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Sajek victims demand withdrawal of settlers

chtnews.com
News No. 145/2008, August 29, 2008

Sajek victims at a press conference yesterday at Reporters Unity, Dhaka, called upon the interim caretaker government to withdraw the settlers from Sajek, stop land grabbing and punish the murderers of Ladu Moni Chakma.

Organised in cooperation with the Democratic Youth Forum, Hill Women’s Federation and Hill Student’s Council, the press conference was attended by four victims of the latest settler attacks in Sajek — Mukul Bikash Chakma, Hridoy Ranjan Chakma, Tara Kinkor Chakma and Minti Chakma alias Chikonpudi, wife of Ladu Moni Chakma.

In a written statement read out by Mukul Bikash Chakma, the victims narrated the incidents that took place since the 20 April settler attack in the area.

They said immediately after the visit of the members of the CHT Commission to Sajek, the settlers begun threatening the Jummas for speaking to the Commission, and 9 August they attacked four Jumma houses in Gangaramdoar, leaving Hridoy Ranjan Chakma seriously wounded. The settlers also ransacked and looted the houses and tore books on Jesus Christ to pieces.

Hridoy Ranjan Chakma said “It was half past eleven in the night. … The settlers were advancing near our house while shouting. I woke up from bed. I heard the settlers saying ‘there is a house over here’. As soon as I opened the door, they began beating me, without asking me anything. They hit me on the back, legs and hands with sticks. At one stage they hit me in the head, and I fell on the ground unconscious.”

“A little later when I regained my senses, I found a member of the Ansar (paramilitary force) taking me near the road, holding my hand. He took me beside an army vehicle. An army Subedar (Warrant Officer) named Rabiul was there. From there, they led me to the CO. I said to the CO: ‘Sir, why did the settlers beat me? What wrong have I done? As you have seen, I always take part in your meetings. But why this happened to me?’ After hearing this, the CO, Sajid Imtiaz said, ‘tuth beta’ (you wretch!)” He continued. “I was still soaked in blood. The Bengalis were roaming near the army personnel. They were armed with “dao”, axes, long knives, “dhama” etc. They were 20 – 25 in number. Those who beat me were also roaming around.”

All the victims were unanimous in their accusation that the attack was carried out because “we spoke to the CHT Commission”.

Narrating the 19 August attack in which Ladu Moni Chakma was chopped to death, his wife Ms Minti Chakma of Retkaba village said, “On the day of incident, that is on 19 August, at around 10 in the night, we woke up by the shouts ‘open the door, open the door’ and the knocks at the door”. Without us realizing what was going on, three Bengali people broke into the house. They asked us to cover our eyes, and cut the mosquito nets hung over the beds. They threw our clothes at us so that we could blindfold us with them. They told us to blindfold us ourselves. My sons tried to get up from bed, but they were kicked.

“At this time, they began to take my husband out. My eyes were covered with folds. My husband tried to resist. They also tried to take my daughter, Minu, out, but I vigorously resisted and they hit me in my forehead with a knife. When they were entering the house I saw knives in their hands and recognised Ali.”

She said after the Bengalis took her husband out, she and her children fled away through the backdoor of the house, and took shelter in the house of Joy Mongol Bap. “I was coming back the next morning when I found the mutilated body of Ladu Moni Chakma on the west side of Baghaihat road.” she said.

She said she filed a case with the Baghaichari police station and heard that three of the culprits were arrested.

She said on the night the incident took place there was no army vehicle patrolling the road, which was unlike other nights.

Ms Minti Chakma said their house was also burnt down during the 20 April deadly attack, but they had built it within one week of the attack.

The victims said that the settlers felt encouraged to launch further attacks because no legal actions had been taken against those responsible for the 20 April attack. They said “Immediately after the 20 April attack, the settlers embarked on the grabbing of the Jumma people’s lands with new vigor. They built about 50 – 60 new huts on our lands in the villages of Simanachara, Retkaba and Gangaram. Military personnel from Baghaihat zone directly assisted the settlers. In Gangaramdoar, the settlers built a row of small huts after destroying a cottage built for the Buddhist monks. 10 – 15 settler families have now settled there. An army sentry post has been erected there to provide security to the settlers”

The victims further said “we want to live in peace as citizens of the country with our lands and property. In the past there was no conflict with the Bengalis over land or any other issue. The problem started when Lt. Col. Sajid Md. Imtiaz, commander of Baghaihat zone, brought in settlers from different areas and took initiative to settle them on our lands.”

“There will be no peace until the settlers are taken back from Baghaihat” they said.

They also placed a five-point demand to the government. These include 1. withdrawal of the settlers from Baghaihat; 2. putting an end to forcible land grabbing and stoppage of rehabilitation of the settlers; 3. providing Taka 300,000 as compensation to each of the victim families of the 20 April attack; providing compensation to the affected families of 9 and 19 August attacks; punishment to Lt. Col. Sajid Md. Imtiaz and businessman Golam Mawla for the 20 April attack; 4. exemplary punishment to the murderers of Ladu Moni Chakma and arrest and trial of their abettors; adequate compensation to the family of Ladu Moni Chakma; and 5. providing security to the life and property of the Jumma people and putting an end to the army incitement to the settlers against the Jumma people.

The press conference was also attended, among others, by Super Joti Chakma, organising secretary of the Democratic Youth Forum; Ricoh Chakma, president of the Hill Student’s Council, Thuikyoching Marma, Office Secretary of the PCP; Sonali Chakma, president of Hill Women’s Federation and Nepali Chakma, a member of the HWF.

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