Church and 2 houses of indigenous villagers demolished by Forest Department in Alikadam

Photo: Scene of a church under construction being vandalized by men of forest department

Hill Voice, 27 February 2021, Bandarban: It has been alleged that the Lama Forest Department of Alikadam Upazila in Bandarban district has demolished a religious church and two houses of the indigenous Tripura community under construction with the funding of the villagers of Sathiram Tripura Para in Kurukpata Union. The vandalism took place around 11:30 am on February 25, 2021, according to the Karbari and villagers of Sathiram Tripura Para.

According to local sources, a group of 8-10 members led by Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Special Patrol Force of Lama Forest Department Mohammad Atiqul Islam and Range Officer of Matamuhuri Reserve Forest Zahir Uddin Mohammad Minar Chowdhury suddenly came to Sathiram Tripura Para and demolished the church and two other houses.

Michael Tripura, Abraham Tripura, Jagat Tripura, Peter Tripura and Karbari Sathiram Tripura of the village said the old building of the only religious institution in the village was being rebuilt. At that time the villagers were busy working in the Jum fields in the hills. When there were no adults in the village, people from the forest department came and demolished our church.

The villagers have already lodged verbal complaints about the vandalism with AlikadamUpazilaNirbahi Officer Mohammad Sayed Iqbal, Upazila Awami League President Mongbraching Marma and Hill District Council member Dhungri Mong Marma.

Village Karbari (village head) Sathiram Tripura said it was the only church for the people of Bidyamani Tripura Para and Sathiram Tripura Para. People from both villages come to church and pray. The previous church was of bamboo fences.  That’s why we, the people of two villages, having been saving money for 15 years, were building the church ten hands away from Para.

In this regard, Bandarban Hill District Council member Dhungri Mong Marma said, the matter is very sad. I strongly condemn. The village is very old. They have broken the church under construction and hurt religious sentiments.

Philip Tripura, general secretary of the Alikadam Tripura Welfare Association, said the forest department has hurt the religious sentiments of our Christians by demolishing the church. We demand a fair trial for this heinous act.

Kratpung Mro, chairman of the Kurukpata Union, confirmed the incident, saying the demolition of the church, led by the forest department, was in no way justified. They have done wrong. They are not working in the right place. A lot of stones and sand are being extracted in the Matamahuri reserve area, but instead of campaigning in that direction, they came to the religious institution and broke the religious institution in the name of the campaign. I strongly condemn.

Alikadam Upazila Nirbahi Officer Md. Saeed Iqbal said, ‘I have asked them to lodge a written complaint about the matter. If any complaint is received, action will be taken after investigation.’

It is to be noted that recently there have been new allegations of obstruction of construction of religious institutions by indigenous Jummas, obstruction of religious activities and religious harassment by people from various government agencies in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

On April 25, 2019, a group of army personnel led by Captain Khaled and Warrant Officer Hasmat of Maini Zone of 21 Veer Regiment of Langadu Upazila under Rangamati District set up an army camp at Shijakmukh Public Buddhist Monastery in Sarbowatli Union of Baghaichhari Upazila. This created extreme obstacles and religious harassment in the performance of religious functions and protection of the sanctity of Bihar.

On August 3, 2020, at around 10:30 am, a joint force of Rangamati’s Rajmoni Para Camp and Suvalong Camp surrounded a Buddhist monastery during a religious ceremony on the occasion of Ashari Purnima in the Kainda area of ​​Rangamati Sadar Upazila and harassed the devotees by interrogating.

On May 15, 2020, BGB members obstructed the construction of a Buddhist monastery by local Jumma villagers in the No.9 ward of Abhya Mouza in Matiranga Sadar Union of Matiranga Upazila under Khagrachhari district. The villagers were forced to stop construction work of the monastery due to threats from BGB members.