Civil society members and rights activists yesterday demanded investigation into the role of the on-duty law enforcers “for their failure to prevent” the synchronised arson attacks and vandalism of houses and shops of Chakma community in Longadu upazila of Rangamati on Friday.
They also demanded immediate arrest and exemplary punishment for the perpetrators, proper compensation for the victim families and ensuring security of their lives and belongings.
Speakers made the demands at a protest rally in front of the capital's Bangladesh National Museum organised under the banner of Nagarik Samaj.
Bangalee settlers unleashed a series of arson attacks on the Chakma community in three villages on Friday over the death of a local Jubo League leader. Over 200 homes and shops were vandalised and burned after they were looted while one indigenous woman was reportedly burnt to death.
Speaking at the programme, rights activist Khushi Kabir said one has to cross a number of security check posts to enter that region. How could those villages be burned amid such a high security?
“What were the law enforcers doing? Why didn't they stop it? This should be investigated and we want answers to these questions,” she said.
She criticised the government for not issuing any statement over the issue and requested a lawmaker, who was present at the rally, to take initiative and place a condemnation motion in the parliament.
Dhaka University Prof Mesbah Kamal, who has been working on indigenous rights issues for years, said the process of eliminating indigenous people from their ancestral land began since the independence. The process was accelerated on several occasions, he claimed.
He alleged the attack was carried out in a planned way to eliminate indigenous people.
He blamed the denial of indigenous people's constitutional recognition and non-implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord as the main reasons behind the recurrence of such attacks.
Prof Mesbah called for a united movement to force the government to implement the peace accord fully within this year.
Rangamati lawmaker Ushatan Talukder, also an indigenous leader, said as the attack was carried out with kerosene and petrol in presence of the law enforcers, it could be said it was planned.
He alleged that such attacks on indigenous people were carried out on many occasions but they did not get justice.
The rights body also demanded a roadmap to implement the peace treaty fully, properly and immediately; withdrawal of all temporary camps from CHT as per the accord; taking necessary initiative to make the CHT Land Commission effective, and rehabilitation of the Bangalee settlers outside CHT.
Rana Dasgupta, general secretary of Bangladesh Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Unity Council, DU Prof Sadeka Halim, Liberation War Museum Trustee Ziauddin Tariq Ali and theatre personality Mamunur Rashid also spoke at the rally.
Later, a procession was brought out.
Meanwhile, in a a press release, columnist Syed Abul Maksud demanded an inquiry committee under the leadership of a former district judge, where representatives of the indigenous community and district administration should also be included.
He also demanded that the committee publish a report within seven days.
In Chittagong, demanding punishment for the perpetrators and compensation for the victim families, a rally was held at Andarkilla intersection of the city yesterday afternoon, reports our CU correspondent.
Md Sarwar, convener of Chittagong district Chhatra Union; Romen Chakma, president of Adivasi Sramajibi Oikka Parishad; Amrita Barua, convener of Khet Mojur Samity Chittagong; Rahat Ullah Zaheed, organising secretary of Trade Union in Chittagong; Prakash Shikdar, general secretary of Chhatra Moitree; Ujjal Shikdar, general secretary of Jubo Union; and Joy Sen, vice president of Udichi Shilpi Goshti, Chittagong, were present among others.