Save Jumma Minority in Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh-
We are deeply concerned about the physical security and well-being of the Buddhist, Hindu and Christian minorities, or Jumma, living in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), Bangladesh. Since 1980 the Jumma indigenous people have suffered grave violations of their human rights as a result of the Offensive Land Occupation by Bengali settlers which is supported by the Government of Bangladesh – and therefore, by the country’s security forces, as well. This suffering has led to the loss of many hundreds of lives, unspeakable trauma and the erosion of the indigenous people’s customs and culture. Foreigners are discouraged and hindered from visiting this area in an attempt to hide these atrocities.
According to the accounts we have received from websites, newspapers and various private and organisational reports (please see the List of Documentation that follows below), including scholars’ accounts of the CHT region, the Bengali Muslim Migrants (BMM) were first brought into the area by the Bangladeshi government’s army in December 1980. This gave rise to the first extremely bloody outbreak of violence, as the local Jumma Buddhist minority in Khawkhali defended their lands against the BMM. Over a hundred local villagers died, including two Buddhist monks, as a result of indiscriminate firing by the army during the course of a weekly market day in December 1980.
The influx of BMM has intensified in many parts of the CHT ever since, as an effort to destabilise the peaceful minority people, who have been living there for over 700 years without the presence of Bengali Muslims. As a result of the illegal seizure of land by the BMM, the Jumma minorities have suffered loss of life, as well as of the properties, homes and lands that they owned for many centuries. This action on the part of the BMM continued to affect the minorities, as about 50,000 members of Jumma minority groups temporarily retreated to India in 1986 and 1994, during which time a number of massacres took place at the hands of unsympathetic army commanders in many parts of Rangamati and Khagrachari districts in the CHT, including the bloodiest massacre, which took place in Logan in 1992.
A Peace Accord was signed in 1997 between the Jumma self-declared “freedom fighters”, who were advocating self-determination and the promotion of their people’s material and spiritual well-being, and the Government of Bangladesh. The Government, however, has never actually implemented this agreement. As a result, the situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts has deteriorated dramatically, resulting in the regular occurrence of further traumatic events that impact the Jumma Buddhist, Hindu and Christian minorities.
In the context of the non-implementation of the 1997 Peace Accord, we have recently been receiving numerous accounts of new atrocities and land-grabbing incidents in the CHT. There have been two major arson attacks within the last 14 months: one in Baghaihat in February 2010 and the most recent attack in Ramgarh on 17th April 2011. These two incidents are similar to each other, in terms of the nature of the attack. All over the world people protested against the arson attacks in Baghaihat last year, from London to Paris, from Geneva to New York and in the major cities in Asia. They demanded that the perpetrators face appropriate punishment, while at the same time calling for an end to the land grabbing and for the withdrawal of the army force from the CHT region. However, these issues were not resolved before the latest recent attack on this minority.
The local security forces (army and police) were informed and their assistance was sought to stop the BMM settlers from attacking the minorities last week, but the security forces did not take action. Instead, they allowed the incident to happen. As a result, two Bengali setters and three minorities lost their lives and the bodies of over ten ethnic-minority Buddhists have still not been found. Over a hundred buildings, including two Buddhist monasteries belong to the Jumma Buddhist minority, were burnt to the ground. In spite of such a dreadful incident, as of the time of the drafting of this petition, the governmental authorities have still not allowed any relief aid to be distributed to these homeless people.
In light of the above, we would therefore like to request your office to support this appeal to the Government of Bangladesh. Specifically, we are calling for:
1.) An immediate halt to acts of violence, with commitment by all parties to respect the truce and keep the peace by settling the land disputes.
2.) An immediate commitment on the part of Bangladesh's authorities to allow relief supplies to reach those displaced as a result of the April 2011 Ramgarh attacks and adequate compensation to all victims and allow all relief agencies to operate freely.
3.) The immediate withdrawal of the Bangladeshi army from the CHT
4.) The prompt convening at an international venue of focused talks aimed at negotiating a durable political solution to the land issue in the CHT. These talks should bring to the table representatives of the Jumma peoples, the Government of Bangladesh and major international agencies (for example, the UNDP, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, the World Bank etc.)
JUMMA PEOPLE NETWORK, UK
1. Foreign Office UK Government
2. Foreign Office EU Government
3. Bangladesh High Commission, London
4. Prime Minister Officer, Government of Bangladesh
5. Amnesty international, UK
6. Survival international, UK
7. Barrister Shafique Ahmed, Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Bangladesh
8. Advocate Shahara Khatun, Minister for Home Affairs. Bangladesh
9. Advocate Shamsul Hoque Tuku, State Minister for Home Affairs, Bangladesh
10. Dipankar Talukdar, Minister of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs, Bangladesh
11. Md. Rezaul Karim Hira, Minister of Land, Bangladesh
12. Prof. James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
13. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
14. The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL), U.S State Department
Human Rights Organizations
Signatures in support of this petition:
Please provide your name and country; additional comments/notes are also welcome.
Photos taken after the Ramgarh – Khagrachari attack, which took place at around 5 p.m. on 17 April 2011
The houses above are still burning
http://www.catherinefilms.net/conflict-in-the-chittagong-hil/ (Slideshow of Feb. 2010 incident)