Indigenous children at risk of forced religious conversion

Four indigenous children rescued from trafficker in Bandarban

On 1st January 2017, 4 indigenous children have been rescued from ‘Otithi Abasik Hotel’ in Bandarban district. Police arrested two people involved in this connection. The arrestees are identified as Abu Bakkar Siddik (45) and Md. Hasan (25). Siddik is newly converted to Islam and he was earlier known as Mongshoi Pru Tripura s/o Kripa Mani Tripura. His home is in Nou-Muslim Para of Islampur near to the bus station in the town. The other is Md. Hasan (25) alias Prakash Hujur from Mollabari village under Gouripur union of Daudkandi upazila in Comilla. Their accomplice Sumon Kheyang, escaped the arrest and is on the run.

The rescued children are Maching Soi Marma (12), daughter of Uhla Aong Marma and Thoaila Marma (8), son of Pachinu Marma of Head Man Para, Nuchhing U Marma (12), daughter of Saupru Marma of Betchhora Mukh Para and Meching Pru Marma (13), daughter of Aung Thoai Ching Marma of Boidyo Para. All four children are from Taracha union of Rowang chhari upazila of Bandarban district.

It is learned that locals tipped the police off, which prompted the raid. Police raided the hotel on 1st January 2017 and rescued the four children. Siddik took the 4 children to the town with a promise to provide education to them without any cost in Dhaka city. Siddik allured the guardians of the children with providing education free of cost in Dhaka. Later, police detained Siddik from a computer shop close to the deputy commissioner’s office at night. During arresting Siddik, a man named Sumon Kheyang fled from the scene. Later following his information police arrested Md. Hasan from Islampur area.

It is also alleged that Mongshoi Pru Tripura, Md. Hasan and Suman Kheyang are the members of a gang of forced religious conversion of indigenous. They allured indigenous peoples by giving false promises of good education and descend life of their children.

Aung Thwai Ching Marma, the father of one of the children rescued, told that families like his were lured with false hopes into a better future for their children, which their parents had never had a chance to attempt. Mongshoi Pru demanded 6000 takas for every child from their parents. They also said that indigenous children will get education free of cost in Madrasa and children can follow their respective religion in that Madrasa.

Assistant Police Superintendent Shompa Rani Saha informed that it is being primarily assumed that the children were taken for trafficking. Detained arrestee will be interrogated, she added.

A human trafficking case has been filed with the Bandarban sadar police station in this connection. Indigenous Children has given to custody under their parents.

From a report published in a newspaper, it is learned that there is an alarming presence of forced religious conversion of indigenous children at the hands of radicals in Bandarban. Over the past seven years, police have rescued 72 children from this crime ring. Muslim fanatics seduce underprivileged families with scopes of a better education and lifestyle for their children and forcefully convert the children in madrasas in Dhaka without their parents’ knowledge. The investigation has revealed that a Machiavellian group has initiated some members of the indigenous community and sustained them financially in order to manipulate them. These new initiates go from door-to-door in underprivileged, indigenous households which are predominantly Christian or Hindu in around seven Upazilas. The neo-converts enroll the children in madrasas around the country where they are indoctrinated and converted.