Abduction of Kalpana Chakma

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Kalpana Chakma
On 12 June 1996 Bangladesh Army abducted Kalpana Chakma (23), a human rights activist from her home at Lallyaghona village. Kalpana Chakma is still missing, it is believed that she might have been killed if she did not agree to marry Lieutenant Ferdous, the officer who led the abduction. Abduction of indigenous women is not unusual in the CHT. Abduction and forced marriage of indigenous women are used as a technique to integrate the indigenous Buddhist people into the Islamic society of Bangladesh.

Kalpana Chakma was known as an active women rights activist in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. She had been vehemently criticizing Bangladesh army repressions and harassment on the indigenous men and women. She had specially been working for the emancipation of the indigenous women from becoming victims of the Bangladesh army's lustful flame by organizing conferences, seminar's and meetings in various parts of the CHT. She had also been lending her strong support to the autonomy movement in the CHT spearheaded by the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS). In the last general parliamentary elections of Bangladesh held on 12 June 1996 she took active part in electioneering in favor of the independent candidate, who is considered to be the reflection of the PCJSS on the open ground of the CHT. All these activities turned her into the direct target of the Bangladesh Army.

It was then about 01:00 a.m. of the 12 June, just 6 hours ahead of the general election of Bangladesh when Kalpana Chakma was abducted by the members of the Bangladesh Army from her home at Lallyaghona village of the CHT. An army Lieutenant named Ferdous with his 11 soldiers from the nearby Kojoichari army barrack raided Kalpana Chakma's home at that night and picked her up forcibly. Kalpana's mother 60 years old Badhuni Chakma told reporters -

"We were asleep when someone called out from outside and wanted to know who were inside the house. Then they pulled down the latch of the door from outside and entered the house. They kept powerful torchlight on our face and took away my younger son Khudiram saying that his 'Sir' (Lieut. Ferdous) wanted to talk to him. Few minutes later they took away my elder son Kalicharan and my daughter Kalpana leaving behind myself and Kalicharan's wife."

Kalicharan Chakma, a farmer and bread winner of the family said that three were blindfolded and tied by the hands near the well of the house and were asked to sit down. Kalicharan said -

"Some were wearing army fatigues and some had lungis tied up to their waists. They first took Khudiram from us. They were speaking in Bengali."

Khudiram Chakma, brother of Kalpana Chakma described how he escaped-

"I was asked to dip into the water near the well. As soon as I did so, someone shouted 'shoot him'. Sensing imminent death I somehow untied my hand, removed blindfold around my eyes and started running in the waist deep water. I could hear one gunshot behind me but I kept running."

Kalicharan said that after they led Khudiram away, Kalpana was taken away from his side.

"On hearing the gunshot and the shoutings few yards away I untied my hand, removed the fold around my eyes and jumped into the water, they shot at me once and as I ran I could hear Kalpana cry out Dada, Dada, mahre baja (brother, brother, rescue me)."

The news of the tragic incident dispersed in all directions immediately and the neighbours came to know what actually happened. In the early morning Khudiram with the help of Samrat Sur Chakma approached Kojoichari army camp to enquire about Kalpana Chakma from the camp authority. The camp authority at once branded him "Shanti Bahini" "(the rebels) and threatened him to death. He returned home frustrated. Kalicharan on the other hand, went to te local Baghaichari Police Station to register a First Information Report (FIR). But neither the police station nor the army camp took any action to release Kalpana Chakma from the abductorsFollowing the incident, two non-Government teams investigated the case and affirmed it in their reports. The last team published its report on the whole incident on 5th July, 1996 and demanded immediate release of Kalpana Chakma and punishment of the culprits.

The Superintendent of Police (SP) of Rangamati under severe criticism of various national and international organisations visited Kalpana's home and informed that there were as many as 180 Bangladesh Army barracks in Rangamati district alone and so it was not possible for him to search all of them. On 14 July, 1996 several women organisations jointly submitted a memo to the Home Minister of Bangladesh who advised the team to meet the Prime Minister as the Home Ministry is not concerned with law and order in the CHT. The minister also told that the CHT being an Operational Zone, was an affair of the General Officer in Command (GOC) of the Chittagong Division of Bangladesh army and he had nothing to do with the issue.

On 18 July, 1996 the Bangladesh Army circulated leaflets from a helicopter declaring Taka 50,000 for information on where about of Kalpana Chakma. It seems to be the climax of the whole conundrum as Bangladesh army who abducted Kalpana are wanting to give an amount of Taka 50,000 as prize to whomever can supply the clue to her disappearance. It's very ridiculous and is like an attempt by a thief to catch himself. That's why, the Hill Watch Human Rights Forum (HWHRF), a human rights organisation blamed the military authorities for deliberately trying to cover up the truth. At first the Bangladesh Army strongly denied the accusation that Leiutenant Ferdous or any other memeber of the army was involved in the abduction of Kalpana Chakma. Later in the face of strong protest and condemnation, the Bangladesh Army made another attempt to cover up the issue by terming the whole incident as a "love affair". But this statement failed to convince the people. The statement rather proved the involvement of the army. The army again changed its statement and on 23 July 1996 released a statement which runs like this - "Kalpana Chakma had a passport and went abroad secretly". But the claim of the army had been verified by the indigenous activists and it was found that Kalpana Chakma had no passport.

On 27 June 1996 the indigenous activists staged demonstration throughout the CHT to press its demand for the release of Kalpana Chakma. During the demonstration 16 year old Rupam Chakma was shot down by the police and three others were missing in Baghaichari.

Abduction of Kalpana Chakma was not an isolated incident. As Tripura based human rights group Humanity Protection Forum puts it - "previously many indigenous girls were abducted by the Bangladeshi security forces and Muslim settlers and were forced to marry the abductors". Kalpana Chakma is still missing. It's believed that her flesh has been misused by a notorious group of the Bangladesh Army without impunity, while the Bangladesh Government remains as a passive onlooker. It's believed that she has been kept under terrible condition by the Bangladesh Army. It's a gross violation of human rights of the indigenous people. Abduction of indigenous women by the Bangladeshi security forces and Muslim settlers will continue until the CHT is dimilitarised and the settlers are withdrawn.


Sources:

  • Life is not ours: the Chittagong Hill Tracts Commiission, Update 3
  • Statement issued by Peace Campaign Group, New Delhi, India


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