16 Jumma villages of Ruma compelled to serve forced labour to Bagalake camp

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Hill Voice, 25 December 2020, Bandarban, Special Correspondent: Jumma villagers of 16 villages under Bagalake Army Camp in Ruma Upazila of Bandarban District are compelled to serve forced work without pay in Bagalake Camp twice a year.

The Karbaris (village heads) of these villages complained that it is compulsory to send the villagers to work without pay in the camp while the camp authority sends letter for the same. If not sent, the camp commander comes to the villages and tortures the villagers in various ways. And when they demanded wages in exchange for working in the camp, they said it was government work. So, they have to work without wages.

A Karbari, who did not want to be named, asked the camp commander, “Sir, you said it is a government job,that is why,while the villagers work in your camp, they will not be paid. You also do government job or government work, then why do you get monthly salary from the government, sir?

In response to Karbari’s question, the camp commander said, “We are army men.” We have to take the salary. You are public, why do you get salary?So, you have to work in the camp without wages.

This way, the Jumma villagers of Bagalek Camp, Chungchang Para Camp, Pukur Para Camp, Baklai Camp, Munnoam Camp and Ronin Para Camp under Ruma Zone have to work in the respective camp twice a year without pay. Apart from that, it is alleged that ten bamboos from each family have to be given to the camp without pay.

From 11 October to 25 October 2020, for about 15 days, a group of troops led by Subedar Rafiq from Bagalake camp set up a temporary camp in Kista Para. During the 15-day stay, it was alleged that three villagers had to fetch water for the army from the stream 1,500 feet below the ground every day. No wages were paid to the villagers in return.

While staying in the temporary camp, the army bought two goats from the villagers. But it is alleged that the army did not pay a fair price for the two goats. For example, the army bought a goat for BDT 1,800 from Pron kumak Khumi Para. But the owner bought the goat from the market for BDT 3,000. On the other hand, Baduram Tripura, a villager of Kista Para, bought a goat from the market for BDT 8,000. The army took the goat paying only BDT 4,700. The Subedar of the camp instructed the villager Karbari to give the remaining BDT 3,000 to the owner of the goat.

In addition, the army did not pay for all the work, from collecting firewood for cooking to clearing the jungle of the camp.

Under the Bagalake camp, 16 villages fell victim to various types of atrocities are- Menron Mro Para, 2. Lengpung Mro neighborhood, 3. Finang Mro Para, 4. Janerang Tripura Para, 5. Kistapara Tripura Para, 6. Mongthowaiching Marma Para (Bagalake Para), 7. Bagamukh Headmanpara Marma Para, 8. Prongkhyangsu Marma Para, 9. Mrokhyong khumi Para, 10. Runtong Khumi Para, 11. Sairatong Marma Para, 12. Letong Khumi Para, 13. Kyataing Khumi Para, 14. Lalsong thong Bawm Para (Harmon Bawm Para), 15. Saikat Bawm Para and 16. Egaro Kilo Mro Para.

Thus, like the villagers under Bagalake Camp, the Jumma villagers under Chungchang Para Camp, Pukur Para Camp, Baklai Camp, Munnoam Camp and Ronin Para Camp ofRuma Zone have been subjected to various forms of oppression including forced labour without pay.

In the feudal society, it was the custom for the tenants to work without pay to the landlords. The landlord system has been eradicated from the country. Feudal society has largely broken down across the country. There is no landlord anywhere in the country, so there is no rule of forced labour. The method of imposing forced labour is now completely illegal. But it is still in force in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). The indigenous Jumma villagers are now compelled to work near the army camp, instead of landlords.

In this way, the Jumma people of the CHT are the victims of various forms of oppression and torture by the army, such as giving unpaid forced labour and forcing them to sell goods at a nominal price. Anti-humanitarian activities such as setting up camps by occupying lands of Jumma people, aiding and abetting settlers to occupy lands of Jumma people on various pretexts, searching and raiding houses, arresting innocent Jumma people, implicating them in arms and terrorism cases, sexual violence against Jumma women, etc. are continuing.

Not only that, the army is playing vibrant role as one of the main obstacles to the implementation of the CHT Accord. Fanatic, ultra-communal and ultra-nationalist groups, including Muslim settlers, have been assisted in anti-Accord activities, including opposing the resolution of land disputes through CHT Land Commissions. The army are playing an active role in the implementation of conspiracies against the Jumma interests and CHT Accord.

The army have been involved in propaganda,accusing of involvement with terrorist, extortion and separatist activities against individuals and organizations demanding the implementation of the CHT Accord with an aim to obstruct the process of implementation of the CHT Accord and divert the situation in the CHT into other direction for their vested interests.

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