Saturday, February 02, 2013

Jummas in two villages in Matiranga still living in fear and anxiety: UPDF report

News No. 13/2013, Saturday, February 02, 2013

JUMMA villagers in Haridhan Mog Para and Hemongo Karbari Para in Matiranga Upazila of Khagrachri district are still living in fear and anxiety, says a report released by Khagrachari District unit of the United Peoples’ Democratic Front (UPDF) today.

The report was made public in a press conference held at Jumma Contractors Building at Swanirbhor in Khagrachari town.

It said, “On the night of 25 January, the settlers set fire to two houses, looted and ransacked 34 others and damaged Jitashukha Buddhist Temple and Buddha statues in the two Jumma villages. The loss of property estimated at Taka 16,82,000. However, there was no casualty as the villagers were able to flee their homes before the attack. The BGB personnel remain deployed day and night, but the villagers continue to live in fear and anxiety.”

On the origin of the incident, the report said: “According to local UPDF leaders and others in the area, on 25 January, around 7:45pm, a group of unidentified gunmen made an attempt to kidnap Abul Hossain, manager of ‘Bhai Bhai Brick Field’ at Bot-toli in Matiranga Sadar. When the brick kiln workers put up resistance, the gunmen opened fire at them, leaving Farooq Hossain, 19, a labourer, dead on the spot, and Abul Hossain and Shahajahan wounded.”

Attack on Jumma villages

“In retaliation, the settlers, armed with sticks, machetes and other sharp weapons,  launched an attack on Horidhan Mog Para and Hemongo Karbari Para – two Jumma villages, about 4 kilometers north-east of Matiranga Sadar. The settlers chanted anti-Jumma slogans while attacking. The villagers fled their homes and took refuge in the jungle. The attackers ransacked and looted their houses and set fire to two others. More than one hundred settlers from Bot-toli and Gaji Nagor, led by a former Matiranga Sadar UP chairman, took part in the attack.” the report said.

The role of the government forces

Criticizing the role of the government forces, the UPDF report stated that, “At the time of the attack army personnel from Matiranga zone and Bengmara camp were seen behind the settlers. They did nothing to prevent the settlers. However, after the attack, the next morning, the BGB built the two burnt-houses anew – in an apparent attempt to destroy any evidence of arson.”

The settlers burnt down two houses – one in Horidhan Mogh Para, belonging to Chala Aung Marma, 30, and one in Hemongo Karbari Para, belonging to Nilomoni Tripura, the report added. “In addition, 29 houses in Horidhan Mogh Para and 5 in Hemongo Karbari Para were looted and damaged.”

The report quoted Badu Karbari, the chief of Horidhan Mogh Para village, as saying: “The Bengalis ransacked a Buddhist temple and damaged the statues of Lord Buddha in our village. They threw the Buddha images on to the ground and damaged a mike and other articles in the temple.”

The report termed the compensation paid to the victims as meager and added: “The Khagrachari District Council provided cash Taka 10,000 to each victim family, but the amount is minuscule considering the extensive damage caused. The UPDF’s local unit also distributed relief to the victims, but the government initiative that is necessary for any adequate compensation or relief is still absent. To date, no high level government official has visited the place of occurrence. On 26 January, the local MP went up to Bot-toli, but did not visit the affected villages.”

The UPDF put forward three recommendations to the government to prevent recurrence of such violence in the future. These include: 1. An inquiry into the armed attack on Bengali labourers at Bot-toli brick kiln and the subsequent reprisal attacks on Jumma villages by Bengali settlers, and exemplary punishment for those to be found responsible for these attacks; 2. adequate compensation to the victims of the both attacks and arranging medical treatment for the wounded; and 3. taking effective measures to prevent recurrence of such violence, including rehabilitation of Bengali settlers in plains land, formation of a mixed police force with members to be drawn from both Bengali and Jumma communities and withdrawal of the military.

The press conference was attended, among others, by Riko Chakma and Ziko Tripura.

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