Confusion, anger over death in hills | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 23, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:15 AM, April 23, 2017

Confusion, anger over death in hills

The death of an indigenous HSC examinee on Wednesday has sparked protests in the hill tracts as well as in the capital.

Romel Chakma, 20, was a student of Naniarchar College in Rangamati and general secretary of Pahari Chhatra Parishad's (PCP) Rangamati unit.

It remains unclear how the visually impaired youth died after army picked him up on the morning of April 5 from Naniarchar Bazar.

The circumstances of his funeral also remain shrouded in mystery, as different organisations, including PCP and several leftist student bodies continue to demonstrate in the capital and Rangamati.

Romel was picked up by the army in connection with two cases filed over torching a truck and looting two buses, Lt Col Mohammad Rashidul Hasan, director of ISPR, told The Daily Star over the phone yesterday.

They handed Romel over to the Naniarchar police the same day, said the Inter Service Public Relations Directorate (ISPR) official, adding that the young man died on April 19 at Chittagong Medical College Hospital where he was being treated in police custody.

He added the allegation of torture on him by the army was false.

But Officer-in-charge of Naniarchar Police Station Abdul Latif told The Daily Star that no one handed Romel over to them.

When this newspaper informed the ISPR director what the police officer said, his response was, “Oh, is that so?”

Abdul Latif also said, “We have information that Romel was admitted to Naniarchar Health Complex after he was injured in a road accident. Documents at the facility also show that he was referred to Chittagong Medical College Hospital.”

The Daily Star, however, couldn't independently verify this.

About Romel's funeral, his family members, wishing anonymity, said when they went to take his body from the army on Friday, they were told that the body was already cremated.

Asked, the ISPR director in a text message said the cremation took place between 1:30pm and 4:00pm in presence of Naniarchar OC and Upazila Nirbahi Officer of Kawkhali.

The OC, however, said he was not present at the cremation.  He added Romel was from Purba Hatimara village. When he heard that the body was brought there, he worked with his force to ensure security in the area. 

About the presence of Romel's family at the funeral, the ISPR official said, "I'd have to check. My common sense tells me that it's only natural that the family members were there." 

Romel's father Kanti Chakma, in a letter addressed to the National Human Rights Commission on April 6, the day after his son was picked up, expressed concern that his son was critically injured in the beatings by army men inside their camp.

He also said his son fell unconscious at the beating by the army men, who later tried to hand him over to the police. But police refused to accept his unconscious body.


The United People's Democratic Front (UPDF) announced a road block in Rangamati today to protest Romel's death.  

Protesters will stage a sit-in before the office of deputy commissioner on April 25, said a press release issued by Greater Chittagong Hill Tracts Hill Student's Council.

Student bodies of different leftist parties at Dhaka University will continue their demonstration that started yesterday.

Bangladesh Chhatra Union yesterday held a rally in front of the Jatiya Press Club demanding justice for Romel.

Progotishil Chhatra Jote, a platform of different student bodies yesterday announced demonstrations on the Dhaka University campus today.

Meanwhile, a group of locals vandalised a bus in Kidukchhari area of Rangamati Friday afternoon, Moinuddin Selim, president of a local bus owners' association, said.

Owners of inter district buses observed a half-day strike in the district yesterday demanding arrest of the vandals. 

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