Joint operation against KNF: HRFB calls for security and protection of civilians

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Hill Voice, 30 April 2024, Dhaka: In the recent ongoing joint operation against Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) in Bandarban, the Human Rights Forum Bangladesh (HRFB) has expressed concern over allegations of human rights violations and called for ensuring the safety and security of the common people.

A press statement signed, on April 29, by 23 members of the Human Rights Forum, prominent citizens, rights activists and development workers made the call and strongly condemned and protested the terrorist activities of the KNF.

The press statement said, the HRFB is deeply concerned with the allegations of human rights violations against civilians in the joint force operation against the KNF. At the same time, the forum strongly condemned and protested the terrorist activities of the KNF. The HRFB called on the government and the joint forces to ensure that the common people should not be subjected to harassment or oppression in any way during the operation.

The statement mentioned that the atrocious incidents like attack and money robbery from 2 branches of Sonali Bank and 1 branch of Krishi Bank, abduction of the bank manager of Ruma branch, and attack on duty security guard, police, ansar and loot of fire arms took place in Ruma and Thanchi upazilas of Bandarban district.

In retaliation of the terrorist attack, the joint forces started a massive operation in the Bandarban area from April 7. Apart from the KNF members or those associated with it, there have been allegations of indiscriminate detention, mass arrests and various forms of harassment on Bawm and other community people in the operation. Reportedly, Freedom of ordinary people and tourist movement has been restricted and mobile network speeds have also been slowed down.

Common people suffer from fear and insecurity due to extensive searches, indiscriminate firing and arbitrary arrests. There are complaints that local people from remote areas are being prevented from buying essential items such as buying more than 5 kg of rice. It has also been reported that a total of 111 people has been arrested and detained from April 7 to April 22 in the ongoing anti-KNF operation by the security forces.

Among the detainees 4 were children, 5 were associated with the KNF and the rest were all ordinary people. Of those victims, total 23 people including 13 Tripura and 5 Marma freed after detention. Besides, the army shot dead a Bawm student in cold blood in the name of crossfire and injured a woman by shelling mortar indiscriminately. A pregnant woman was also reportedly released after being arrested.

According to the statement, such discriminatory behavior of the law enforcement agencies towards the Bawm and other communities is a clear violation of Articles 27 (equality before law), 28(1) (discrimination on grounds of religion, etc.), 31 (right to protection of law), 32 (Protection of right to life and liberty, 35(5) (Trial and punishment protection), 36 (Freedom of Movement), and in addition, the directions given by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court to law enforcement agencies and magistrates in granting arrest and remand without warrant.

HRFB believes that there is no alternative but fruitful dialogue and negotiation to establish peace with various parties. It has also demanded that the government should ensure that the general people should not be subjected to any form of harassment, torture or insecurity during the drives and their constitutional rights should not be violated in any way by the state forces during operation. The forum called on the government to impartially investigate the allegations of harassment to civilians in anti-KNF drive in Bandarban and take appropriate action.

The members of Human Rights Forum Bangladesh who signed the statement 1. Dr. Hamida Hossain, Expert, HRFB; 2. Advocate Sultana Kamal, Expert, HRFB; 3. Raja Debashish Roy, Expert, HRFB; 4. Farooq Faisal, Convenor-HRFB, and Executive Director, Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), Secretariat; 5. Shaheen Anam, Steering Committee Member-HRFB, and Executive Director, Manuser janno Foundation; 6. Zakir Hussain, Steering Committee Member-HRFB and Chief Executive, Nagarik Udough; 7. Sara Hossain, Steering Committee Member-HRFB and Honorary Executive Director, Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST); 8. Ranjan Karmkar, Steering Committee Member-HRFB and Executive Director, Steps Towards Development (STEPS); 9. Saleh Ahmed, Steering Committee Member-HRFB and Executive Director, Bandhu Social Welfare Society (BSWS-US); 10. Sanjeev Drong, Steering Committee Member-HRFB and General Secretary, Bangladesh Indigenous Forum; 11. Dr. Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), Member, HRFB; 12. Dr. Fauzia Moslem, President, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad (BMP), Member, HRFB; 13. Shamsul Huda, Executive Director, Association for Land Reforms and Development (ALRD), Member, HRFB; 14. Khushi Kabir, Coordinator, Nizra Kari, Member, HRFB; 15. Sardar Jahangir Hossain, Executive Director, Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF), Member, HRFB; 16. Moni Rani Das, Chairperson, Bangladesh Dalit and Excluded Rights Society (BDRM), Member, HRFB; 17. Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmed, Executive Director, Bangladesh Institute of Labor Studies (BILS), Member, HRFB; 18. Dewan Zaman, Executive Director, FAIR, Member, HRFB; 19. Pallab Chakma, Executive Director, Kapaeeng Foundation, Member, HRFB; 20. Rokeya Rafique Baby, Executive Director, Karmajibi Nari, Member- HRFB; 21. Tasneem Azim, Chairperson, Nari Paksha, Member HRFB; 22. Abdus Sattar Dulal, National Alliance of Disabled People’s Organizations (NADPO), Member, HRFB; 23. Ashrafunnesa Mishti, Executive Director, Women with Disabilities Development Foundation, Member, HRFB.