Hill Voice, 22 November 2022, Special Correspondent: It is alleged that the Bawm community in Ruma upazila of Bandarban faces utmost adversities and insecurity due to anti-CHT Accord conspiracy of the state forces and the opportunistic and traitorous activities by the Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) known as the Bawm Party.
Yesterday (November 21), many men and women of the Bawm community from Bangladesh have taken refuge in Simanachara in Chawngte subdivision under Lawngtlai district in Mizoram on the Bangladesh-India border due to lake of extreme security.
According to local sources, the number of asylum seekers is 278 including women and children from 69 families. Among them 149 men and 129 women including children. It is known that among the 69 families, 34 families are from Thingdalte village, 12 from Choikhyong, 12 from Saloupi Para, 2 from Theikhyong Para, 5 from Sunsong Para, one from Spai Noam Para and 3 families from Rumana village of Remakri Prangsa Union in Ruma. Local residents are providing food to the shelter seekers.
On Monday, it was reported that women and children seeking asylum were kept at Simanachara Baptist Church and men at Simanachara Anganwadi School separately. In the evening, it is learnt that the refugee Bawm families were taken from the BSF custody by various NGOs and local residents of Mizoram.
Many public representatives and elder persons in Ruma demanded to bring back the victim Bawm community to their respective villages soon with due dignity and security and not to harass innocent Bawm villagers.
KNF into the trap of state forces:
A rights activist of Bawm community who did not want to be disclosed his name said that the innocent Bawm community are now disorientated due to falling into the trap of the state forces and government of Bangladesh. Especially in 2008, the then Brigadier General Iqbal helped formed an organization named the Kuki-Chin National Development Organization (KNDO) with some members of the Bawm community under the leadership of Nathan Bawm and Vangchunglian Bawm, cleverly misleading them.
He added that later the organization was renamed as Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) from KNDO and raised the demand of Kuki-Chin state with 9 upazilas of Bandarban and Rangamati district for 6 ethnic groups of Zo peoples. At the instigation of the state forces, the KNF took a stand against the CHT Accord signed between the government and the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) in 1997 as well as the PCJSS, one of the signatories of the Accord.
He further added, “One day after the formation of KNDO in 2008, a conference called “Bawm Harmony Conference” was organized at Ruma High School grounds with the help of the army. But surprisingly, the conference was convened only with the Bwam community. Although KNDO is claimed to have been formed for the development of six ethnic groups of Zo community, representatives of the remaining five groups (Mro, Khumi, Khiang, Pangkua and Lusai) were not invited to the conference. From then on the KNDO/KNF came to be known as the Bawm Party.”
The right activist of Bawm community also said, “Just when the conflict between the PCJSS and the KNF reached at pick, the army started attacking the KNF by labeling it as a harbourer of Islamic militants. KNF is solely responsible for all these evils. This is how the Bawm community of Bangladesh are suffering from miseries today.”
Bawm Party in the grip of Islamic militants:
It may be noted that as part of the conspiracy against the CHT Accord and against the interests of Jumma people, the local authorities of the state forces also supported in providing shelter of the Islamic militant organization named ‘Jamaat Arakan’ or ‘Jamaatul Ansar fil Hinda Sharqiya’ (associates of Hinds in Past’) and military training to them in the hideouts of the KNF known as the Bawm Party by pretending of unawareness about the matter.
When the news of providing shelter and training to Islamic militants in exchange of money in KNF hideouts, army, RAB and SSF conducted combing operation in Reingkhyong valley under Ruma and Rowangchari of Bandarban and Bilaichhari upazila of Rangamati from last October 3.
During the operation, a gun fight took place between the army and the KNF and Islamic militants. It is reported that KNF and Islamic militants killed 4 army personnel and seized 2 weapons and a lot of ammunition. This makes the problem more complicated.
Meeting of army with the Bawm elders to settle the issue:
To settle the issue, the army under the leadership of Bandarban 69 Infantry Brigade Commander and Ruma Zone Commander had a meeting with the elders of villages of Bawm community of Rowangchari, Ruma, Thanchi and Bandarban Sadar Upazila on November 3 at Bethel Para Community Hall in Ruma.
In the said meeting, the army ordered the elders of the Bawm community to convince the KNF leaders to surrender to the army within the next week, return the weapons seized from the army and hand over the Islamic militants to the army or show their location.
These army proposals were conveyed to the KNF by Bawm elders, but it is reported that the Nathan Bawm and his gang refused the proposals and became more angry. As a result, the army ordered to close all the shops belonging to the Bawm community in Ruma Bazar. The Bawm people were imposed various restrictions by army on the sale of their agricultural production and purchase of daily necessities from the market. Bawm people were searched and interrogated when they come in the bazaar. Bawm villagers suffered greatly due to this.
Clash between KNF and Arakan Army:
Recently, it has been alleged that the Bangladesh Army sent the Arakan Army to the KNF base areas to make an understanding with the KNF. The Arakan Army went to the Choikhyong Para in Remakri Prangsa Union in Ruma and offered to return the weapons seized from the army through local Bawm leaders and made surrender of the Islamic militants to the army. Otherwise, the common Bawm people along with the KNF may face various problems, the Arakan Army argued.
This enraged the KNF members on the Arakan Army and immediately made sudden attack on the Arakan Army on 16 November near Choikhyong Para. In this attack, a member of the Arakan Army was killed and 2 weapons including a Chinese LMG were snatched away by the armed Bawm Party activists. On the other hand, KNF is also reported to have exchanged fire with the army at the place of between Phainoyam Bawm Para and Duluchan Para. As a result, the conflict between the Arakan Army and the KNF has reached an high level.
On Monday (November 21), many residents of the Bawm community of some villages including Choikhyong Para, Sunsong Para, Saloupi Para, Thingdalte Para and Phainoyam Para were forced to take shelter in Mizoram out of fear and for the safety of their lives.
KNF soley responsible for all miseries:
In fact, many elders of the Bawm community have expressed the opinion that the innocent villagers of the Bawm community have suffered in such a senseless way due to the involvement of suicide activities by the founders of the Bawm Party, Nathan Bam and Vanchunglian Bawm, against the CHT Accord and its signatory PCJSS, and moreover against the majority ethnic groups of Jumma peoples, such as, Chakma, Tripura and Marma community by falling into the conspiracy of the army, and providing shelter and training to Islamic militants in return for monthly financial support.
The KNF, known as the Bawm Party is now trying to garner sympathy and support from the Zo communities in Bangladesh, India and Myanmar by taking advantage of the shelter of victim people of Bawm community in the Mizoram border.
Demands to stop harassment and repatriate the victim with dignity and security:
Aungthowaiching Marma, former chairman of Ruma Upazila Parishad, demanded to the administration and the government to bring back the innocent Bawm villagers sheltered in Mizoram to their respective villages soon with appropriate rehabilitation and security.
A number of public representatives and elders, who did not want to be named, said that some opportunistic and subservient members of the Bawm community are involved in nefarious activities such as harboring Islamic militants and providing military training, but the common people of the Bawm community cannot be held responsible for that. Therefore, the blockade of bazaars, restrictions on the purchase of daily essentials, restrictions on the sale of agricultural products, frequent searches and unnecessary interrogations, harassment and oppression on the innocent common people of Bawm community cannot be accepted and justified.
They expressed anger that this is a gross violation of the country’s constitution and the international treaty on fundamental freedoms and human rights of the United Nations ratified by Bangladesh. Therefore, the public representatives and the elders also demanded to stop the harassing activities of the state forces on the unarmed and innocent Bawm people.