Thursday, October 04, 2012

The rise of ultra communal forces in CHT


Commentary: Issue 05: Thursday: 4 October 2012

The ultra communal forces have reared their ugly head again. On 22 – 23 September, they indulged in an orgy of violence and destruction in the tourist town of Rangamati, and they did it in the presence of a huge contingent of police and army, who stood only as mute spectators. Newspapers splashed photographs of stick-wielding Bengali youths standing close to law enforcement personnel. Videos posted online showed unruly mobs pelting stones at businesses owned by Jumma people while policemen looked on.

According to reports, it all stemmed from a personal issue between a Jumma and a Bengali student, and soon engulfed the whole town. The authorities clamped section 144, but by then the mayhem had left 60 people injured and dozens of businesses damaged. It is like what we read in school grammar books: ‘The patient had died before the doctor came.’ The question is why should the police always come to the scene late? What were the authorities doing when the violence was rampaging through the town? Were they playing flute like Nero? Or were they in deep slumber like Kumbhakarna? Whatever it may be, they cannot extricate themselves from responsibility.

But what is more intriguing is that the authorities have failed to arrest anyone involved in the deadly violence. The mob simply melted into thin air because the police and other law enforcement personnel just let them go. This reminds one of a magician who vanishes objects, such as a beautiful lady, an elephant or even an armoured tank.

Rangamati has not seen such a level of violence for two decades. The first time the town was rocked by violence was in 1992. Those were the times when democratic activity was beginning to unfold in the CHT with the advent of the Hill Students Council. The violence of 1992 had started when Bengali students attacked a peaceful rally organized by Hill Students Council on the occasion of its third founding anniversary on 20 May. It was a premeditated attack in which dozens of Jumma students including PCP leader Debashish Chakma (now in the USA) and Tonoy Dewan were injured and many Jumma houses burnt to ashes. The then District Council chairman Gautam Dewan had resigned in protest at the incident. An inquiry committee headed by the Additional District Magistrate (ADM) was formed but no one was punished. [Source: Radar, 1 June 1992 issue]

The 1992 Rangamati attack was masterminded by Parbattyo Gano Parishad, Bangalee Chattra Parishad and Sama Odhikar Andolon. These are the communal outfits formed by the army to counter the democratic movement of the Jumma people. In the initial years, we saw these organizations being used frequently to foil or obstruct democratic programmes of the Jumma organizations. The invariable method was this: if PCP or any other Jumma organization announced a rally or a protest march, these communal Bengali organizations would announce similar programmes at the same time and at the same venue to provide the authorities with a pretext to clamp section 144 effectively banning programmes by both parties.

Over the years, these ultra communal forces gained strength, spread their tentacles all over the CHT and led Bengali settlers in grabbing Jumma people’s land. No matter which government is in power, they enjoy full support from the army and the local civil administration. Therefore, we saw them in action in Ramgarh in 2000, in Mahalchari in 2003, in Maischari in 2006, in Sajek in 2008 and 2010, in Khagrachri in 2010, in Longudu, Ramgarh and Manikchari in 2011. And now we have seen them again in Rangmati town itself. If they are not tackled seriously, we are going to see them more. There should be no doubt about that.

Is the government willing to bring the full weight of the law to bear on those involved in the Rangamati attack? [End]

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