Inquiry: 22 March 2012
Arson attack and physical assault on a Rakhaine family by Bengali land grabbers in Cox’s Bazar
On 5 March 2012 at around 2.00 am a group of Bengali land grabbers led by Shafiul Alam (35), Mahabub Alam (32) and Abu Taleb (28) (all are son of late Nur Ahammad) of Gorokghata Bazaar area of Moheskhali municipality set fire to the house of an indigenous Rakhaine family of Thakurtola Rakhaine Para of Choto Moheskhali under Moheskhali upazila in Cox’s Bazar district. Earlier on 23 February 2012 the said land grabbers and their gang made physical assault on this Rakhaine family and destructed their house.
It is learnt that Mr. Bushe Mong Rakhaine and his wife Ms. Inju Rakhaine along with their children have been living at Thakurtola Rakhaine village of the Choto Moheskhali of Moheskhali upazila of Cox’s Bazar district for generations. The three brothers namely Shafiul Alam, Mahabub Alam and Abu Taleb have forcefully occupied a khas land to produce prawn and salt besides the homestead of this Rakhaine family. The perpetrators have also been intending to occupy the land of other Rakhaine families of the adjacent Rakhaine village of the land.
In the current salt season they are manufacturing salt in that field. The perpetrators and their gang have been disturbing and teasing the female members of the family of Bushe Mong Rakhaine and others when they pass through the nearby road of their home. The Rakhaine villagers protested against the distasteful acts of the perpetrators several times when they noticed the matter. Consequently, the attackers became revengeful to them.
In accordance with the dispute, on 23 February 2012 at around 5.30 pm the perpetrators along with their 3/4 laborers attacked on the house of Rakhaine family with sharp weapons and started to destroy the house. The attackers physically assaulted and drove away Ms. Injo Rakhaine from her home through frightening, thumping and kicking when she tried to prevent them. After that, the perpetrators ruined the belongings of their house and broke the boundary of the house made of CIT sheet. The perpetrators threatened that they would again come to attack and to kill all the family members, to set their house on fire, to drive away them from the area or file the false charges against the family.
At that time, Bushe Mong Rakhaine was not present at the house. After hearing the news of the attack on his family, Bushe Mong Rakhaine rapidly came back to his home and he filed a case against the perpetrators. After filing the case, no one was arrested by the police and the perpetrators became more vengeful to the indigenous family.
Bushe Mong Rakhaine often goes to catch fish in the sea. On 4 March 2012 Ms. Injo Rakhaine was sleeping along with her sons and daughters without her husband. On 5 March 2012 at around 2.00 pm the perpetrators came to attack on said Rakhaine family and set fire on the house. She rushed out of their house along with her children when they realized that their house was set on fire. At that time, they identified the perpetrators clearly in the light of fire. The perpetrators fled away from the spot as soon as she started to shout for help when they attempted to attack on her at that time. Later, the neighbours of the Injo Rakhaine came forward to the spot and tried to put the fire out. But for the time being, the house was totally burnt to ashes along with all the valuables.
The perpetrators attacked on the indigenous Rakhaine family in order to evict the family from their ancestral homestead and to occupy their land. Victims alleged that the perpetrators would have killed the Bushe Mong Rakhaine if he was present at the home at that time. Following the arson attack, on 5 March 2012 Injo Rakhaine filed a case against the perpetrators with Moheskhali police station (the case no.-03, Date: 05-03-2012). But the police have not yet arrested any one of the perpetrators.
At present the family is leading an inhumane life following the attacks by the Bengali land grabbers. In the first attack on 23 February 2012, the valuables worthy of 35,000 taka were damaged, which were destructed and looted by the perpetrators. And in the second attack on 05 February 2012 the valuables worthy of at least 100,000 taka were burnt to the ashes. In present the family is living in fear and insecurity. They have started to build a new house in cooperation with the financial support of their neighbours.
On 8 March 2012 Bangladesh Rakhaine Students’ Association (BRSA) organized human chains at Chittagong press club and Dhaka press club against the attack on the indigenous Rakhaine family and demanded to conduct proper investigation to this incident and provide examplary punishment to the perpetrators, ensure security of life and property and proper rehabilitation of the affected Rakhaine family.
It is worth mentioning that the major problem for all adivasis in Bangladesh is land grabbing by influential people from the mainstream population. There are no adequate policies to protect the land of indigenous peoples. The traditional land rights of indigenous peoples are being ignored. The incidents of forcible land-grabbing by Bengali land grabbers and eviction of indigenous peoples from their ancestral land were also seen as common scenario in recent years.
In the year 2011 at least 111 houses of indigenous Jumma villagers were completely burnt to ashes in the CHT while 12 houses (6 houses each in the CHT and the plain lands) were looted and ransacked due to land-related communal conflicts. In addition, at least 146 Jumma families in the CHT were attacked by Bengali settlers while 19 indigenous families in the plain land were attacked. Besides, 21 indigenous persons including 1 from plain lands were assaulted while 3 indigenous persons (2 from CHT and 1 from plain lands) were brutally killed. On the other hand, at least 7,118 acre of land belonging to indigenous Jumma people were grabbed by Bengali settlers in the CHT in 2011. Several attempts have also been made to occupy Jumma’s land by the Bengali settlers.
Visit of Human Rights Team:
On 22 March 2012 a human rights team of Kapaeeng Foundation visited at Thakur Para under Moheskhali upazila in Cox’s Bazaar district. Members of the human rights team include-
- Dipayan Khisa, vice chairperson of Kapaeeng Foundation;
- Mong Sing Neo, coordinator of KF;
- Hiran Mitra Chakma, admin and finance manager;
- Mong Tun Hla, member of human rights defenders network;
- Nishi Dewan, assistant general secretary of Hill Women Federation and member of human rights defenders network,
- Manik Soren, student leader and volunteer of KF;
- Gilbart Daring, staff of KF and
- Choiti Chakma and cultural activist and volunteer of Kapaeeng Foundation.