Military suppression escalates in Rangamati even amid corona pandemic

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Hill Voice, 10 April 2020, Rangamati:  In Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), military operation has been intensified even amid over whelming panic of coronavirus (COVID-19) infection and at the state of being under home confinement associated with severe food crisis due to continuous lockdown. News states that the army are conducting operations in various villages in Sarboyatali Union and Sajek Union of Baghaichhari Upazila under Rangamati hill district and in Balukhali Union of Rangamati Sadar Upazila and Rajasthali sadar area under of Rangamati hill district.

In one hand, as the food crisis continues to grip the inaccessible villages of the Jumma working people one after another due to on-going lockdown in battling the COVID-19 in the remote CHT while the dead bodies of children died of measles infection enhance the queue heading towards the burial ground in 7 Upazilas including Sajek since February 2020. Waves of wailing and lamentation have already overshadowed the remote villages in the hills. At such critical juncture, the military searching operation has added extreme panic and concern afresh.

It was learnt that the army contingents starting from different army camps in groups got amalgamated at Badalchhari of Balukhali Union adjacent to Rangamati district town. This has given rise to various apprehensions and fright.

The army troop numbering 10–15 personnel led by Subader Mazubur Rahman from Morichyabil army camp of Balukhali Union under Rangamati Sadar Upazila arrived at Kaindya-Badalchhari around 8:00 AM on 6 April 2020. Subader Mozibur Rahman told one UP member saying: “Our men will come more.” Staying there for 3–4 hours, the army group went back to their camp.

A joint group of army from 7 Commando of Rangamati Sadar army zone and Marichyabil army camp numbering 30-35 personnel came to Badalchhari Government Primary School at 8:00 AM on 7 April 2020. On the other side, on the same day, another group of army numbering 35–40 personnel from Rangamati army zone came to the school to join them by two trawlers in the late afternoon. Besides, another 12-member group from Subalong army camp came to join them on the same day. The gathering of the army was almost one hundred strength. It was also known that the masked Reformist terrorist members in civil attire were also along with the army.

It was learnt that the army gathered at the school site took their positions having divided in three groups and erected three tents. The three positions are: (a) teak plantation of Advocate Mrinal Kanti Chakma (located at Kaindya-Badalchhari border), (b) another teak plantation owned by Ishwar Chandra Chakma and (c) Badalchhari Government Primary School.

The army patrolled the areas of Dhuttang of Balukhali, Badalchhari, Bhijehijing, Harekhyong and Bamechhara of Kaindya. The army personnel on petrol duty uses outrageous languages with the people. It was known that the army contingent would stay there for one week. On 10 March 2020, the army petrol party came to Badalchhari by motor boat and it was known that the Reformist terrorists numbering 7/8 persons in mask also were with them.

At about 10:00 PM of 9 March 2020, a joint operation was conducted in the Sijok Golachipa area of Ward No. 3 under Sarboyatali Union of Baghaichhari Upazilla by the army contingents from Shijok army camp, Durchhari Bazaar army camp and the BGB personnel of New Forest BGB (Chintaram Chhara) camp – all under 21 Bir Sena Zone of Maini (Longadu). During the operation, the army searched 5 houses. The householders are: Binoy Kumar Chakma, Ratnadhar Chakma, Benga Chakma, Sushil Chakma and Sohel Chakma. It is reported that army also launched patrolling and searching in Sajek union of same upazila.

On the other side, a group of army commanded by a Major from 23 Bengal of Rajasthali army camp surrounded the house of Subhas Tanchangya, Organizing Secretary of Rajasthali Branch of PCJSS, at Mahabat Para of Rajasthali for 3 hours since 3:00 PM on 9 March 2020. The army conducted search in the house and rampaged the household articles. For not finding him in the house, the army personnel took away the passport and some papers of Subhas Tanchangya and before leaving, they ordered the inmates to produce him to them on the following day. On the way, the army also searched the house of Hridoy Kumar Tanchangya in Moitree Para of headquarters of Rajasthali Upazila.

The moment during which the mass people are under grip of the coronavirus infection panic associated with stagnated socio-economic catastrophe and restrictions on mobility it is right at this juncture, the army has begun searching operations – an act like striking the dead with a sword – as the proverb goes. The local inhabitants think that the army operation even in this worst weather of the coronavirus infection entails an estimation that goes: since there is coronavirus panic and strict restrictions on mass mobility and hence, it will be easier to pick up the targeted persons and conduct searching operations. It is worth mentioning that army operations, searching houses, persecuting innocent Jumma people and meting out torture have got heightened.

It is to be mentioned that as per the provision contained in the CHT Accord of 1997, all temporary camps were to be withdrawn with exception to the 6 permanent army cantonments. Accordingly, though 66 temporary camps were withdrawn following signing of the CHT Accord and further withdrawal of 35 more temporary camps, later on, the process of temporary camp withdrawal was put to stop completely. PCJSS claims that there are more than 400 temporary camps to be withdrawn.

In addition, the army authority, instead, has been establishing new army camps. This trend is nothing else but to nullify the process for peaceful and political solution to the CHT crisis, to reject the rights of the Jumma people by way of obstructing the CHT Accord implementation process and complicating the situation as to destroy the national existence of the Jumma people. The people hold that the establishment of new camps is a part of the conspiracy.

The local inhabitants take into account that alongside stopping the CHT Accord implementation process, deployment of army, establishing new camps and conducting searching operations stand as big hindrance on the way to implementation of the Accord.

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