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Torture to death of Shanto Chakma

HWHRF Review: Issue-04, August 16, 2007

The detailed report on the torture to death of Shanti Bikash Chakma alias Shanto, a member of the United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF), has reached our hand. He was arrested along with his co-activist Inton Chakma on 5 August from Bakchari Duar area under Naniachar Thana in Rangamati district.

What really happened?
According to the eyewitness’ accounts, on the day of incident a group of army personnel led by Warrant Officer Tapan from Bakchari camp was heading towards the direction of the house of Betchari Union Parishad chairman Mr. Priti Moy Chakma. Mr. Chakma was to hold a meeting later in the day with village elders to sort out some problems of the village. Many believe that somehow the news of the meeting was misreported to the army.

As soon as the army reached near the village shop at Bakchari Duar at about 7:30 am, people present there including Shanto and Inton began to run away in fear. The two UPDF members jumped into the water of Lake Kaptai and were caught. They were bound and taken in front of the shop and were badly tortured – they were kicked and caned with wood stick. The army also detained some other village youths present at the shop, but released them later after intense interrogation.

About 30 minutes after their arrest, Lt. Mozammel Hossain and Captain Tamur from Naniachar zone went to the spot with a speed boat and took charge of the detained UPDF members. They took the UPDF men a few yards south of the shop and beat them mercilessly. The sound of their scream could be heard from the shop and the village. After that, the army officers took them to Dewan Para village and searched house after house for firearms.

The army searched the house of Reboti Ranjan Chakma (40), failed to find anything incriminating and beat him up until he was half-dead. Inton Chakma was taken to the house of Lakshmi Rani Chakma (30). Her husband was not present at the time. The soldiers searched her house but found neither firearms nor anything incriminating. The army poured water into her nostrils and beat her up. Mr. Dungla Chakma was also tortured in the same way.

The eyewitnesses believe that in order to save themselves from merciless torture, Shanto and Inton gave false confession saying that they had hidden firearms.

The eyewitnesses further testified that Shanto Chakma was hung upside down from a branch of a Boroi tree (a kind of plum) behind the house of Reboti Ranjan Chakma and was brutally tortured resulting in his death.

After his death, the army went back to Naniachar zone taking his dead body and Inton Chakma along with them. When the army went to hand over Inton Chakma and the dead body of Shanto Chakma to the Naniachari police station, the Officer-in-Charge Mr. Muktadir Alam refused to take the dead body of Shanto Chakma.

In order to cover up the incident, Naniachar zone commander Lt. Col. Mozammel Haq Bir -1 ordered his men to send the corpse to Rangamati Hospital for autopsy. While the army could force the Naniachar police to write the police report on the incident as per their instructions, in Rangamati General Hospital the committee for conducting autopsy refused to sing to the tune of the army as they found discrepancy between the Suhrothal report of the police and tortured marks all over the dead body. After that, the army sent the dead body of Shanto Chakma to Chittagong Medical College Hospital.

On the other hand, the army forced Priti Moy Chakma, chairman of Betchari Union Parishad, to give a written statement to the effect that “Shanto Chakma died of heart attack while running away”.

Disregard for customs
After post mortem, Shanto Chakma was reported to have been buried at the burial ground of Rangamati Municipality, despite the fact that the army knew his address. According to social and religious customs of the Chakma community to which Shato belongs, the dead bodies are cremated, not buried and some specific rituals have to be performed during and after cremation. The denial of the right to have him cremated constitutes a total disregard for the religious and social customs of the Chakmas and a flagrant violation of human rights.

OC’s Statement
When a member of the Hill Watch Human Rights Forum contacted the Officer-in-Charge of Naniachar police station Mr. Muktadir Alam, he refused to comment on the death of Shanto Chakma, although a report of the Bengali daily Prothom Alo on 7 August quoted him as saying that “Russel Chakma (in fact Shanto Chakma) died of heart attack while running away from the captivity of the army”. However, the OC said that he has to perform duties under immense pressure from the army and that it is not possible for him to register a case against the killers of Shanto Chakma. However, he commented that a civil case may be instituted in a court of law.

One day after the incident, that is, on 6 August Major Anwar and Lt. Md. Zakir visited the spot and took video shots of the whole area.

False case
Both Shanto Chakma (24) s/o Bakra Bap of village Perachara under Sarbotoli Union in Baghaichari Thana of Rangamati district and Inton Chakma (25) s/o Horinath Chakma of Bakchari Duar village under Naniachari Thana of Rangamti district are members of the United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF). While Inton Chakma has been working for the Party for a long time, Shanto joined the Party in June this year. Neither of them had been wanted in any case. Yet, Inton Chakma was shown arrested in army officer Gazi murder case and Jyoti Bikash Chakma kidnapping case. He is now being detained in Rangamati jail.

Army camps in Naniachar
Besides the zone headquarters, there are five army camps in Naniachari Thana. These are: 1. Islampur Army camp, about 2 kilometers west of Naniachari Thana headquarters; 2. Burighat camp, about 3 kilometers south of Naniachari Thana headquarters; 3. Betchari camp, about 10-12 kilometers west of Naniachari Thana headquarters; 4. Ghilachari camp, about 8-10 kilometers south-west of Naniachari Thana headquarters and 5. Bakchari camp, about 4-5 kilometers north of Naniachari Thana headquarters.

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Hill Watch Human Rights Forum provides accurate, objective and reliable information on human rights abuses in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. For further details contact: hwhrf_99@yahoo.com or hwhrf.cht@gmail.com



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