Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Military operation in Dighinala

Our correspondance

The military has been conducting operations in Bamei Ugudo-char under Dighinala sub-district in Khagrachari district since 11 Februay.

Army personnel from Mainee zone and Suburipada-chara camp are involved in the operation aimed at nabbing "terrorists".

Local villagers and eyewitness alleged that some un-identified masked men collaborating with the army.

Roundtable conference held with civil society delegation who visited CHT


On 10 February 2008 17-member civil society delegation led by Pankaj Bhattachariya, Vice President of Sammilita Samajik Andolon held roundtable conference on their recent visit to Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) at VIP Lounge of National Press club in Dhaka. Former Vice Chancellor of Jahangirnagar University and former Adviser of Caretaker Government Dr. Zillur Rahman Siddiqui presided over the conference. The members of the delegation, civil society members, journalists, university teachers and students, political leaders, NGO and human rights activists, representative from donor agencies were present at the conference.

It is mentionable that the civil society team from Dhaka visited Khagrachari and Rangamati districts of CHT to observe human rights situation in the region from January 28 to 30, 2008. They talked to representatives of indigenous Jumma peoples, Bengali community, religious leaders, civil society members, journalists and local administrations including Chairman and members of the CHT Regional Council, chairman of Khagrachari Hill District Council, Deputy Commissioners and Khagrachari and Rangamati districts.

In the roundtable conference, Professor Dr. Ajoy Roy, on behalf of the delegation read out a report on experiences of their CHT visit captioned "They (indigenous Jumma people) are also human being, let survive them with their rights" urging "to participate in establishing their glorious rights". In this report they pointed out that an uneasy situation has been prevailing in the hills and it can explode into a volatile state any time unless there is a timely intervention.

Professor Ajoy Roy also said the delegation received a numerous allegations, including intimidation and eviction of indigenous people by Bengali settlers, who in same cases got assistance from the government agencies. But Jumma people want to get back their lands where they have been residing for generations. In the name of taming anti-peace elements, the security forces have heightened their surveillance and expanded their security periphery confiscating lands of the Jumma people, causing a sense of fresh fear among the hill people.

The delegation also mentioned that by taking the advantage of non-implementation of the Accord, government agencies are aiding Bengali settlers to occupy land, identifying them as permanent resident and accordingly providing 'permanent resident certificate' to them. The report also stated that government administration in collaboration with military forces recently resumed Bengali settlement programme in CHT. For this purpose, not only homesteads of the indigenous peoples, Bengali settlers have been occupying the lands of religious institutes including Buddhist temple and meditation centre. The delegation claimed in their report that they also found evidences of political repression, physical torture and religious persecution upon Jumma people and instigation of communal tension by the government agencies etc. The delegation is of the opinion that by resuming Bengali settlement programme, CHT region would be turned into Muslim Bengali-majority region soon. They concern over inclusion of Bengali settlers and Rohinga Muslims in the on-going voter list, as it helped to make majority of Bengali Muslims in the voter list in CHT region. The delegation finally put the following recommendations:

Full implementation of CHT Accord in letter and spirit removing all impediments in implementation to it;
Stopping of the Bengali settlement programme and only inclusion of old Bengali permanent residents in the voter list.
Returning back Jumma-Bengali ratio into 70:30 and for this purpose reallocation of Bengali settlers from CHT region.
Zillur Rahman Siddiqui, in his speech, appreciated the move by the civil society delegation saying it was a timely trip. He called upon the government to consider the demands of the indigenous people to establish peace in the CHT through full implementation of the CHT Accord.

Mr. Pankaj Bhattachariya, eminent columnist Mr. Sayed Abul Maksud, Professor Dr. Rangolal Sen, General Secretary of Jatiya Adivasi Parishad Mr. Rabindranath Saren, General Secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum Mr. Sanjeeb Drong, human rights activist Mr. Numan Ahmed Khan, women rights activist Ms. Chaitali Tripura, development activist Sharif M Kafi and Mr. Soumen Chakma spoke at the conference. Among others, Lt General (retd) Narunnabi attended the conference. The speakers said that the citizen's group should hold dialogue with the government and other political parties to help resolve the CHT problems. Pankaj Bhattacharya said that a vested quarter is engaged in an ill effort to create anarchy in the country and hamper the national elections. He urged the government to look into the issue seriously. He categorically said vested quarters are working with the agenda of Jamaat-e-Islami and fundamentalists in the name of Sama Odhikar Andolon, an extremist organisation of Bengali settlers.

The members of the civil society delegation were:

1.Mr. Pankaj Battachariya, Vice President of Sammilita Samajik Andolon.

2.Professor Dr. Ajoy Roy, Convenor of Sampriti Manch, ex-teacher of Dhaka University

3.Mr. Sayed Abul Moksud, Journalist and columnist

4. Mr. Kamal Lohani, cultural personality,

5.Dr. Rashidi Mahbub, former Vice Chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Medical University

6.Mr. Belal Ahmed, Secretary General of Bangladesh Solidarity Movement,

7.Dr. Sourab Sikder, teacher of Dhaka University

8.Mr. Robindranath Trivedi, Secretary General of HRCBM-National Chapter-Dhaka

9.Mr. Shahidul Alam, photo journalist and film maker, Drik Gallery

10.Mr. Nazrul Islam Mithu, Reporter, the New Age

11.Ms. Kabita Papri, Reporter, the Daily Ittefaq

12.Mr. Anwar Kabir, Free lance journalist

13.Mr. Firoz Manna, Reporter, the Daily Jonokonto

14.Ms. Smriti Kona Bishwas, NGO Activist

15.Mr. Aungyojai Marma, indigenous rights activist

16.Mr. Thowai Aung Marma, indigenous rights activist

17.Mr. Dipyan Khisa, Editor, Mawrum