Rampage in Rangamati

Arguments of 2 students lead to clashes; 20 hurt

Security personnel patrol Banarupa area in Rangamati yesterday after Adivasis and settlers clashed at Rangamati Govt College over a trivial matter. Inset, injured Shahadat Hossain, top, and Priyatash Barua, bottom, at Chittagong Medical College Hospital. Photo: STAR

At least 20 people including a union parishad chairman and a sub-inspector were injured in a clash between indigenous people and Bangalee settlers in Rangamati town yesterday.
The clash that erupted around 10:00am from Rangamati Government College campus was quelled after the district administration imposed restriction on public gathering in the hill town.
“The imposition will remain effective until further instruction,” Mostafa Kamal, deputy commissioner of Rangamati, told The Daily Star. Section 144 was imposed around 11:00am, the DC added.
Army personnel, BGB and huge contingent of police were deployed in the town to avert further untoward incident.
Vehicular movement on Rangamati-Chittagong highway, which was suspended immediately after the clash started, returned to normalcy after the authorities opened the route around 3:00pm.
The violence started after some outsiders with sticks, iron rods and sharp weapons swooped on the indigenous students in the college classrooms, reports our correspondent from Rangamati quoting college Principal Banchita Chakma.
The principal, who later declared the college closed sine die, said, “Hearing hue and cry, I came out of my room and tried to calm the attackers, but they did not listen to me.”
She said the attackers could not be identified as they were outsiders.
Reached over phone from Dhaka, Rangamati Superintendent of Police (SP) Masud-ul-Hassan, however, said, “Two students had an altercation over a trivial issue; there was nothing 'communal' in that. But later, two groups of students engaged in the clash and it spread all over the town.”
The local people said the embryo of the clash started on Wednesday as two students locked in an altercation over sitting in a college bus. There occurred a turmoil in the college over the issue on Thursday, they said.
But the principal said she knew nothing about this altercation.
The situation deteriorated as the clash spread outside the college periphery to nearby Banarupa, Kanthaltoli and Rajbari areas of the town. The district administration then deployed additional police in the area.
As they failed to calm the situation, the district administration called for army and BGB around 10:30 am. But because of their failure to contain the clashes, the district administration clamped Section 144 around at 11:00am, said sources.
Meanwhile, to find ways to resolve the issue, an urgent meeting of high-ups was held at the Rangamati Circuit House from 4:00pm to 6:00pm when the district administration was asked to form an enquiry committee to investigate the matter.
State Minister for CHT Affairs Dipankar Talukder, General Officer Commanding (GOC) of Chittagong Brig Gen Sarwar Hossain, Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) Sector Commander Col Nurul Huda, officials of police and district administrations, Chairman of Rangamati District Council Nikhil Kumar Chakma, Rangamati SP, principal of Rangamati Government College, and leaders from different political parties attended the meeting.
The decisions taken at the meeting include continuation of imposition of Section 144, closure of the college and deployment of additional law enforcers until the situation calmed. It also decided to increase interaction between the indigenous and Bangalee communities.
The Rangamati College principal alleged that the clash was “pre-planned” as it spread all over the town rapidly. Three teachers and two staff of the college were also injured, she added.
Musa Matubbar, chairman of Rangamati Sadar Upazila, said the unruly people beat up the chairman of Atarokchharha Union while they were at a meeting of all union parishad chairmen at the Sadar Upazila hall room.
Dipankar Talukder expressed his resentment over the role of intelligence agencies as they failed to contain the clash and hence, failed to help the administration in taking precautionary steps.
Representatives of political parties in the district demanded a judicial inquiry into the clash.
Of the injured, eight were sent to Chittagong Medical College Hospital (CMCH) while others took primary treatment at local clinics and hospitals.
The injured who were admitted to CMCH include Sub-Inspector Mahfuzur Rahman, 35, Mangal Kanti Chakma, 35, chairman of Atarokchharha Union under Longdu Upazila; Shubhas Chakma, 42; Mohammad Rana, 18; and Rangamati Government College students Shahadat Hossain, 17, SM Saifuddin, 17, and Priyotosh Barua, 17, reports our staff correspondent from Chittagong.
Ashutosh Barua, father of Priyotosh who claimed himself to be a senior vice-president of Rangamati Upazila Awami League, told The Daily Star that his son was on the second floor of the college when the clash started.
But as he came out some indigenous students of the college attacked him. He was seriously injured in his head and left eye, added Ashutosh.
Shahinoor Akhter, mother of Shahadat, told The Daily Star that her son was injured in his head and also in different limbs. She said some of his friends rescued him from the college compound and informed her over the phone.