25 prominent citizens demand justice for attack and burning in indigenous locality in Mahalchari

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Hill Voice, 8 July 2022, Khagrachari: Twenty-five prominent citizens of the country have given a joint statement demanding punishment of the perpetrators in the speedy trial Act after a judicial inquiry into the incident of attack and arson at the Jumma locality in Mahalchari under Khagrachari Hill District.

The statement was issued today (July 8, 2022) in a press release signed by Saleh Ahmed, General Secretary of Sammilita Samajik Andolan. The statement demanded a judicial investigation and a five-point demand including punishment of the culprits involved in the incident in the speedy trial law.

The statement said, “Recently, there have been incidents of attack, vandalism, looting and arson in indigenous villages by local Bengali settlers in Joysen Para of Maischari Union in Mahalchari in Khagrachari district.

It is alleged that on the morning of July 5 when the indigenous men went to the next market a group of Muslim Bengali settlers numbering about 200 attacked the indigenous women and localities in Joysen Para with sharp weapons and sticks. At that time, at least 37 houses of indigenous people were looted and then set on fire. According to the victims, at the time the members of the law enforcement forces were close to the scene of the incident but did not come forward to refrain the miscreants. Afterwards, there happened chases and counter-chase between the attackers and local Jummas and the attackers left the scene at last. It is learnt that some indigenous people were injured in the incident.”

The statement said, “Such incidents are very sad in any part of Bangladesh acquired through the war of liberation. We are very shocked at the incident and expressing aggrieved reaction to the incident. The incident of persecution, oppression to indigenous people or deprivation of indigenous rights is not an isolated fact. From deprivation of state services to insecurity of life and property is always prevailing here. But this recent incident is sending a different message. This is totally against human rights and fundamental rights.”

The statement further said, “We think that the culture of establishing the dominance of the Bengali settlers by destroying diversity cannot continue in Bangladesh of Liberation War. Such a trend would destroy the national unity including raising question of the image of Bangladesh at home and abroad. Therefore, action should be taken against those responsible by conducting an impartial investigation of the incident at the earliest time.”

The statement makes the following five demands:

  1. A judicial inquiry committee should be formed into the incident and the investigation report should be made public;
  2. The attackers of the indigenous localities in Joysen Para must be identified and brought to justice expeditiously;
  3. The trial and punishment of the offenders must be ensured in the speedy trial act;
  4. Adequate compensation must be paid to the victims and
  5. Effective and visible initiatives should be taken to ensure the security of the lives and property of the indigenous peoples.

The signatories of the prominent citizens of the statement were: Advocate Sultana Kamal, former adviser to the caretaker government; Pankaj Bhattacharya, President, Oikya NAP; Rasheda K. Chowdhury, former adviser to the caretaker government; Ramendu Majumder,  the Presidium Member, Sammilito Samajik Andolan;  Dr. Sarwar Ali, trustee, member of the Liberation War Museum and Presidium of Sammilita  Samajik Andolan; Advocate Rana Dasgupta, General Secretary, Bangladesh Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Oikya Parisad; Dr. Fauzia Moslem, President, Women’s Council; Dr. Nur Mohammad Talukder, Member Secretary, Anti-Sectarianism and Militancy Mancha; SM A Sabur, President, Bangladesh Krishak Samiti; Khushi Kabir, human rights activist; Rokeya Kabir, development activist; M M Akash, Professor, University of Dhaka; Robayet Ferdous, Professor, University of Dhaka; Saleh Ahmed, General Secretary, Sammilita  Samajik Andolan; Dr. Zobaida Nasreen, Teacher, University of Dhaka; Dr. Lenin Chowdhury, Public Health Specialist; Advocate Parvez Hashem, Lawyer, Bangladesh Supreme Court; Abdul Waheed, Executive President, National Workers Alliance; Dr. Selu Basit, researcher and cultural activist; Abdur Razzak, General Secretary, Building Construction Workers Union Bangladesh (INSAB); Advocate Jibanananda Jayanta, Organizer, Ganajagaran Mancha; AK Azad, cultural activist; Alok Das Gupta, cultural activist; Dipayan Khisa, Information and Publicity Secretary, Bangladesh Adivasi Forum and Selim Reza, Convener, Cultural Mancha.