Statement to United Nations on Religious Persecutions

Rapes &
Jumma Refugees
CHT Treaty
Foreign Aid

Sub-Coinmission on Prevention of
Discrimination and Protection of
Working Group on Indigenous Populations
29 July -2 August l985

Statement submitted by Ven.Aggavansa Mahathera on behalf of the people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Madam Chairman,

I, Aggavansa Mahathera, a Chakma Buddhist monk from the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh, would like to draw the attention of the Members of the Working Group to the plight of the indigenous nationalities of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).

On 15 February 1972, the people of the CHT sent a delegation led by Mr.Manabendra Narayan Larma, to the Bangladesh leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, asking for regional autonomy and retention of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regulation of 1900 to safeguard their political, economic and cultural rights. He rejected their demands and told them "Do away with your ethnic identity, go home and become Bengalis". This statement highlights the government's policy towards the indigenous people who are ethnically, religiously and culturally distinct from the Bengalis. All Bangladeshi rulers pursued this policy designed to Bengalise and to Islamise the CHT. The present regime of Gen. Hossain Mohammad Ershad denies even the existence of these indigenous nationalities. In a submission to the Working Group on Indigenous Populations in 1983, the official Bangladesh delegate asserted that "the entire population of the territory which now comprises Bangladesh has always been and still is one people - the Bangladesh nation . Bangladesh is a country with a homogenous population".

The government is depriving the tribal people of educational facilities in all fields. For example, Sweden has established a polytechnic at Kaptai to educate the local people in Science and technology yet only 3 to 4 places out of 250 places are offered to the tribespeople every year. The para-medical training center at Rangamati admits only a few tribal students. Sweden closed down the Forest Development Training Centre at Kaptai as the government refused to employ tribal people. Similarly the numbers of tribal students in medical, engineering and agricultural institutions are minuscule. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the tribal students to pursue their studies because they are often arrested, detained without charge or trial, tortured and even murdered. The tribal girl students are kidnapped, raped and made pregnant by the Bengali soldiers.

The Bangladeshi regime is persecuting the indigenous people for their religious beliefs. Numerous Buddhist temples have been looted, desecrated and destroyed. The monks are detained, tortured and murdered. For example, on 22 February 1979, the Bangladesh army ransacked the Buddhist temple at Pujgang, 20 miles north of Khagrachari, shot at the holy image of the Buddha, broke its head with riffle butts, and then played football with the head. Rev. Arniruddha Bhikkhu and Rev. Rebata Bhikkhu were beaten severely with the result that the former had suffered a serious head injury and the latter had the right hand broken.

On 27 December 1979, Ven. Ajara Bhikkhu and Ven.Bannitananda Bhikkhu of the Buddhist temple at Thakujyama Kalak in the Kachalong valley were hacked to death by the Bengali soldiers During the Kalampati Union massacre on 25 March 1980, the Bangladesh army and the Bengali settlers plundered and destroyed many Buddhist temples and murdered many monks. A Parliamentary investigatiye team confirmed that the Buddhist temples at Betchari, Tonghapara, Chotadulu, Baradulu and Tripuradighi were completely destroyed and that those at Headmanpara, Poapara, Rangeipara, Kashkhalimukh Para, Kachukhali, Chela Chara, Roazapara, Hatirpara etc. were heavily damaged. The Bengalis broke up the Buddha's statue at Poapara Buddhist temple and then played football with the broken pieces. A few monks survived and they were left for dead. Ven. Pannasara Bhikkhu and Ven. Wannasara Bhikkhu of Roazapara Temple had their hands broken. Ven.U Chandra Griya Bhikkhu, 60, of Chaityaraja Buddhist Temple at Kashkhalimukh Para had his head injured and both hands broken.

The Bengali soldiers stripped a Buddhist monk of the temple at Kattali, 70 miles north-east of Rangamati, slaughtered a cow on his saffron robes and sprinkled blood on the holy image of the Buddha.

On 11 August 1983, Ven. Bodhipal Bhikkhu of Banavihar temple at Jedamachyachara, near Panchari, was beaten mercilessly. He fled to Agartala in Tripura State of India as he could not bear military oppression anymore.

During the government-directed massacres in the Bhushanchara Union within Barkal Thana on 31 May 1984, Ven.Bodhi Ratna Bhikkhu, 78, of Janakalyan Bouddha Vihar at Bhushanchara, Ven. Jyotipal Sramana, 58, of Gorasthan Samaj Bouddha Vihar at Gorasthan and Ven. Jyotipal Bhikkhu, 73 of Banarupa Bouddha Vihar at Chotaharina, were beaten severely. The temples were looted and the holy images of the Buddha were broken into pieces. The monks sought refuge in Mizoram State of India.

International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) has disclosed that the Bangladesh armed forces occupy the Buddhist places of worship forcibly. The Buddhist temple at Maischari, 40 miles north of Rangamati, for instance, was occupied forcibly by the Bangladesh armed police for eight months. The intruders reviled the monks, slaughtered a cow on their saffron robes and smeared the image of the Buddha with blood.

IFOR has also revealed that the Bangladesh army prevents the people from practising their own religion. The Buddhist shrine at Chitmarong, 20 miles south of Rangamati, is the holiest of all places in the CHT and the Buddhists from every corner of the district have gone there for pilgrimage. The Bangladesh army has set up a checkpoint on the way to the shrine. People going there are asked for identity cards (special cards are required only of the tribal people) and thoroughly searched. Women are raped. Harassment has increased to such an extent that very few people dare visit the shrine.

The military junta has made a secret plan to force the tribal people to become Muslims. With the financial help of Saudi Arabia, it has built an Islamic Preaching Centre and an Islamic Gultural Centre at Rangamati for this purpose. The government is also building hundreds of Mosques throughout the CHT while it is destroying hundreds of Buddhist temples with equal measures of zealotry.

The Bangladesh security forces harass the tribal people and then offer them financial inducement and also freedom from oppression if they embrace Islam. Mr.Probodh Chandra Chakma, 52, of Mara Chengi within Naniachar Thana, for example, was harassed on 1 October 1984 and then enticed to become a Muslim with offer of money and freedom from oppression. Now he lives in serious mental agonies. The government has secretly circulated a letter to all military officers now stationed in the CHT encouraging them to marry tribal girls with a view to assimilating the indigenous people. As a consequence, the Bangladesh armed forces kidnapped thousands of tribal women and forced them to become Muslims and to marry Bengalis. For instance, Miss Sukrabala Chakma, 18, daughter of Mr. Lochonya Chakma, of Prodeep Para, Jurmarong within Khagrachari Thana, was taken away from her home at gun point by the Bangladesh Reserve Police of Bhaibonchara police camp on 7 August 1984. She was forced to become a Muslim and to marry a Bengali policeman from Comilla against her will.

On 25 October 1984, the Bengali soldiers of Thaichara camp attacked the house of Mr. Gulohoga Chakma, 33, of Jaduchara within Naniachar Thana and told him that Bengali sperms must be infused into the wombs of tribal women so that they give birth to children of Bengali origin. Then they raped his wife until she became unconscious.

I earnestly appeal to you to protect the political, economic and cultural rights of the indigenous population of the CHT. Thank you for giving me a patient hearing.

'Sabbe Satta Sukhita Bhabantu'
'Let All living Beings Be Happy'

Agravansa Mahathera
(Chakma Rajguru)


  1. The Charge of Genocide: Organizing Committee for the CHT Campaign, 1986