Beating, harassment, threats during army patrolling operation in Bilaichari

ছবি: প্রতীকী

Hill Voice, 22 March 2023, Rangamati: It has been alleged that the innocent indigenous Jumma villagers in Bilaichhari Upazila of Rangamati district have been being beaten, harassed, threatened and houses being searched by army personnel almost regularly in the ongoing patrolling operation of the Bangladesh Army.

On March 19, 2023, 6 innocent Marma villagers were beaten severely by the army, on March 17, 2023, all the houses of a Pangkhoa village and a Marma village were searched and harassed, and before that, a village committee president of Parnatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) was detained and harassed and a religious minority shopkeeper was beaten up. Apart from this, it has been alleged that the army often conduct patolling to the villages to create an atmosphere of fear among the villagers and disturb the normal way of life.

According to local sources, on March 17, 2023, a group of army of 40 personnel under the leadership of 2IC Major Reza of Bilaichhari’s Dhupshil army camp went to Pangkhoa Para of Lotapahar via Shalbagan. On the other hand, at the same time, an army group led by a subedar from Farua army camp went to Marma Para of Lotapahar and took position. At one point, the two army groups conducted extensive house-to-house searches in both the villages of Pangkhoa Para and Marma Para. During the search, the army personnel asked various harassing questions to the villagers, whether they have weapons, whether terrorists come there, etc. Besides, the army personnel ordered that no villagers can go anywhere without their permission.

On March 19, 2023, the said army beat 6 villagers of Marma village of Lotapahar area without any crime. The victimized villagers are- (1) Village Karbari Uhla Prue Marma (55), son of Thui Chanu Marma, (2) Village Karbari Midu Marma (51), son of Hlabrechai Marma, (3) Thuicha Prue Marma (35), son of Sakra Aung Marma, (4) Uhla Aung Marma (35), son of Rui Pa U Marma, (5) Kanyababu Tanchangya (30), son of Arjun Tanchangya and (6) Anil Tanchangya, son of Arjun Tanchangya.

It is to be noted that after beating the said villagers, the army said that this beating should not be revealed to anyone outside. The army threatened that if this beating is revealed outside and if the army knows about it, then they would arrest everyone and hand them over to the police station and send them to jail.

After taking position in the said village for about 4/5 days and harassing the people of the village, both the army teams left there on 21st March 2023 at around 2 pm.

Local sources also said that on March 17, 2023, an army group led by Subedar Mahtab from the Merangchari army camp went to Battali Maun (Hill) of No.2 Kangarachari Union through Begenachhari village. Next day (March 18) morning, the army team again came to Begenachari village and took up position in Begenachari Government Primary School. Staying there for the whole day and spending the whole night, the army team went to Taglakchara Government Primary School and spent the night there and returned to the camp at around 2 pm on the next day (March 20).

Locals said that almost every day patrolling operations are carried out in one or the other area of Bilaichari. During this time, the army personnel harassed the villagers by asking them ‘whether they give money to the terrorists, whether they have weapons, in which direction the terrorists move’ etc. and told them to contact the army. On the other hand, when the villagers informed that they have to pay the army-backed UPDF (democratic) and reformist terrorists and of their location, the army men avoid them by saying ‘no, no, not them’.

According to local sources, on March 7, 2023, two personnel of the intelligence agency DGFI forcibly detained Bhadrasen Chakma (52), son of late Biraj Mohan Chakma, the president of Bhalachari village committee of Kangarachari Union, at the shop of late Gunju Barua in Bilaichhari Bazar. During this time, DGFI personnel tried to harass and humiliate Bhadrasen Chakma by questioning, ‘Are you collecting extortions for PCJSS, how much money have you collected and sent, have you come to kill Kangarachari UP Chairman Ramacharan Marma Russell and Reformist’s extortion collector Nagajya Chakma, etc.’

Then one of DGFI personnel went towards the police station. Fearing danger, Bhadrasen Chakma quickly ran away from there. Soon after this, a group of army arrived there and after not finding Bhadrasen Chakma in the shop, they brutally beat the shopkeeper Rubel Barua.
Later, the army through Bhubanjoy Chakma, member of No.8 Ward, sent an order to Bhadrasen Chakma to appear in Dighalchari army zone the next morning (March 8). But Bhadrasen Chakma did not approach the army fearing arbitrary beating, detention and false charges. On March 8, 2023, around 8 am, a group of army and DGFI went to the house of Bhadrasen Chakma, searched the house and ordered the people of the house to appear to the army camp.

Currently, Bhadrasen Chakma is reported to be on the run due to fear of the army and lack of security.

An eyewitness, who did not wish to be named, said that UPDF (Democratic) and Reformist terrorists were roaming around under the nose of the army and were regularly collecting extortion. But the army is pretending not to see them. However, the army are oppressing and harassing the activists and supporters involved with the democratic movement for the implementation of the CHT Accord of the PCJSS. The army themselves are making the situation critical by nurturing terrorists and creating an environment of fear among innocent Jumma people by carrying out one operation after another.