Monday, 20 June 2011

Bangladesh’s promotion of IP’s culture at Cricket WC opening gala an eye wash

As the much awaited opening ceremony of 2011 Cricket World Cup kicked off in Bangladesh on February 17, 2011 and the evening Dhaka sky was lit up with spectacular fireworks, the sky in the  Chittagong Hills Tracts (CHT) in the southeast of the country also lit up, not in celebration but after houses of indigenous Chakma people were burnt down by illegal Bengali settlers.

On February 17, 2011 at about 5:30 pm, at least 23 houses, including one school, of the indigenous people (also known as Jummas) were burnt to ashes by a group of about 200-250 Bengali settlers with the support of the Border Guard of Bangladesh (BGB) at Gulshakhali Union under Longadu upazila in Rangamati district. The houses were set on fire one after another.

The attackers were identified and the Jumma leaders informed the local administration, but no action was taken to stop the Bengali settlers. On the contrary, the Jummas were further subjected to beating and houses raided by the army after the arson attacks by the settlers. According to the Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission, there were allegations that members of the army were raiding homes of the Jummas and beating up villagers in Kudukchari of Rangamati a day after the incident following protests by the Jummas against the attacks in Langadu.

The Langadu arson attack was followed up by another communal attack in April 2011. Bengali settlers burnt down at least 200 houses including two Buddhist temples in Ramgarh upazila under Khagrachari district with the direct support of security forces.  At least 20 Jummas including three women were injured and at least half a dozen of Jummas were reported to be missing following the attack. Many of the Jummas fled into the jungle to save themselves. The settlers attacked the Jummas to grab their land. With no help from the security forces, the Jummas clashed with the settlers, which resulted in injuries to both sides.  

Attacks against the Jummas and land grabbing by illegal plain settlers with the support of the security forces have been a regular feature in CHT. Before signing of the CHT Accord in 1997, which ended the 25-year-old low intensity guerrilla war between the indigenous groups and the government, an estimated 400,000 Bengali settlers were implanted into the CHT between 1979 and 1984 as a part of a counter-insurgency measure.

This has resulted in land grabbing and disputes over land remained the primary reason for attacks against the Jummas in the CHT region. Hundreds of Jummas have lost their lives, hundreds have been injured, hundreds displaced, women and girls raped and land grabbed by the illegal plain settlers. Tales of human rights violations both by the Bengali settlers and security forces are unending.

There is no protection for the indigenous Jummas. The government of Bangladesh even failed to implement the 1997 CHT Peace Accord. As a result of the non-implementation of CHT Accord, the Bengali settlers with the support of the local administration and security forces have been continuing to attack the Jummas to occupy their land in the CHT. The government even denies existence of indigenous population in the country.

A recent UN study conducted by UN Special Rapporteur Lars-Anders Baer stated that “gross human rights violations as a result of inadequate implementation of a decade-old peace accord have given rise to political instability and ethnic conflicts in the remote Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) in southeastern Bangladesh……The likelihood of such outcomes is evident from the occurrence of conflicts between settlers and indigenous peoples and violence in the post-accord period.”

The successive governments tried to solve the problem by military means, which resulted in making the CHT became heavily militarized with estimated more than 500 army camps. The UN Special Rapporteur Lars-Anders Baer stated that “This is an excessive amount, by any standard, especially in a country that is not participating in a war, is at peace with its neighbors and has no prevailing insurgency situation.”

Clearly, Bangladesh's promotion of the cultural dances of indigenous tribes like Chakma, Rakhine, Marma, Shautal and Garo at the 2011 Cricket World Cup Opening Ceremony was at best an eye wash to hide its anti-indigenous people policies.

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