Hill Voice, 10 January 2022, Bandarban: An 81-year-old Christian priest of Bawm community has died tragically while crossing the remote hilly route to Mizoram from the remote area of Remakri Prangsa Union of Ruma Upazila in Ruma Upazila of Bandarban to seek refuge in Mizoram under the pressure of KNF and army recently.
The priest who died tragically was identified as Sawmkhupa Bawm (81). He is a son of Zaleikuala Bawm of Choikhyong Bawm Para of Remakri Prangsa Union of Ruma Upazila. He was born in 1942. He served as the Pastor of Tribal Baptist Church Bangladesh from 1979 to 2013.
According to local sources, a group of Bawm villagers including Sawmkhupa Bawm from remote area of Ruma’s Remakri Prangsa Union went to Mizoram-Bangladesh border to seek shelter in Mizoram as refugees. But as they could not enter Mizoram, they decided to return to their respective villages.
On his way back to his village, when he reached about 7 kilometers from the India-Bangladesh border, Pastor Sawmkhupa Bawm tragically died in a remote area. According to a source, he had 2/3 falls on the ground while walking on a difficult hilly path for which he became weak. Another source said that he was suffering from old age problems. Moreover, he could not eat for 2/3 days due to the ran out of food while walking on the inaccessible hilly path. As a result, he became more weak and died on 4 January 2023. It is learnt that his dead body was later brought to Siloupi Para and buried there.
It is to be noted that the army, RAB and SSF launched a joint operation against Islamist militants and its shelter provider KNF, after the news leaked that the army-backed Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF), widely known as Bawm Party, was providing shelter and military training to an international Islamic terrorist militant group named Jamatul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya in their hideouts.
As a result of the threat and pressure of the security forces and KNF, the innocent villagers of Bawm community were uprooted from the remote areas of Ruma Upazila Remakri Prangsa Union and Paindu Union of Rowangchari Upazila. Many took refuge in the Chamdur Project area of Mizoram’s Longthalai district by crossing the inaccessible hilly pass.
It is alleged that the KNF has been threatening the Bawm population of remote villages under Ruma and Rowangchari upazilas to become refugees and take shelter to Mizoram with the aim of garnering international support including the Kuki-chin population of India’s Northeast region and Myanmar, and to divert the situation by covering up its suicidal activity of providing shelter and training to the Islamic militants.
As a result, on 29 November 2022, a total of 274 Bawm villagers of 69 families including women and children took shelter at Simenachara under Chawngte sub-division of Lawngtlai district in Mizoram state. Soon after this, another group of 21 Bawm villagers took shelter.
Another group of 117 Bawm villagers tried to enter the Mizoram. It is reported that though 10 of them managed to enter Mizoram, the rest returned to their respective villages in Remakri Prangsa area of Ruma as result of failing to cross the border.
At the latest on 5 January 2023, 17 people were able to enter Mizoram. With this, the number of Bawm refugees currently sheltered in Mizoram stands at 327.
Many elders of the Bawm community expressed their opinion that as a result of the stubborn activities of the KNF, the innocent villagers of the Bawm community had to suffer. According to the army’s ultimatum, if the international Islamic terrorist militants named ‘Jamatul Ansar fil Hindal Sharqiyar’ were handed over to the army, the Bawm community would have not such suffering.
A local public representative supported by Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS), who did not want to be named, said that the death of such a holy old man is undoubtedly very shocking. He opined by questioning that no doubt the military operation against the Islamic militants and the KNF, which provides shelter to the militants, was going on, but because of that, why should the innocent villagers be harassed and tortured?
He expressed the opinion that the army’s harassment of the innocent Bawm villagers should be stopped immediately and also demanded that the Bawm refugees sheltered in Mizoram be brought back to their respective villages with full security of life and property and by announcing proper rehabilitation package.