Indigenous people who lost everything in Friday's arson attack in Rangamati's Longadu have refused to take relief from the government, saying they need justice not help.
“We don't need any relief. We just want to see the culprits get punished,” said Punyadhan Chakma, one of those who had fled after three villages of the upazila were attacked.
Ruhul Amin, Chittagong divisional commissioner, and SM Moniruzzaman, deputy inspector general of police (Chittagong range), visited the affected areas yesterday and assured the victims that the culprits would be arrested.
Meanwhile, speaking in parliament, Rangamati lawmaker Ushatan Talukder demanded that the government forms a judicial and parliamentary probe body to investigate the matter.
Speaking at a protest rally in Shahbagh on Sunday, the independent MP had termed the attack “pre-planned”, alleging that it was carried out with kerosene and petrol in presence of law enforcers.
Following the death of a local Jubo League man, several hundred people from different Bangalee-dominated unions brought out a procession carrying the body and attacked indigenous community houses in the three villages of Longadu on Friday morning. Some 200 homes and shops were burnt and damaged.
During a visit yesterday, these correspondents saw that the villages still had a deserted look. Some of the indigenous men, who had fled with their families in to a deep jungle near Kalapahar area, came to see the remains of their homes.
“I did not dare to return here for the last two days. Today, I have gathered courage and have come here,” Punyadhan Chakma, of Tintila, told The Daily Star, adding that he would bring back seven of his family members to the village once the situation became normal.
“My house was burnt twice, in 1989 and last week. I don't want any relief, I want justice,” said Kalachan Chakma, 58, of Manikchora village.
Prantamukhi Chakma, a disabled woman aged around 75, was being taken to Mohajonghata area from Tintila village on a stretcher. Her wheelchair was burnt in the arson attack, said her grandson Sugata Chakma.
Meanwhile, the district administration opened two temporary shelters; one in Longadu Girls High School and the other in Tintilla Bon Bihar. But no one went there since morning to 3:30pm.
Mangal Chakma, chairman of Atarokchora union parishad, said most of the victims were yet to return to their homes as they were feeling insecure.
Some 30 to 50 people went to the shelter in the monastery, hearing that high officials from the administration would be visiting it.
“However, they refused to take any relief materials. Instead, they demanded justice and exemplary punishment of the culprits.”
On Sunday, the district administration took 30 tonnes of rice and Tk 1,000 for each of the affected families to Longadu. As no one came to take the relief, the rice was kept in the monastery.
Yesterday, top officials from police, district administration and the army, who visited the affected areas, assured the victims of justice.
“The culprits would be brought to book. They would be given exemplary punishment,” said Divisional Commissioner Ruhul Amin.
DIG Moniruzzaman said a temporary police camp was set up in the area to ensure security of the indigenous people.
He said 14 people were arrested after the incident but the prime accused was still at large.
Brig Gen Mir Mushfiqur Rahman, regional commander of the army in Khagrachhari, said, “On the day of the incident, there were only 100 to 150 law enforcers in the areas against a mob of seven to eight thousand people.”
“We are trying our best to arrest the planners of the attack. We are giving all our support to have the culprits arrested,” he added.
Tazul Islam, Longadu upazila nirbahi officer, could not be reached for comments.
RANGAMATI MP WANTS JUDICIAL PROBE
Speaking in parliament on a point of order, MP Ushatan Talukder said, “Indigenous people are in panic.”
He demanded that the government takes immediate steps for their rehabilitation.
Bangladesh Nationalist Front MP Abul Kalam Azad also demanded punitive action for the perpetrators of Friday's attack.