Civil Society members condemn communal attacks in Rangamati and killing of Bablu Hembrom, demand full implementation of CHT Accord

On 16 January 2015, in a protest meeting organized in front of National Museum, Shahbag, Dhaka, members of civil society condemned the recent communal attacks on indigenous peoples in Rangamati and the killing of Bablu Hembram, an indigenous student from Rajshahi.

The protest demonstration titled “Protibad Michhil O Nagarik Sanghati Somabesh” organized by the members of civil society was presided over by eminent writer and researcher Syed Abul Maksud. The keynote of the civil society was presented by rights activist Advocate Nilufar Banu. Pankaj Bhattacharya, President, Oikko NAP; Rajekuzzaman Ratan, leader of The Socialist Party of Bangladesh; Dr. Shapan Adnan, Member, International CHT Commission; Mesbah Kamal, Professor, Dhaka University; Shamsul Huda, Executive Director, ALRD; Numan Ahmed Khan, Executive Director, IED; rights activist Noor Khan Litan; and Robayet Ferdous, Associate Professor, Dhaka University, among others, gave their solidarity speeches in the protest meeting.

The event was organized to protest against a series of communal attacks allegedly made by members of Bangladesh Chatra League, Sama Odhikar Andolon and Bengali settler community on indigenous peoples in Bangladesh on 10-11 January 2015 in connection to a dawn-to-dusk blockade observed by the Parbattya Chattagram Pahari Chatra Parishad (PCP) on 10 January to protest against government’s initiative to set-up Rangamati Medical College. At least 30 persons were seriously injured and many business concerns, establishments and houses were vandalized by the miscreants. The citizen groups also condemned the killing of Bablu Hembrom, 25, an indigenous student of Rajshahi Government College, who was brutally hacked to death on 09 January 2015.

Syed Abul Maksud said, the initiative of the government to set up the Medical College and Science and Technology University in Rangamati may apparently seem well to all. However, the government and citizens of the country should think if it is rational to set up a medical college in a place where there are no adequate number of schools and colleges. Indigenous peoples in the CHT have never said that they don’t want medical college. Hence, there should be proper consultations with them prior to setting up the medical college. The government should form a high level committee composed of experts and prominent educationists from different universities and medical colleges and representative indigenous leaders to resolve the medical college issue and determine how, when and where a medical college would be set up.

Pankaj Bhattacharya said, setting up of the medical college in the CHT is not a development, but rather a conspiracy of the government. It is a conspiracy to create a home for educated Bengalis. Through this, a Bengali colonization and militarization is being conducted in the hills would be augmented. Hence CHT Accord is needed to be implemented first.
Dr. Sourav Shikdar said, the Bengalis were oppressed before the independence. But toady the Bengalis are carrying on oppression on others. He demanded to stop eviction of religious minorities and indigenous peoples from their lands in the name of development and justice for Bablu Hembrom.

Professor Mesbah Kamal said, the PCJSS was the first political party in the history of Bangladesh to adopt education as a means of their movement for rights. How can the government say that the people of the CHT do not want Medical College? There is a mistake in realizing their point. Indigenous peoples in the CHT already have cleared that government have to implement the main provisions of the CHT Accord, then one day they would willingly come forward to assist the government to set up the medical college or engineering university, he added.
The members of civil society made following demands:

  • Bring the main masterminds of the communal violence and attack in Rangamati on 10-11 January 2015 to justice.
  • Form a high-level probe committee to investigate the communal attack in Rangamati and take effective administrative measures to stop repetition of like incidents.
  • Provide compensation to the victim business concerns, establishments and small entrepreneurs of the incident.
  • Restrain from all ‘so-called’ development initiatives including the medical college that are imposed on indigenous peoples in the Chittagong Hill Tracts without any prior consultation.
  • Declare a roadmap to implement the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord of 1997.
  • Bring the murderers of indigenous youth leader Bablu Hembrom .

Different civil society and indigenous peoples organizations including Ain O Salish Kendra, BLAST, Nijera Kari, ALRD, Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum, Kapaeeng Foundation, Jana Uddyog, Bangladesh Adivasi Odhikar Andolon, BCHRD, Bangladesh Adivasi Chatra Songram Parishad, Parbattya Chattagram Pahari Chatra Parishad, Hill Women’s Federation, Adivasi Jubo Parishad, Bangladesh Garo Chatra Sangathan and Marma Student Council expressed their solidarity with the event. The protest meeting was followed by a protest rally that ended at TSC, Dhaka University.