A recent case is the kidnapping of Kalpana Chakma, Organising Secretary of the Hill Women Federation. Kalpana Chakma (23) was abducted from her home in Lallyagona Village, Baghaichari Thana, Rangamati District, allegedly by a group of armed plainclothed security personnel on the night of 11 to 12 June 1996, just hours before the parliamentary elections. Two of Kalpana Chakma’s brothers were also taken outside and blindfolded by the kidnappers, but they managed to escape while being shot at. Since the kidnapping nothing has been heard from Kalpana Chakma and her whereabouts is still unknown. One of Kalpana’s brothers recognised Lt. Ferdous, commander of the nearby Ugalchari army camp and two Village Defence Party (VDP) personnel – Nurul Haq, s/o Munsi Miah and Saleh Ahmed – among the kidnappers. Kalpana’s mother has stated that she recognised the voice of Lt. Ferdous who had visited their house earlier. Some time before her abduction Kalpana had a fierce argument with Lt. Ferdous about an incident on 19 March 1996 in which some Jumma people were wounded and 7 houses belonging to Jumma people were set on fire by soldiers from his camp.

Soon after the kidnapping some NGO’s went to the CHT to investigate the case. They found that although Kalpana’s brother mentioned the names of Lt. Ferdous and the VDP persons when he lodged an official complaint, there was no mention of any involvement by the security forces in the FIR (First Information Report). The investigators suspected a cover up. 14 The army always categorically denied any involvement in the kidnapping, however there are strong indications that the army is trying to cover up its involvement. Apparently the army does know more: army officials initially stated that it concerned a love affair and that she and Lt. Ferdous had eloped. Later on the army, wanting to give the impression that it didn’t know anything after all, dropped leaflets from a helicopter promising Tk.50,000 to anyone who could give information about Kalpana Chakma’s whereabouts.Only on 7 September, almost 3 months after the kidnapping, the government set up a three-member enquiry committee to investigate the case. The committee members are former Justice Abdul Jalil (chairperson), Shakhawat Hossain, DC of Chittagong and Professor Anupam Sen of Chittagong University. After several delays the report of the enquiry committee was finally to come out on 6 December 1996, but the committee has requested a further postponement till 6 March 1997. In the meantime all kinds of false rumours have been spread about Kalpana Chakma, such as the ‘love-affair’ mentioned above. An NGO, the Bangladesh Human Rights Commission (in which Saiful Islam Dildar, a so-called ‘human rights worker’, notorious for his close ties with the army in the CHT, is involved) announced at a press conference on 15 August 1996 that Kalpana Chakma had been seen in Tripura, India and that she had stage managed her own abduction. The Agartala-based Humanity Protection Forum investigated the allegation on the spot and after questioning many people came to the conclusion that the Bangladesh Human Rights Commission’s statement was absolutely baseless and false.

Despite wide international attention, many appeals to the government to investigate the matter and a resolution in the European Parliament, the government still failed to give any clarity with regard to what happened to Kalpana Chakma and her whereabouts. People fear for her life. Several other incidents happened in connection with the kidnapping. During a demonstration on 27 June 1996 to protest against the kidnapping a 16 year old schoolboy named Rupon Chakma was killed by a Bengali settler who grabbed a gun from a VDP personnel. The boy’s body was taken away by settlers and never seen again. The same day three students, Monotosh Chakma, Sukesh Chakma and Samar Bijoy Chakma, went missing while on their way to the demonstration. They were reportedly stopped by Bengali settlers at the Muslim Block settlement, and they have been missing ever since. None of these killings and disappearances have been properly investigated. It should be stressed here that the abduction of Kalpana Chakma got wide publicity, but unfortunately this case does not stand alone. Many other Jumma women have also been victimised. Under the military occupation in the CHT Jumma women are extremely vulnerable, especially to rape, gang rape, molestation and harassment. Over 94% of the rape cases of Jumma women in the CHT between 1991 and 1993 were by ‘security forces’. Over 40% of the victims were women under 18 years of age.

Bibliography:

Life is not Ours

The Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission -1997

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