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Indigenous victims of Muslim attack in Baghaihat
On 19-20 February 2010 Bangladesh army backed Muslim settlers attacked the indigenous people at Baghaichari leaving an indigenous man dead. The aim of the attack was to drive out the indigenous Chakma Buddhists and grab their land. The indigenous Buddhist man gunned down by the Bangladesh army.

Bangladesh Army guns down 6 indigenous people at Baghaichari

Introduction

On 19-20 February 2010, the Bangladesh Army and Muslim settlers attacked indigenous Chakma Buddhists at Baghaihat area of Sajek union under Baghaichari upazila in Rangamati district. 6 indigenous people including a woman were killed and 25 villagers were wounded in this attack. Around 200 Chakma homes including a Buddhist temple were completely burnt down.

The Incident

On 19 February 2010 afternoon a group Muslim settlers went to the Gangaram Duar area. The erected pillars on indigenous people's land to construct houses. At that time, the Chakma villagers protested and opposed the Muslim settlers.

Around 8.30 pm hundreds of Muslim settlers under the protection of Bangladesh army gathered at Gangaram Duar and started to set fire on the indigenous houses. At that time, at least 35 houses including 7 shops and a UNDP-run village centre in three villages of Gangaram Duar, Chaminichara and Baluchara were burnt down. The Muslim settlers also looted the valuables while they were torching the houses. The indigenous villagers fled to the jungle when the attack took place.

After the first attack, the villagers returned to their villages the next morning on 20 February and gathered in Gangaram to protest the attack. The Muslim settlers equipped with sharp weapons, machetes and sticks returned to the Chakma village.

Further, tension mounted throughout the area while the Bangladesh army and the Muslim settlers ordered the indigenous people to leave the area, but they refused to comply. At around 10.00 am the Bangladesh army started to indiscriminately beat the indigenous people. In response to the beating, a Chakma villager attacked an army man named Sergeant Rezaul Karim with a traditional Chakma weapon tagol. The Bangladesh army shot him to dead and indiscriminately opened fire on the Chakma Buddhists, leaving at least 6 dead and 25 wounded. The Bangladesh army also arrested three indigenous people.

Since the start of firing, the Muslim settlers with the help of Bangladesh army set fire on indigenous houses at Hajachara, Guchchha Gram, Balughat, Simanachhara, Baipaichhara, Suranganala, Kerekkaba Retkaba, Jarulchhari, Dane Bhaibachhara, Bame Bhaibachhara, MSF Para and Purbapara villages. At least another 160 houses were torched at that time. The Muslim settlers also burnt down a Buddhist temple named Banani Bana Vihar. The Muslim settlers desecrated the images of Lord Buddha. As the Muslim settlers continued the arson attack, the indigenous people began resisting them.

Five of the deads were identified as-

  1. Ms. Buddhabati Chakma (34)
  2. Mr. Laxmi Bijoy Chakma (30)
  3. Mr. Liton Chakma (35)
  4. Mr. Bana Shanti Chakma (28)
  5. Mr. Nutunjoy Chakma (28)

Some of the injured are-

  1. Shanta Shil Chakma
  2. Mrittunjoy Chakma
  3. Sushil Jibon Chakma (32)
  4. Amar Jiban Chakma (30)
  5. Mr. Nibesh Chakma (35)
  6. Mr. Dari Chakma (40)
  7. Jitendra Chakma (35)
  8. Mr. Prem Lal Chakma (26)

The dead body of Buddhabati Chakma was brought at Baghaichari police station for postmortem. But the Bangladesh army concealed the dead bodies of other deceased. On 20 February 2010 afternoon the army imposed section 144 in the area to prevent the Chakma Buddhists from organizing demonstrations.

Background of the Incident

The Bangladesh Army undertook plan to settle Muslim settlers along the Sajek road from Baghaichari to Gangaram Mukh in 2005. Thousands of indigenous Chakma Buddhists have been living in this area since the time immemorial. Hence, the Chakma villagers of these areas had been protesting against the illegal settlement programme. Despites the protest, in 2008 the Muslim settlers illegally constructed some houses at Gangaram area on the land owned by the indigenous people. At a stage on 20 April 2008 the Muslim settlers with the direct support of the Bangladesh army attacked 7 indigenous villages and burnt down 76 houses.

Since January 2010, the Muslim settlers with the support of Bangladesh army resumed expansion of their settlement in Sajek area under Baghaichari upazila. The Muslim settlers had erected a number of houses on land owned by the indigenous people.

On 10 January 2010, the indigenous villagers under the banner of Sajek Bhumi Rakkha Committee (Land Protection Committee), submitted a memorandum to the Baghaichhari Upazila Nirbahi Officer with an ultimatum of 16 January 2010 to return them their lands. As the deadline expired without any fruitful result on 16 January, the indigenous Buddhist villagers started their agitation and started to boycott Baghaihat market from 18 January 2010. On 25 January 2010 the PCJSS sent a letter to the Home Minister with copy to State Minister of CHT Affairs Ministry and other concerned government authorities demanding a stop on settlement prgramme and to withdraw Muslim settlers from Baghaihat area. However, government did not take any measure in this regard.

Mockery of the Muslim settlers

The Muslim settlers and Bangladesh army tried to conceal the real situation. As part of this mockery, the Muslim settlers set fire on few of their own houses which were abandoned beforehand. Even the Bangladesh army played a mock gunfight. At a press conference at Rangamati, the Parbatya Bangalee Chatra Parishad also protested the incident and blamed the indigenous people for it. They declared the Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission unwanted in CHT and blamed it for working in favour of the indigenous people.

Media Report

Most of the Bangladeshi news media both electronic and press primarily reported fabricated news. They reported that tribal miscreants opened fire first, clash started since tribal villagers set ablaze settlers’ houses, tribal villagers attacked Bengali settlers etc. For example, the Daily Star in its internet edition on 20 February mentioned the headline of news as “Criminal killed in gunfight with security forces in Rangamati”. However, it replaced later with “2 indigenous men killed as troops open fire in Rangamati”. The Prothom Alo stated it as firing between Paharis and Bangalis. Most of the electronic media aired news in favour of Muslim settlers. Most of the media reflected statement of Bangladesh army authority as well as administration that went against the indigenous peoples.


Sources:

PCJSS (Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti)
E-mail: pcjss.org@gmail.com, pcjss@hotmail.com
Website: www.pcjss-cht.org
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