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Two Buddhist novices detained, released later

Hill Watch Human Rights Forum
NEWS No. 24/2007, July 23, 2007

A group of army personnel led by Shuknachari camp commander on 17 July raided “Bhujuli Bhavana Kendra”, a Buddhist meditation centre, situated on remote Bhujulichuk hill-top in Lakshmichari Upazila under Khagrachari district, destroyed the prayer hall and took two Buddhist novices and their attendant to the camp.

The Buddhist novices – Shashan Ujjal Sraman (22) and Nykishtic Sraman (26) – had been meditating at the Bhavana Kendra since March this year. Situated east of Lakshmichari Upazilla (sub-district) headquarters, the area is accessible only by foot and it takes 4 – 5 hours to reach there from Shunachari army camp. The raid was conducted by a group of 20 army personnel under the command of Captain Raihan. The soldiers destroyed the bamboo-and-thatch-built prayer hall of the meditation centre and cut the bamboo pole used to hoist the Buddhist flag to pieces.

The commander ordered the Sramans (novices) and their attendant Boishistyo Chakma (20) s/o Khagendra Chakma of village Lakshmichari to pack their belongings and leave the meditation centre immediately. When they refused to obey his order, the commander threatened them with dire consequences. Later, the soldiers took the Sramans to Shuknachari army camp against their will, while Boishistyo Chakma, the attendant, was released from Shuknachari village. They reached the camp at 6 p.m. and kept them there until 8 p.m. There the army wrote down their personal information with pencil but got them sign on the papers with ball points, one villager who had met the Sramans after their release said.

The Sramans were also subjected to interrogation at the camp. The army asked them when the meditation centre was built and who had sent them to the meditation centre. In reply they told them that they had been meditating there at the instruction of the Bana Bhante, the most venerated Buddhist monk in Chittagong Hill Tracts, and that they had been living there since March this year. The Sramans also said that they had surveyed the area in 2005 for the construction of the meditation centre.

The army photographed the Srmans before setting them free. After being released, they stayed at Naba Joti Buddhist Temple in Shuknachari village for the night and left for Rangamati Bana Vihar the following day.

Both the Sramans – Shashan Ujjal from Ukchari village in Longudu and Nykishtic from Katachari village of Naniachar – are followers of the Bana Bhante, the most venerated Buddhist monk in CHT believed to have attained Arhathood, the highest stage in the Buddhist spiritual gains.

Religious persecution is common in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Buddhist monks are often harassed and assaulted and their places of worship come under frequent attack. The CHT treaty of 1997, which now remains merely on paper, has failed to stop this.

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