Adivasi student-youth orgs demand to stop persecution on ordinary Bawm people in Bandarban

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Hill Voice, 2 May 2024, Dhaka: Protesting oppression on the ordinary Bawm people and demanding an end to arbitrary arrest them in the ongoing joint forces operation against the KNF in Bandarban, the indigenous student and youth organizations organized a protest rally at Shahbagh in Dhaka yesterday.

This dmonstration was organized under the banner of indigenous student and youth organizations in front of the National Museum on Wednesday (May 1) afternoon. Leaders of Bangladesh Student Union, Student Federation, Samajtantrik Chattra Front, Biplapbi Chattra Maitri and other progressive student organizations expressed their solidarity in the rally.

The speakers said in the gathering, the joint forces started a massive military operation from April 7 to April 22 in Ruma, Thanchi, Rowangchari of Bandarban due to bank robbery in two upazilas of Bandarban on April 2. To arrest the armed group of KNF members, the common people including women, children, teachers, students of the common Bawm people were subjected to ‘mass arrest, search, prosecution and harassment’.

In the demonstration, President of Bangladesh Adivasi Chhatra Sangram Parishad Alik Mree said, “The ruling class is conspiring to evict not only Bawm, but also other ethnic peoples including Tripura and Marma community. Arresting innocent people instead of criminals is nothing but a conspiracy.”

Alik Mree also said, the joint forces even arrested expectant mothers and infants. What an inhuman torture! But, how can these expectant mothers and infants be terrorists? Military rule must be withdrawn from the CHT to stop persecution on indigenous peoples. He also strongly demanded to implement the CHT Accord immediately.

Mia Bawm, a Bawm community student and a resident of the affected area, said, “In our area, joint forces are extremely oppressing the common people in the name of operations, threatening them with arrest, detention and eviction. Even taking of rice and goods more than 5 kg from the market is being prohibited. So, the common people have suffered a lot. We demand an end to all these persecutions.”

Expressing solidarity in the rally, Student Union President Depak Shil said, “The incident of bank robbery is true. We believe that the administration will bring those involved in bank robbery to justice. But if the Bawm community is tortured and oppressed for the bank robbery, it cannot be accepted.

He said, we believe, the ordinary Bawm people cannot be involved in bank robbery. Infants and expectant mothers have been tortured. Surely, they were not involved in bank robbery.

At the same time, Moshiur Rahman Khan Richard, President of the Student Federation, said, “Due to the mistake of the KNF, a militant organization created by the ruling class, the entire Bawm community is being labeled as a terrorist, which is not acceptable in any way. It is just a conspiracy to eviction.

Bangladesh Adivasi Youth Forum President Antony Rema while addressing said, the creation of KNF was mainly the non-implementation of the Accord. This would not happen if the Accord have been implemented. Therefore, the drama should be stopped and the CHT Accord should be implemented immediately.

Jagadish Chakma, Dhaka metropolitan branch of Pahari Chattra Parishad moderated the event and Ria Chakma, general secretary of Hill Women’s Federation, Numong Prue Marma of Bangladesh Marma Students Council, Paya Mro of General Secretary of Mro Student Association spoke among others.

Notably, Due to the looting of 14 weapons along with money by robbing Sonali Bank branch in Ruma and Sonali Bank and Krishi Bank branches in Thanchi, the Joint forces led by Army and DGFI started operations against KNF from April 7 just after April 2 and 3.

Most importantly, forming armed terrorist group one after another as colonial policy of divide and rule, the KNF was created by the army as a conspiracy to thwart the movement for the implementation of the CHT Accord. Later, in exchange of money, when KNF’s providing shelter and military training to Islamic militant groups was leaked, the army and Bangladesh government was compelled to conduct military operations against KNF under international pressure. Thus, today the KNF has become a boomerang issue to the army.