Bangladesh: FOLLOW-UP: MASSIVE ARSON ATTACK ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES IN LONGADU

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    Photo: Their houses/villages are burning while Jummas are fleeing for their lives... Photo: Dhuduk Dewan Adhip's from timeline

    On 2 June 2017 Bengali settlers organized a pre-planned massive attacks on indigenous Jumma people in Tintila, Manikjorchara and Batya Para of Longadu upazila Sadar (sub-district) in Rangamati district. Almost 250 houses and shops of indigenous Jumma villagers were vandalized and looted before burnt to ashes. Gunamala Chakma (75) one of the victims couldn’t flee and died on the spot burning inside the house and several were injured. It is also reported 3 Jumma villagers were tortured by the Bengali settlers. Indigenous Jumma people alleged that with the active support of security forces and administration Bengali Settlers perpetrated the barbaric attack. The security forces also allegedly threatened the Jumma villagers of shooting. As a result, looting and setting fire to the shops and houses of Jumma peoples organized by settlers. None of the victims could save their property. Thousands of indigenous Jumma peoples including women and children were forced to flee following the attack and took shelter in the jungles and nearby villages. Currently, most of them are living under the open sky in incessant rains without food, clothes and treatment. After 8 days of the incident till now victims did not get any government support.

    It is mentionable that Longadu is one of the most Bengali settlers inhabited area in CHT. It is believed that the largest settlement of Bengali settlers was engineered in Longadu during the population transfer policy in CHT by the military regimes from mid 1970s to late 1980s.

    1 June 2017: Day before the communal attack, Indigenous Peoples tensed for possible violence

    On 1 June 2017 the dead body hired-motorcycle driver named Nurul Islam Nayan was found at Charmile area of Khagrachari-Dighinala road. Tension spread in different indigenous villages for possible attack as settler Bengalis were alleging indigenous peoples for Nayan’s death.

    Fearing possible violence in connection to the protest rally called on the next day by Bengali settlers carrying the body of Nurul Islam Nayan, indigenous peoples of Longadu informed the officials of Longadu Military Zone and Longadu Police Station and local public representatives about their insecurity and sought protection on 1 June 2017. The 2nd-In-Command (2IC) of Longadu Army Zone Major Rafique informed the leaders of indigenous peoples that it is a democratic right of the Bengali settlers to stage rally peacefully and assured them that they would not let anything unexpected to be happened.

    2 June, 2017: What happened on that day?

    On 2 June at around 9:30 am, the Bengali settlers of Longadu brought out a rally led by ruling Awami League and Juba League carrying the body of Nurul Islam Nayan from Battya Para area of Longadu upazila under guard of the army and police. During the rally Bengali settlers began to spread communal sentiment stating that two Jumma people allegedly killed him and provoking slogan to start communal riot and attack on indigenous Jumma villagers. As the rally reached Tintilla area at 10:00 am, the Bengali settlers of the rally all on a sudden set the houses and shops of indigenous peoples and Multipurpose Community Centre and the upazilla unit office of Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) ablaze without any prior incitement. The Bengali settlers made it to burn over 94 houses including 10 shops of indigenous peoples in Tintilla area to ashes. Shortly, the Bengali settlers went ahead to make attacks on nearby Manikjorchara area and torched the houses of indigenous peoples there. This attack left at least 88 houses including 5 shops of indigenous peoples completely gutted. About 6000 indigenous Jumma villagers from nearby villages forced to leave their houses and flee to the jungle to safe their lives.  While carrying out the attacks, the settlers looted all the valuables from the houses and shops of the Jumma people. No single family of the affected Tintilla, Manikjorchara, Boradam and Batya Para areas could save any of their belongings.

    Role of the Security Forces and Local Administration

    Despite the assurance of officials of Longadu Military Zone and Longadu Police Station, Bengali settlers began attacking, vandalizing, looting, setting fire to indigenous Jumma people in the presence of security forces on 2 June, 2017. At around 12 pm, the local administration declared Section 144 (unlawful assembly). However, by then the declaration became of no use as attacks continued until 2 pm. During this time at least 42 houses including 4 shops of indigenous peoples in Battya Para were burnt to ashes by the Bengali settlers.

    In these pre-planned attacks, it is alleged that with the help of security forces flammable objects such as patrol and kerosene were widely used to set fire to the houses. Affected villagers also noticed that the settlers being guarded by Army and Police and sprayed a gas-like flammable object from bottles to do their job faster. As a result, the houses including concrete buildings were quickly turned to ashes, according to the survivors.

    Reportedly, members of security forces and police were present while attacks were being made. Indigenous peoples claimed that the arson attacks made on indigenous peoples were in the presence of Lt. Col. Abdul Halim Chowdhury PSC and 2IC Major Rafique of Longadu military zone and OC of Longadu police station Maminul Islam. However, they failed to protect indigenous peoples from this arson attacks.

    Police Case for the incident

    On 2 June 2017 a police case under Penal Code Section 143/ 147/ 148/ 447/ 448/ 427/ 436/ 186/ 353 was filed by Sub Inspector Dulal Hossain of Longadu police station against 15 persons by name and 300 unknown persons. It was learnt that the police arrested 7 persons enlisted in the complain.

    As of 5 June 2017, police have arrested 19 people in connection with this case.

    NHRC Form Fact-finding Committee

    National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) formed a three-member prove body to investigate the Longadu incident headed by its member Ms. Banchita Chakma. The other members are – Gazi Salauddin, deputy director and Sajjadur Rahman, assistant director of NHRC. The committee already visited the affected area where they talked to the victims and local administration. The committee has been asked to submit report within four working days.

    Deputy Commissioner Visit

    The Deputy Commissioner (DC) and Superintendent of Police (SP) of Rangamati district visited the affected areas on 3 June 2017. The district administration brought rice and Tk. 1,000 for each victim family. However, being agitated enough and considering too trivial to compensate the loss, the victims rejected to take the reliefs. The district administration promised to build houses for the victims. However, no initiative to rehabilitate the victims has been observed as yet.

    Chairman of Task Force’s visit arson attack

    ON 4 June 2017 Chairman of Task Force on Rehabilitation of India-Returnee Refugees and Internally Displaced Peoples Mr. Jatintra Lal Tripura and Member Sontoshita Chakma Bakul visited affected villages of Longadu arson attack.

    DIG and Divisional Commissioner of Chittagong Police visited the victims

    On 5 June 2017 S M Moniruzzaman, Deputy Inspector General of Chittagong Police and Md Ruhul Amin, Divisional Commissioner of Chittagong Police along with Manjarul Mannan, Divisional Commissioner of Rangamati and Sayeed Tarikul Hassan, Police Super of Rangamati District visited only the Tintila area and assured for proper compensation and justice but they didn’t visit other affected areas.

    Ruling 14 party delegation visited Longadu victims

    On 7 June 2017 Ruling 14 party delegation including Health minister Mohammad Nasim MP and Fazle Hossain Badsha MP, President of Parliamentary Caucus on indigenous people along with other alliance members visited the affected indigenous Jumma people and condemn the arson attack. They assured to the victims that government will take steps to rehabilitate the affected people and reiterated that the culprits involved in these attacks would be punished.

    Protest organized in Different Places:

    CHT Commission concerned and sent letter to Home ministry

    On 3 June 2017, CHT Commission send a letter to Home ministry demanding immediate arrest of those responsible of arson attack and ensuring safety of indigenous Jumma villagers.

    Several Citizens Group and Students organisations demonstrated in Dhaka

    On 3-4 June 2017 a protest rally and demonstration organized by civil society organizations and different student organisations in Dhaka, Chittagong, Khagrachari, Bandarban and Rangamati condemning the arson attack on indigenous peoples in Longadu upazila, Rangamati.

    Protest against Longadu arson attack in New York

    On 4 June 2017, Secular Civic Society under banner of Rukha Darao Bangladesh organised a demonstration against Longadu arson attack on Jumma peoples and Efajati threatening to Sultana Kamal in New York.

    Rangamati MP condemned in the Parliament

    On 5 June 2017 Honorabel Member of the Parliament Mr. Ushaton Talukder protested Longadu incident and demanded judicial investigation of it, so that culprits and masterminds would be identified.

    Amnesty urged Bangladesh authorities for proper investigation into Longadu violence

    On 6 June 2017 Amnesty International urged the Bangladesh authorities to initiate through an impartial and independent investigation into the attacks on indigenous people in Longadu, Rangamati. Human rights watch-dog Amnesty International called for Bangladesh to bring to justice those responsible for torching the homes of indigenous people in Langadu upazila of Rangamati.

    Furthermore, the international organization also condemned what it sees as breaches of the right to peaceful assembly by law enforcement agencies in the country and gave a number of recommendations to Bangladeshi authorities regarding both issues.

    Parliamentary Caucus on Indigenous Peoples seek justice in a press conference at Dhaka

    On 7 June 2017 Parliamentary Caucus on Indigenous Peoples hold a press conference on recent Longadu arson attack in CHT at media center, National Parliament. Caucus Convener Fazle Hossain Badsha, MP; Caucus Member Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, MP; Nazmul Hague Prodhan, MP; and Mustafa Lutfullah, MP, were present among others. The Caucus demanded proper investigation and justice of the incident including killing of Nayan, immediate rehabilitation of the victims with adequate compensation, and investigate the role of administration on that particular day of the incident.

    Indian Chakma Buddhists protest Longudu communal attack in Delhi

    On 9 June 2017 a protest demonstration organized by Peace Campaign Group in association with Indian Support Groups and Indian Chakma Society at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi condemned the communal violence and urged New Delhi to use its clout for peace and security of minority Buddhist communities in Chittagong Hill Tracts. The Chakma Buddhist delegation submitted a memorandum to the Indian Prime Minister urging New Delhi to work with Dhaka for implementation of the CHT Accord urgently and restoration of peace and stability in Chittagong Hill Tracts and security of minority Buddhists out there.

    TCSA and CNCI organise demonstration in Tripura

    On 9 June 2017 Tripura Chakma Students Association (TCSA) and Chakma National Council of India (CNCI) organised demonstration against Longadu arson attack in Indian State of Tripura. They submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh through Assistant High Commission of Bangladesh at Agartala, Tripura.

    On 9 June Guwahati Chakma Students Union and Guwahati Chakma Society also organised protest and demonstration against Longadu arson attack in Guwahati, Assam. They also submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister of India and Bangladesh.

    All India Chakma Social Forum (AICSF) submitted memorandum to the Minister for External Affairs

    On 9 June 2017 the All India Chakma Social Forum (AICSF) submitted a memorandum to Sushma Swaraj, Hon’ble Union Minister for External Affairs seeking her strong interventions on the Longudu communal attacks and other problems of indigenous people in CHTs. They urged her to take up these issues directly with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during her visit to Dhaka on 10th June.

    Denmark express their concern and demand justice for the indigenous people

    On 9 June 2017 the Danish Ambassador to Bangladesh in a statement said, Denmark is concerned with the recent incidents of violence in and around Langadu in the district of Rangamti in Chittagong Hill Tracts. They deplore the loss of lives and damage to properties and livelihoods. They also call upon all parties to refrain from further violence and continue the dialogue of reconciliation.

    BHBCUC organises protest against Longadu arson

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    Current Situation: Living Under Open sky

    Now of the victims are passing their nights and days in a very deplorable state under the open sky while the rainy season has just started. As their all belongings were burnt to ashes they all are living with single cloths and without sufficient food. Women and children are facing most critical time without any medical treatment as the victims had to take shelter in the jungle. No compensation has been provided to the affected people from the government yet.

    Justice delayed, justice denied

    The recent Longadu incident is not different like any other such cases in CHT. The communal attack happened with looting, killing and arson in Longadu is well corresponded to the continuity of disrespecting fundamental rights of indigenous peoples. Earlier on 4 May 1989 Longadu massacre was committed on Jumma peoples. In this massacre, al least 32 Jummas were killed and 1011 houses of 9 villages were completely burnt to ashes. It is alleged that during the attack the administration played supportive role with the Bengali settlers. However, unfortunately, none of the Bengali settlers involved in that attack were punished by the government.

    It is fact that, so far, it is alleged that the Bengali settlers perpetrated 20 fierce and barbaric communal attacks including that of this Longadu upon the Jumma peoples with the direct support of the ruling party and local administration in post-accord period. However, in most of the cases, government failed to deliver justice of those cases perpetrated against indigenous peoples.

    This time, we demand justice without further delay. Independent investigation of the incident is needed to identify the culprits and ensure exemplary punishment.

    Media Report

    Media report on Longadu incident (English national dailies) are given below:

    1. http://www.banglatribune.com
    2. http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/nation/2017/06/02/adivasi-houses-torched-longodu/
    3. http://www.theindependentbd.com/post/97629
    4. http://m.theindependentbd.com/post/97588
    5. http://www.banglatribune.com
    6. http://www.dhakatribune.com/opinion/op-ed/2017/06/03/a-great-shame/
    7. http://www.bbc.com/bengali/news-40148069
    8. http://www.kalerkantho.com/print-edition/news/2017/06/05/505077
    9. http://www.thedailystar.net/city/punishment-longadu-attackers-sought-1415608
    10. http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/law-rights/2017/06/06/amnesty-indigenous-people-langadu/
    11. http://www.thedailystar.net/country/indigenous-family-loss-longadu-arson-attack-1416100
    12. http://www.thedailystar.net/backpage/rangamati-arson-amnesty-intl-impartial-probe-1416622
    13. http://thedailynewnation.com/news/136450/nhrcs—fact-finding-body-formed.html
    14. http://currentriggers.com/world/bangladesh-violence-jumma-longudu/

    This report is prepared by Kapaeeng Foundation

    Source: Kapaeeng Foundation