Withdrawal of armed forces, settlers from hill tracts demanded

Human Rights Defenders Forum forms a human chain in front of National Museum in Dhaka on Friday protesting at the killing of a Marma  girl after rape.— New Age photo

Human Rights Defenders Forum forms a human chain in front of National Museum in Dhaka on Friday protesting at the killing of a Marma girl after rape.— New Age photo

Several left-leaning political parties and socio-political organisations on Friday demanded immediate withdrawal of armed forces and ‘Bengali settlers’ from Chittagong Hill Tracts to ensure the rights of the hilly people and pave the way for perpetual peace in the region. At a ‘solidarity rally’ in front of the National Museum in Dhaka, they also demanded exemplary punishment of those who launched attacks on hilly people and vandalised and set on fire about 50 houses of the hilly people in Rangamati’s Bagachhari on December 16. Democratic Youth Forum, Pahari Chhatra Parishad and Hill Woman’s Federation jointly organised the rally protesting against the attacks on the hilly people ‘by Bengali settlers.’ Central leaders of several leftwing political parties joined the rally to extend their solidarity to the movement of the hilly people to realise their rights. The national committee to protect oil, gas, mineral resources, power and ports member secretary, Anu Muhammad, said the repeated attacks on the hilly people and subsequent government reactions to the incidents proved that the ‘government itself is behind these attacks.’ He said, ‘The ruling class irrespective of their political identity are targeting hilly people ostensibly to capture their lands and to loot their wealth.’ Alleging that military rule was for all practical purposes going on in the hilly area, Jatiya Gana Front convener Tipu Biswas demanded immediate withdrawal of armed forces from the hill tracts to pave the way for ensuring the rights of hilly people on their lands. Jatiya Mukti Council secretary Faiezul Hakim alleged that the local administration knew from beforehand that hilly people would be attacked on December 16. ‘The question is why they did not take pre-emptive measures to stave off the attacks,’ he added. He said that the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, must shoulder the responsibility for whatever the armed forces were doing in the hill tracts. Socialist Party of Bangladesh faction leader Fakhruddin Atik, demanded an immediate end to the ‘undeclared military rule’ in the hill tracts. Speaking on the occasion as the chair of the programme, Democratic Youth Forum president Mikel Chakma said the authorities would not be able to ensure peace in the hill tracts with its all forces unless the demands of the United People’s Democratic Front were met. Former Dhaka University professor Shapan Adnan, lawyer Sadia Arman, Gayanalok Religious Education Council leader Jewel Barua and Bangladesh Lekhak Shibir general secretary Hasibur Rahman, among others spoke, on the occasion. A hilly woman, Kajali Tripura, gave a description of how their homesteads were ravaged and set on fire allegedly by Bengali settlers on December 16. Speakers also strongly condemned and protested at the killing of a schoolgirl on December 15 allegedly by Bengali settlers.

Source: New Age