin, Executive Director of ASK Advocate Sultana Kamal, Executive Director of IED Mr. Numan Ahmad Khan at el gave solidarity speeches in the human chain. Hana Shams Ahmed, human rights activists read out a written statement of the civil society group.

Human chain was followed by a round table discussion which was organized by civic rights groups in facilitation of Kapaeeng Foundation and with the support of Association of Land Reforms and Development (ALRD) at Dhaka Reporters’ Unity in Dhaka. Robaet Ferdous, Associate Professor of Dhaka University moderated the round table discussion. General Secretary of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal Mr. Sharif Nurul Ambia, Poet and journalist Sohrab Hossan, General Secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum Mr. Sanjeeb Drong, Executive Director of ALRD Shamshul Huda spoke in the conference while Dr. Sourav Sikder, professor of Dhaka University presided over the discussion. The keynote paper on present state of implementation of CHT Accord was presented by indigenous rights activist Mr. Dipayan Khisa.

In this event, Advocate Sultana Kamal said that implementation of CHT Accord could be reached into a successful position by successive governments overcoming many obstacles in the mean time. But it is a deep concern for all of us that the indigenous peoples have been deprived in development initiatives that have been taken in CHT by government. Implementing the CHT Accord will be the first step towards protecting their rights. She said that government should give guaranty to implement the CHT Accord immediately, and it is not a matter which party comes to power or whatever the current situation changed or unchanged, the demand for defending the rights of such a large population must be more determined. She opined that those who respect their own identify they would implement the CHT Accord.

Engineer Sardar Amin said the CHT people signed on CHT Accord with hopes and trust, but in fact confusion, disappointment and mistrust are prevailing in indigenous people’s mind due to non-implementation of CHT Accord and continuous human right violations. Full implementation of CHT Accord was committed by the Awami League government in its election manifesto, but it has done nothing last five years. If the current situation in CHT goes beyond control, the government will be responsible for this.

Numan Ahmed Khan said that the government did not implement its election commitments for implementation of the Accord, such as, transfer of important departments to the three Hill District Councils as per the clauses of CHT Accord, withdrawal of temporary military camps, settlement of land disputes and so on. Due to lack of effective steps to withdraw the more than 300 temporary military camps from the region, military dominance still continues as before.

Chanchana Chakma, President of Hill Women's Federation said that the government should implement the CHT Accord instead of giving leap service one after another duign last five years.

Shamsul Huda said that the CHT Accord was signed between the indigenous peoples and the state. It was not a personal contract with particular government. It was one of the responsibility of state to implement the Accord .
Sanjeeb Drong said that certainly, non implementation of CHT Accord is a bad news for 160 million people in Bangladesh which was pledged by the government in its electoral manifesto.

Dipayan Khisa said that 16 years have passed after signing the Accord. However, the implementation process became more and more slow. The government did not comply with its election pledges in regard to implement the Accord. The PCJSS implemented its commitment by depositing their arms to the government as per provisions of the Accord. So, the State party cannot blame them. Non-implementation of the CHT Accord by the government is nothing to betrayal to the indigenous peoples. Such attitude would bring severe consequence for the State.

Hana Shams Ahmed said in the written statement that civil society are expressing their shock & anxiety on the slow implementation of CHT Accord. The present government gave commitment in the election manifesto that they would implement CHT Accord and establish peace in this region during their tenure, but this government did not take concrete steps and did not declare road map to do so and to address the issues of human rights violation there in CHT yet. Hence the turmoil situation in CHT still remains same. Awami League government did not keep its commitment of election manifesto to implement the CHT Accord fully rather the government was busy and limited to give wrong commitment one after another in last five years. Still military camps and military rules exist in CHT, andthere are many important departments yet to hand over to three HDCs. But this government did not take concrete steps addressing CHT Accord implementation. She also added that CHT Land Commission remains inactive and the 13 point amendment proposals of CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001 are still pending to present in the National Parliament for approval.

Finally, the civil society calls upon the political parties to give priority of implementation of the CHT Accord. They urged to democratic, non-communal and progressive forces to be united to protect indigenous peoples rights as well as take the initiative to fully implement the CHT Accord.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Massive communal attack by Bengali settlers on indigenous Jumma peoples in Taindong, Matiranga

On August 3, 2013, Bengali settlers attacked several Jumma villages in Taindong union of Matiranga Upozila (sub district of Khagrachari). The attack started at around 3 pm and lasted for the whole night. Bengali settlers looted and ransacked several hundred Jumma houses and later set fire on the houses. Our sources have confirmed that Bengali settlers set fire on atleast 350 Jumma houses, including two Buddhist temples in Sorbewor Para, Bondorsingh Para, Boga Para, Monudas Para and Talukdar Para of Taindong. Among them 46 houses were burnt to ashes. Atleast 50 Jumma peoples were wounded from the attack and 6 Jummas went missing. Out of 6 missing Jummas, 3 are feared to be dead based on information from eye witnesses. They have been identified as Arun Mohon Chakma, resident of Monudas Para;  Suresh Talukdar and his old mother from Talukdar Para.

Villagers standing by Taindong Buddhist temple on 5th August, 2 days after the incident. Photo courtesy: bdnews24

A survivor of the attack, Jyotish Chakma, son of Arun Mohan Chakma, told that he was carrying his 70 years old father on his back to flee to the jungle when the Bengali settlers attacked the Jumma villages. But at one point, the settlers snatched his father and hacked him with a dao (local machete). He had to leave his father behind in order to save his life. Two other missing people, Suresh Talukdar and his mother, are feared to be burnt down inside their houses when the settlers set fire.

An indigenous Jumma person trying to collect remaining paddy from his burnt house in Taindong, two days after the incident. Photo courtesy: bdnews24

 Following the attack, thousands of indigenous peoples were forced to flee away from their home. Times of India reported that more than 1500 indigenous peoples took shelter in the India-Bangladesh border. 

Jumma peoples take shelter at no man's land are of Joleya, Bangla-Indo border. courtesy: Tripura Chakma Students' Council

The Bengali settlers had been trying to stage communal attack on the indigenous inhabited area of Taindong for a long time with the aim of grabbing their lands. On August 3, at around 11 am in the morning, Bengali settlers started gathering at Taindong Bazar area with sharp knife and machetes, claiming that indigenous miscreants have kidnapped a Bengali person named Kamal Hossain (age 26), who is a motorcycle driver by profession. Amrito Ranjon Chakma,- village head of Bondorsingh Para (area),  and Fonibhushon Chakma,-UP member from Ward No. 1 of Taindong, told members of chtnewsupdate, “ the Bengali settlers asked us to go to Taindong Bazar area to help finding Kamal Hossain. We went there to help them. At one stage, all of a sudden, they started beating us. They were shouting 'attack the indigenous villages'. Out of nowhere, hundreds of Bengali settlers joined the attack.” 

Fonibhushon Chakma, Amriton Ranjon Chakma, Hala Haji Chakma and Supayan Chakma were the first victims of the attack. They were beaten indiscriminately by the Bengali settlers. They were undergoing treatment when members from chtnewsupdate spoke to them.

Jumma villagers took shelter at Joleya, Indo-Bangla border. Photo courtesy: Tripura Chakma Students' Council

Jummas at no man's land. Camera: Hiralal Deb Barma.

It has been confirmed that the alleged kidnapping of Kamal Hossain was completely a staged drama in order to find an excuse to attack Jumma villages. Police found him at around 5 pm on the incident-day. However, it did not stop the Bengali settlers from attacking indigenous peoples and their villages. They continued their attack despite the fact that police found the alleged kidnapped person.
 On August 6, ProthomAlo, a leading Bengali newspaper of Bangladesh, quoted Shahjahan Rahman, Assistant Police Super of Ramgarh Circle: “This was not kidnapping, the whole thing was a staged drama.” The newspaper also quoted UP member Fonibhushon Chakma: “This was a pre-planned drama. They master-planned the incident to evict the indigenous peoples and to make them financially vulnerable." 

Jummas at no man's land. Photo Courtesy: Tripura Chakma Students' Council

Jummas under supervision of Border Security Force (BSF) of India. Photo Courtesy: Tripura Chakma Students' Council

Thos who have even a little bit idea about Chittagong Hill Tracts, know that such kind of pre-planned attack on indigenous villages is nothing new. Human rights monitoring cell of UPDF (a political party of indigenous peoples of CHT), recorded 5 such communal attacks on indigenous peoples of Matiranga from January 2013 to August 3, 2013. Sachib Chakma, chief of the monitoring cell said that “Since January, Matiranga has seen five attacks by Bengali settlers, resulting in the death or injury of dozens of innocent Jumma people. Several hundred houses in fourteen villages have been burnt down during these deadly attacks, while the attackers resorted to widespread looting.”

 The security forces claimed that due to their rapid intervention, the Bengali miscreants could not carry out much damage. However, while speaking to members of chtnewsupdate team, Jumma victims confirmed that when Bengali settlers were attacking their villages, members of BGB (Border Guard of Bangladesh) were right behind them. They blamed the attack was led by BGB members.

In the meantime, on August 5, 2013, The American Jumma Council (AJC) staged a protest demonstration of the attack in front of UN headquarter in New York.

AJC protests infront of UN. Courtesy: AJC

-chtnewsupdate team

Friday, August 2, 2013

HWF leaders arrested, released later in Matiranga

TWO leaders of the Hill Women’s Federation, a front organization of the United Peoples’ Democratic Front, were arrested but released after more than five hours in Matiranga of Khagrachari district on July 15, 2013.

The HWF leaders – Madri Chakma, organizing secretary of its central committee and Chmapa Chakma, a member of its Dighinala Upazila unit – were arrested by Border Guards Bangladesh personnel of Palashpur Zone from the house of Anil Tripura, headman of Gorgoria Mouza, at 6pm on July 15.

The BGB men also took away Anil Tripura along with them, but he was not arrested.

The arrested HWF leaders were handed over to Matiranga police station but were released at 11:30pm under strong pressure from HWF.
The HWF leaders were staying with Anil Tripura at the time of arrest.

According to Anil Tripura, a group of BGB men led by Nayeb Rafiq from Palashpur Zonal camp, raided his house and arrested the HWF leaders.

Madri Chakma told chtnews after her release: “I asked the BGB men where we were being taken. One of them answered: ‘the zone commander wants to see you, so you must go to our zonal office’.”

But the BGB handed them over to the police instead of taking them to the BGB Palashpur zone office.

When contacted by HWF, BGB Palashpur zone commander Lt. Col. Nuruzzaman initially denied his men’s involvement in the arrest of the HWF leaders.

However, a little later he phoned Rina Dewan, general secretary of HWF, to confirm BGB’s involvement. He said: ‘BGB personnel were on patrol and arrested the HWF leaders because they were unknown to them. They were taken to Matiranga police station and will be released after a while.’

At 8pm a team of HWF led by Rina Dewan went to Matiranga police station to secure their release.

HWF has condemned the arrest of its leaders Madri Chakma and Champa Chakma without any warrant of arrest.

source: chtnews.com

press statement by the International CHT Commission (CHTC) about recent violence in the Chittagong Hill Tracts

Following is the press statement by the International CHT Commission (CHTC) about recent violence in the Chittagong Hill Tracts:

Update Report on eviction of Chak indigenous peoples by land grabbers at Naikhyongchari in Bandarban

On 13 May 2013, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Bangladesh, requested the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs (MoCHTA) to conduct an inquiry of eviction of indigenous Chak villagers from their ancestral villages in Naikhyongchari of Bandarban district and to submit the report to the NHRC. Accordingly, the MoCHTA appointed Mr. Alamgir Hosain, Deputy Secretary, to investigate the incident. After conducting investigation to the spot, Mr. Alamgir Hosain submitted the report to the NHRC.
It is mentionable that on 12 May 2013 Kapaeeng Foundation submitted a complaint to the NHRC regarding eviction of 21 Chak families of Padujhiri Chak Para of Alikkhyong mouza under Baishari union of Naikhyongchari upazila in Bandarban district. The indigenous families abandoned their village allegedly in March-April 2013 following disturbances, harassments and threats of outsider land grabbers. Most of the evicted indigenous Chak families are Jum cultivators (traditional shifting cultivator).
Mr. Alamgir Hosain, Deputy Secretary of MoCHTA, visited the spot on 29-31 May 2013 and took depositions from locals and placed his 32-page report to the NHRC on 11 June 2013. He found most of the allegation reliable and factual. He mentioned in the report that the Chak villagers abandoned their village due to continuous threats by the land grabbers to leave their villages.
The investigation report mentioned a few reasons which led to the land grabbing, such as, (1)The land grabbers never faced prosecution for their perpetration; (2) They are able to  maintain the occupation over land without any trouble somehow once if  they could grab the lands; (3) There was no survey and no land demarcation of the land ownerships; (4) Propaganda/rumors that the land will be recorded in the name of land grabbers if the land survey is conducted in future; (5) Partiality of the public representatives and government officials in favour of illegal land grabbers for several reasons; and (6) Absence of any positive role by the  Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional council (CHTRC) and Hill District Councils (HDC) regarding the issue.
The report identified 14 land grabbers, namely-
  1. Mr. Shamsul Alam (former chairman) occupied 60 acres of land;
  2. Mr. Jalal Ahmed (former chairman) gang occupied 150 ares of land;
  3. Md. Alam (defeated chairman candidate in last election) occupied 150 acres of land;
  4. Mr. A Mannan occupied 15 acres of land;
  5. Mr. Kamal occupied 20 acres of land;
  6. Mr. Maummad occupied 50 acres of land;
  7. Mr. Sirajul Hoque occupied 5 acres of land;
  8. Mahammad Ali occupied 12 acres of land;
  9. Mr. A Rashid occupied 20 acres of land;
  10. Mr. Joynal occupied 30 acres of land;
  11. Ms. Rozina occupied 15 acres of land;
  12. Moshref Ali gang occupied 25 acres of land;
  13. Md. Jakariya occupied 25 acres of land;
  14. Md. Shafiul Alam occupied 5 acres of land.
Among the land grabbers, Md. Alam and Mr. Kamal are leader of ruling Awami League. The report said that the said land grabbers occupied land and planted rubber without having permission from the Hill District Council (HDC). As per HDC Act 1989, no land of the hill tracts can be transferred, settled, leased out or acquired without having prior permission from concerned HDC. The government authorities did not take any action against the land grabbing. Besides the individual land grabbers mentioned-above, the business companies namely, Destiny Group, Mostafa group, Laden group, Shamin group, S Alam group, PHP group, Meridian group, Exim group, Babul group, Acme group are also involved in grabbing land.
The recommendations of the investigation report included the followings:
  1. To arrest and punishment of  the perpetrators who are involved in land grabbing and eviction of the Chak indigenous people of the area and restitution of the lands belong to Chak people;
  2. Rehabilitation of the evicted Chak families in their land  with full security;
  3. To fix the borders (land marks) of the  lands which  have been permited for horticulture in legal way and to take control over additionally ocupied lands of them by the government; 
  4. To provide land ownership to the local indigenous peoples and fix the borders of land owned by permanent Bengali  residents;
  5. To file case by police regarding the robbery on indigenous Chak people by miscreants apointed by land grabbers on 13 March 2013;
  6. To suspend the headman of Alikhyong mouza Chaw Hla Mong and appoint a qualified headman (traditional leader);
  7. To provide finacial support to local indigenous peoples for gardening and horticulture;
  8. To improve the road (communication) systems from union headquarter to the remote villages;
  9. Increase police petrol in the villages of the remote hilly areas (atleast once a month);
  10. To consider as well the recommendations of  Chairman of Baishari union Mohammad Manirul Hauque made during the investigation, which are as follows:
  1. In order to improve the livelihood, culture and tradition of local indigenous people, to build a ‘ Tribal Zone’ through fixing a specific area;
  2. To provide land ownership to both landless  indigenous and Bengali people;
  3. To improve communication system with indigenous villages of the remote forest areas;
  4. To provide hostel facilities for better education for indigenous people of each union of the upazila.
Subsequent to the submission of the report by the deputy secretary of MoCHTA, each Chak indigenous family was provided with some relief including 30 kg rice, 6,000 taka and one bundle of CIT sheet. Also, the headman of Alekhyong mouja Chaw Hla Mong was suspended by the authority in accordance with the recommendation. However, not with standing the specific recommendation to arrest and punishment of the perpetrators who are involved in land grabbing, robbery and eviction of the Chak indigenous people of the area, the local administration have not taken any effective measures to arrest and punish the land grabbers. Without arrest of land grabbers who are responsible to evict Chak indigenous villagers, the security of the Chak indigenous villagers will not be secured. Furthermore, though as per recommendation, a case on robbery was filed and some alleged persons namely (1) Surut Ali from Bombabil of Baishari, (2) Md. Belal from Bombabil of Baishari and Abdul Gofur from Gorjanya of Cox’s Bazaar district were arrested charging robbery by the police, but they were released on bail after a week.
Meanwhile, on 26 June 2013 the district administration arranged a meeting at Bandarban sadar upazila auditorium with the chairmen of the Upazila Parishad (local government council in upazila/sub-district level), Upazila Executive Officers (UNO), Officer-in-Charges (OCs) of the police stations, mouza headmen, chairmen of the union council (local government council in union level) and officials of the land administration. The meeting was presided over by Deputy Commissioner of Bandarban district M Tariqul Islam while the Member of Parliament (MP) of Bandarban constituency Mr. Bir Bahadur was present as the chief guest. In that meeting, though the demand of forming a committee to identify the land grabbers and restitute the lands was raised by local MP, public representatives and police officers, the Deputy Commissioner did not form any committee for this purpose. Consequently, the meeting was termed as an eye wash of the administration instead of necessary effective measures to solve the problem.
Currently, the local administration is trying to settle evicted Chak villagers on the village from where they were evicted. But local administration has not taken any measure to ensure their security. Therefore, on 30 June 2013 evicted villagers submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister demanding to cancel all leases for which the Chak villager were evicted, arrest of land grabbers and to provide adequate compensation for rehabilitation and to implement the recommendations of investigation report of the MoCHTA immediately etc.

Kapaeeng Foundation
(A Human Rights Organization for Indigenous Peoples of Bangladesh)

An indigenous woman seriously injured on an open fired with rubber bullets by the police in Khagrachari

On 30 June 2013 around 10.30 am, a indigenous woman has been seriously injured after an open fired by riot police using rubber bullets in south Khabongpujya area of Khagrachari  district. She was identified as Chanchala Chakma (50) from Khabongpujya area of Khagrachari municipality.
It is learnt that the police and Bengali settlers jointly planned to attack indigenous community to create a rumour about a communal conflict within local indigenous villagers during the time of strike called by Democratic Youth Forum (DYF) in CHT. In this incident an indigenous woman named Chanchala Chakma (50) from south Khabongpujya area was serious injured after an open fired operation by police. She was admitted in Khagrachari hospital first and then transferred to Chittagong Medical College hospital with her critical health condition. She is a daily labour. She was working at paddy land of Khabongpujya area during the strike and became victim of police firing when started to return home from farmland.
In the mean time, a successful surgery has been done with her in a hospital for the second time on 3rd July 2013.  In total six bullets of Shatter Gun have been removed from her body. She is now under treatment of medical doctors. A week might be needed to recover her body fully, hospital authority said.
It is also reported that five more people including two indigenous women named Koni Chakma (26) and Shamalika Chakma from same the area have been roughly injured by rubber bullets used by police during the strike.
During strike on 30 June 2013, the picketers of the DYF ransacked some vehicles near fire bridge office at the south Khabongpujya area. Following this, police chased the picketers and picketers also made counter chase. At a stage, police opened fire indiscriminately. The local sources informed that at least six houses have been ransacked by a sudden attack of police and Bengali settlers in the south Khabongpujya village. The villagers urged on the urgent need to investigate the incident to the local administration.
The Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders held in Havana, Cuba, on 27 August to 7 September 1990 stipulates that whenever the lawful use of force and firearms is unavoidable, law enforcement officials shall minimize damage and injury, and respect and preserve human life and ensure that assistance and medical aid are rendered to any injured or affected persons at the earliest possible moment and Governments shall ensure that arbitrary or abusive use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials is punished as a criminal offence under their law.
However, the police did not comply with this ‘Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials’. Even, government authority did not take adequate medical aid to the injured persons as per said basic principles.

Kapaeeng Foundation
(A Human Rights Organization for Indigenous Peoples of Bangladesh)