The blanket acceptance the present military backed caretaker government has enjoyed is fraying at the edges. The uprooting of small shops and other so-called “illegal occupiers” in the drive against corruption has left a lot of people disgruntled. The total suspension of political activity, as I wrote earlier, is also troubling.  Unaccountability and arbitrary behaviour is not going to do the current dispensation any favours. In this context, news from the CHT - a special area in every way - needs careful consideration. And this morning, an email flew in from CHT News with some disturbing news. I quote in full.

Appeal for your kind action

Recently, using the state of the emergency, the military forces have increased their suppressive actions against the indigenous Jumma people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Particularly the joint forces led by army have been arresting PCJSS (Parbartya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti) and PCP (Hill Students’ Council) activists charging them in connection with terrorist activities. To materialise their allegation, the joint forces have been showing arm recovery from arrestees’ possession putting their (army) arm and lodging false arm case against them. On the other, though the government is conducting drive to capture the corrupt politicians and godfathers, but arrest of PCJSS leaders is fully politically motivated as because there is no such allegation and even case against the arrested PCJSS leaders. As prevailing emergency in the country, the Jumma people could not organise protests against these suppressive actions. For instances-


Incident-1

Date of incident: 18 February 2007

Name of the victim: Mr. Satyabir Dewan, General Secretary of PCJSS.

Perpetrator of the incident: Joint Forces led by Lt. Kazi Mustafizur Rahman of Rangamati army region and Md. Osman Goni, PSI of Kotowali police station of Rangamati district.

Short description of the incident: On that day at 4.30 a.m. joint forces (army and police) rounded up victim’s house at Balpiya Adam under Rangamati municipality in Rangamati district and arrested him after an hour putting a country-made pipe-gun under the bed of victim’s son (Mr. Polo Dewan). Polo Dewan protested against putting the pipe-gun while a soldier was keeping it under his mattress. But the army threatened him. The joint forces also seized Taka 9,000 and victim’s personal collected books. The victim was produced to the magistrate court in Rangamati district and sent to Rangamati jail. A false arm case was lodged against him with Kotowali police station of Rangamati district. The police applied for 6 day remand to the court and the court granted 2 day remand.

On same night, the military forces arrested four PCJSS leaders from Jurachari upazila in Rangamati district. They were (1) Bimal Kanti Chakma, Central Member of PCJSS, (2) Mr. Ranjit Kumar Dewan, President of Jurachari upazila branch of PCJSS, (3) Mr. Udayjoy Chakma, General Secretary of Jurachari upazila branch of PCJSS and (4) Mr. Mayachan Chakma, Orgamising Secretary of Jurachari upazila branch of PCJSS. They were produced to the court after 48 hours. They were falsely charged in connection with killing of Kina Mohan Chakma, a supporter of Sama Odhikar Andolan (a communal organisation backed by army and sponsored by Abdul Wadud Bhuiyan). The victims were taken three-day remand by the police.

Simple translation of Press Statement of civil society members condemning arrest and demanding release of PCJSS general secretary Satyabit Dewan

(The statement was published in the Daily Star (English daily) on 20 February & the Daily Prothom Alo (Bengali daily) on 21 February 2007)

Members of the joint forces have arrested Mr. Satyabir Dewan, general secretary of PCJSS from his home of Banarupa in Rangamati district early in the morning of 17 February. Mr. Satyabir Dewab is involved with politics since student life. He is a senior leader of PCJSS and companion of M N Larma. He returned to normal through CHT peace accord signed in 1997. He contributed a lot to signing the peace accord and establishing peace in CHT. He comes from good family. He is a nephew of renowned fine artiest and poet Mr. Chuni Lal Dewan. His father Mr. Hira Lal Dewan was a famous homeopathic doctor. Satyabir Dewan is an honest and ideological politician. There are no allegations and even cases against him with police station or elsewhere. Satyabir Dewan is not fallen under government’s ongoing drive against terrorism, corruption and godfathers. Hence the arrest of Satyabir Dewan would bring the government’s ongoing drive to capture the corrupt politicians and godfathers under question. The information of recovering arms from his home is also surprising. It is not believable to keep illegal arms under his possession at his house during the joint forces’ drive throughout the country. It should be looked into whether Mr. Satyabir Dewan has been victimised political harassment as a general secretary of PCJSS. We undersigned express deep concern over arrest of Satyabir Dewan. We have been informed through newspaper that he has been behaved unethical during the custody. He has been taken two day police remand. We urge concerned authority not to harass him during the detention and remand. We have been informed that 4/5 villagers were also arrested by the law enforcing forces in Jurachari sub-district under Rangamati district on 18 February. We concerned over the arrest of the villagers. Previous government harassed and persecuted national minorities of the country including CHT. We hope the caretaker government would ensure to protect security of country’s national minorities. We undersigned demand to release PCJSS general secretary Satyabir Dewan in order to continue ongoing peace process in CHT. We drew attention of the caretaker government to refrain law enforcing forces from harassment of national minorities in CHT.

Signed by:

1.       Sourav Sikder, Assistant Professor, Dhaka University

2.       Mesbah Kamal, Associate Professor, Dhaka University

3.       Numan Ahmad Khan, Development Activist

4.       H K S Arefin, Professor, Dhaka University

5.       Mamunur Rashid, Cultural Activist

6.       Sanjeeb Drong, Indigenous Writer

7.       Dalem Chandra Burman, Professor, Dhaka University

8.       Sohrab Hassan, Associate Editor, The Daily Jugantor

9.       Tabarak Hossain, General Secretary, Sammilita Samajik Andolon

10.   Md. Noor Khan, Director (Inquiry), Ain O Salish Kendra

11.   Golam Mortoza, Editor (acting), Saptahik 2000

12.   Swapan Adnan, Professor, Singapore National University

Incident-2

The joint forces consisting of army and police arrested another indigenous activist named Mr. Railai Mro from Bandarban district today (23 February 2007) It is reported that the joint forces surrounded house of Railai Mro at Ujanai Para of Bandarban municipality at around 3.30 a.m. and kept surrounded until 7.00 a.m. After that the joint forces entered the house breaking the door and arrested Mr. Railai Mro. His family member told that no allegation was filed against him with police station or elsewhere. His relative also confirmed that the army arrested him putting an arm in his house so that the arrest could be justified to the media and an arm case could be filed against him.

Mr. Railai Mro is the chairman of Sualok union council and headman of Sualok mouza in Bandarban sadar sub-district. He never involved with corruption or terrorist activities, and even with any political party. However, he has been protesting against the eviction of indigenous people and permanent Bengali resident from their villages of Sualok and Tankaboti areas in Bandarban district in the name establishment of artillery training centre. It is reported that some 750 families including Mro (small ethnic group in CHT) have been evicted from their dwellings. The military forces acquired 11,445 acres of land in 1991-92 at Renikkhong, Sualok and Tonkaboti mauzas in Bandarban district for artillery training centre. The arrests of indigenous activists including Railai Mro are nothing but suppressing the indigenous people so that they could not protest against massive land grabbing and military atrocity, and they could not raise voice for their just rights.
Incident-3

Date of incident: 4 February 2007

Name of the victim: Mr. Bikram Marma, President of PCJSS, Kaptai upazila branch.

Perpetrator of the incident: Joint Forces including Bangladesh army.

Short description of the incident: On that day at mid-night, a group of joint forces (army and police) arrested the victims from his home of Chandraghona Christian Missionary Hospital area under Rangunia upazila in Chittagong district. The forces have falsely shown recovery of a country-made gun from victim’s house. The victim was handed over Chandraghona police station. He was produced to the magistrate court in Rangamati district and sent to Rangamati jail. A false arm case was lodged against him with Chandraghona police station.
Incident-4

Date of incident: 6 February 2007

Name of the victim: Mr. Sumit Chakma, Assistant General Secretary (AGS) of PCP, Rangamati district branch along with another Jumma youth.

Perpetrator of the incident: Joint Forces including Bangladesh army.

Short description of the incident: On that day around 4.00 p.m. a group of joint forces (army and police) arrested the victims from Ghachichar area under Saver in Dhaka district. The victims were handed over the police after brutal torture. They were produced to the magistrate court in Rangamati district. They were sent to Rangamati jail.
Incident-5

Date of incident: 11 February 2007

Name of the victim: Mr. Sai Mong Marma, Organising Secretary, Kaptai upazila branch of PCJSS.

Perpetrator of the incident: Joint Forces including Bangladesh army.

Short description of the incident: On that day at mid-night a group of joint forces (army and police) arrested the victims from his home of Raikhali of Chandraghona area under Kaptai upazila in Rangamati district. The victim was produced to the magistrate court in Rangamati district and sent to Rangamati jail. A false arm case was lodged against him with Chandraghona police station.

Incident-6

Date of incident: 10 February 2007

Name of the victim: Mr. Saprue Marma (70) s/o Niche Marma and Mr. Mongshe Marma (32) s/o Chai Prue Marma of Fasya Mahajan Para of Maischari union under Mahalchari upazila in Khagrachari district.

Perpetrator of the incident: Local army in Mahalchari upazila.

Short description of the incident: On that day at mid-night the victims were arrested by the army from their home. They were brutally tortured and handed over to Mahalchari police station.

Appeal:

The indigenous activists including members of the PCJSS and PCP have been passing days with insecurity. At any moment, the army along with police force might arrest them. On 18 February 2007, army also looked for Mr. Rasamoy Chakma, President and Mr. Sudhakar Tripura, General Secretary of Khagrachari district branch of PCJSS. With this circumstance, letter should be sent to Chief Advisor and Advisor for CHT Affairs Ministry asking to stop indigenous activists and to release arrested activists immediately. Addresses including fax number and e-mail are as below:

1.       Honorable Chief Advisor
Caretaker Government of Bangladesh

Office of the Chief Advisor

Old Airport Road, Tejgaon

Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh
Fax: + 880-2-811 3244, 811 3243

E-mail: pm@pmobd.org, pstopsecy@pmobd.org, psecretary@pmobd.org

2.       Honorable Advisor

Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs,
Caretaker Government of Bangladesh

Building No. 4, 6th Floor, Bangladesh Secretariat,

Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh

Tel: + 880-2-861 3214

Fax: + 880-2-956 5300

E-mail: mochtadh@bttb.net