Hon. Sheikh Hasina
Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh
Prime Minister Office, Tejgaon, Dhaka
02 October 2012
Subject: Urgent appeal to intervene in stopping communal attacks on the indigenous peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts
Honourable Prime Minister,
We, the International Council of the Indigenous Peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (ICIP–CHT), are writing to you to express our deepest concern over the on-going communal attack on the indigenous peoples by the Bengali settlers in Rangamati and other areas of the CHT and appealing to use your good offices to bear upon the Government of Bangladesh to protect the IPs from such attacks.
In a string of attacks on the IPs in Rangamati that began on 22 September, at least forty indigenous students, one Pahari government physician, twelve Union Parishad chairpersons and two indigenous teachers of Rangamati College have sustained injuries. Bengali settlers indiscriminately attacked, vandalized and set fire on indigenous shops, houses and clinics. The office and the rest house of the CHT Regional Council did not escape from the onslaught of the attackers. Attacks were even carried out on the Paharis as far distant places as Longudu and the city of Chittagong.
Dr. Shushovan Dewan, a Pahari physician at Rangamati General Hospital, was attacked with chopper and stick in front of Kaushik Pharmacy in Banarupa. He was immediately transferred at a clinic in Chittagong. Doctors of the clinic have confirmed that he would lose sight in one of his eyes. Dr. Dewan is just one example amongst many who were fallen victim of attacks on that day.
As you perhaps are aware by now that the attack on the indigenous peoples began from a trivial incident between two students at Rangamati College. It is indeed intriguing how it turned into a communal attack so quickly and spread like a wild fire, which only point to the fact that it was pre-planned. The principal of Rangamati College has stated that there were outsiders from the very beginning of the incident in her college.
It is also unknown why the district administration and the security forces - the police force and the military - acted so late on 22nd September to stop the rioters. Police force and army personnel were seen on the streets only several hours after the incident. Surprisingly, even the district administration failed to protect Union Parishad chairpersons, who were at an official meeting at Rangamati Upazilla Council Conference Hall on 22 September.
The attack in Rangamati on the IPs by Bengali settlers is the latest in the recurring pattern of such violence that began in the late 1970s. We are worried that this communal attack on the Paharis in the CHT will not be the last for the reason that the Government of Bangladesh have not addressed the structural roots of violence in the CHT. Of the structural causes, the most pressing is the settlement of Bengalis in the CHT with a clear political motive to uproot them from their own lands. And those Bengalis settlers organize such attacks from time to time to realize that objective.
Given the above, we demand the following urgent actions and we appeal to you to use your good offices to bear upon the Government of Bangladesh to implement those measures.
- Security forces must act impartially to stop the communal attack on the indigenous peoples by Bengali settlers in Rangamati and in other parts of the CHT.
- An impartial inquiry into the Rangamati communal attack and exemplary punishment to those responsible for it.
- Appropriate compensation for the victims of the violence.
- Full implementation of the 1997 Peace Accord, particularly the unfulfilled provisions relating to demilitarization, land rights and the devolution of police power to the CHT Regional Council.
- Withdrawal of Bengali settlers from the CHT who were taken there since the late 1970s.
With many thanks.
Dr. Aditya Dewan
International Council for the Indigenous Peoples of CHT