Genocide in Chittagong Hill Tracts
There have been massive and systematic human rights violations in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), committed by Bangladeshi armed forces and Muslim settlers. Indigenous Jumma people have been murdered, crippled, raped, tortured, imprisoned and deprived of their homes and means of livelihood. They have been denied civil and political rights.
Netherlands based Organizing Committee for CHT Campaign reported 278 cases of Human Rights violations committed between July 1985 to December 1985. The human rights abuses include murders, torture, rape, arson, robbery, abduction, forcible conversion to Islam and electoral fraud. The policy of the Bangladesh government had been to destroy the local inhabitants in order to settle its Muslim co-religionist in their place. Torture of the CHT people is carried out by the Bangladesh armed forces everyday. It is so brutal and severe that many of the victims are crippled and most of them die prematurely. Most commonly, the Bangladesh military or paramilitary personnel enter indigenous Jumma villages in the early hours of the morning and take away a small number of able-bodied young men of the village or occasionally the village headman, to their camps. The arrests are undertaken without using any legal procedure such as the presentation of arrest warrants or bringing the arrested person before a magistrate within 24 hours, as the Criminal Procedure Code specifies for arrests by police officers. The Chittagong Hill Tracts had never been officially declared a "disturbed area" so that the provisions of the Disturbed Areas (Special Powers) Ordinance, 1962 - the 1980 Disturbed Areas Bill never had been enacted - had not been invoked. As a result no legal procedures were in force specifically providing for civilians to be arrested by military or paramilitary forces.
1. Military Induced Terror
Indigenous people detained for questioning by the Bangladesh military and paramilitary personnel are regularly tortured. Such prisoners are generally kept in pits or trenches some seven or eight feet deep, dug within the perimeter of the Bangladesh army or BDR (Bangladesh Rifles) camps. Indigenous people have often been compelled to dig these pits in the first instance. One of the two sides of the pit or trench is protected by a fence of bamboo stakes. Prisoners are held in groups of up to 15 or 20 at one time in these conditions. Several former prisoners said that soldiers sprinkled hot water over the pit or trench to increase their discomfort almost daily. Prisoners are then taken out singly from the pit for interrogation. The techniques of torture which former prisoners reported to be most frequently used during interrogation are: extensive beating, with rifle butts and sticks, on all parts of the body; pouring very hot water into the nostrils and mouth; hanging the prisoner upside down, often from a tree, for long periods and poking him with a bayonet or stick; hanging the prisoner by the shoulders for long periods and then beating the soles of the feet; and burning with cigarettes. Over the years, many indigenous people died in custody as a result of the treatment they received. A middle-aged teacher from Laogang village, in the Panchari area, described his experiences to the Amnesty International thus:
This interview was conducted six months after the teacher's detention. Faint scars on his body were visible to the naked eye but could not be successfully photographed. Other accounts of treatment in army or BDR camps by villagers from other places are markedly consistent with the above account, as is illustrated by the experience of a villager from Rangapani, also in the Panchari area:
Several former indigenous prisoners had also been threatened with the electric shock treatment. Another villager from the panchari area described the experience of his 27-year-old son during December 1985, when his son had been held for 23 days in Khagrachari cantonment:
This villager also stated that one of the people held with his son, Santoshmani Chakma, died as a result of torture. Mass tortures were also meted out to the indigenous people during searches for the Shanti Bahini guerillas and supporters, they are rounded up from their homes and a few of them, often the young men, are picked out and tortured in front of the assembled villagers. The methods of torture cited are the same as those reported to be used regularly on prisoners held in army or BDR camps. One such incident occurred at Monatek village, Mohalchari on 19 september 1984. Police personnel from the Armed Police Battalion (APB) based at Mohalchari are reported to have rounded up the villagers at around 10 pm on open ground near the village. Four men were then said to have been selected from among the assembled group and in front of all the others they were reportedly hung upside down, beaten and had water poured in their nostrils and mouth.
2. Concentration Camps
Torture also used when coercing the indigenous people to move from their homes into collective farms, or "cluster villages". The policy of establishing what were essentially collective farms began in 1964, to encourage tribal people to settle on permanent land plots rather than continue jhum (slash and burn) cultivation. Since around 1977, however, it appears that the settlements to which indigenous people have been moved bear greater resemblance to "concentration camps", since army, BDR or police camps are also established alongside them. The relocation of indigenous people has been presented by law enforcement personnel as being in the villagers' best interests although the implementation of this policy serve other purposes: through the close surveillance of indigenous people, assistance and shelter to the Shanti Bahini can be prevented, while the land vacated by indigenous people may then be used for resettling Muslim settlers from other parts of the country. These "cluster villages" were established throughout the Chittagong Hill Tracts. In early 1986, an effort to intensify the formation of "cluster villages" in the northern parts of the Chittagong Hill Tracts was begun by the law enforcement personnel of Bangladesh. The area affected included villages in the Mohalchari-Nanyarchari-Khagrachari locality. A member of the Marma nationality described the experience of his village, Khularam Para, near Mohalchari:
Similar abuses were taking place in the Nanyarchari area, according to a villager from Dewan Chara:
3. Restrictions on Movement, Buying and Selling
The Bangladesh military divides the CHT into three different zones: red, yellow and white. The red zones are the interior of the CHT, the white zones are the areas within two miles of the regional military headquarters where the army is in full control, while the yellow zones are the Muslim settler areas. The following restrictions broadly cover the different zones: In the red zones the most restrictions are imposed on the indigenous people but not on the Muslim settlers. All the indigenous people have to carry an identity card and if they go shopping they have to carry a market pass. The market pass which is headed 'Bangladesh is in my heart" is a means of controlling the quantities of rice, kerosene, oil and other goods which they are allowed to buy. A family cannot buy more than four kilos of rice per person each week. This is checked at all the military posts along the road. People are asked where they come from, where they are going to and their bags are searched. If hill people want to sell some of their produce, such as rice, they have first to seek written permission from the army. A Chakma woman from Khagrachari District was arrested, tortured and sexually harassed by the Bangaldeshi security forces for buying clothes in 1989.
One indigenous youth in Dighinala Upazilla told the CHT Commission that his family wanted to sell rice so he could pay the fees for his studies. When the permission came they were allowed to sell only one maund of rice (about 40 kilos) which was not enough to pay for his studies. There is also a restriction on the quantity of medicines that a person may buy and in some places people need permission from the army before buying any medicines. In the south, people need permission to take goods from there to Bandarban. The reason behind these measures is the army's fear that people will give food and other necessities to the Shanti Bahini. In the yellow zones the indigenous people have to carry identity cards, but no market passes are needed. There is however, in these zones too, a restriction on how much medicine they are allowed to buy. In the white zones there are no specific restrictions, but only those which apply throughout the CHT as a whole. These include a prohibition on all movement outside of towns after the closing hours of the check posts and the need for written permission for long trips.
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