Bangladeshi Buddhists in Jumma attacked

The Buddhist Channel, April 12, 2006

Jumma, Bangladesh -- Bengali Muslim settlers led by Ahad Mian, a member of the local union council, Bahar leader and Mohammad Abu, an ex-UP member attacked two Jumma Buddhist villagers-Nuapara and Joysenpara in Maischari, located at northern the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh on April 3, 2006.

It was reported that at least 50 people were injured in the attacks and four women raped. According to local witnesses, the night before the incident Bengali Muslim settlers tried to occupy the land belonging to the Buddhist Children’s House run by Ven. Sumana Mahathero, but were repulsed.

The Bengali Muslims later returned to the area mobilizing more settlers from elsewhere to attack the Jumma Buddhists. The Jumma Buddhists could not resist the attack as the Bengali Muslim settlers were more organized and equipped with lethal weapons.

As at press time, there were no further information of any actions taken by the Bangladeshi government to curb further attacks.

Backdrop of conflict

The Chittagong Hill Tract (CHT) in Bangladesh is the traditional homeland of 11 small indigenous groups who are collectively known as Jumma people. The majority of these people are Buddhist while some are either devout Hindus or practise Christianity.
For decades, successive governments of Bangladesh have been engaged in implementing a policy of removing the indigenous Jumma Buddhists from the area. With a view to shift the demographic balance and convert the Chittagong Hill Tracts into a Muslim majority area, the government of Bangladesh has transplanted more 400,000 Bengali people from the plain districts.

Under international law, such population transfers are prohibited under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The migrants were settled on the land belonging to the Jumma Buddhists and the illegal settlement have led to a series of land grabs by the Bengali Muslim settlers.

The area has also been turned into a virtual military cantonment with one-third of the country’s security forces deployed in the name of preserving sovereignty and national integrity.

On 2 December 1997, an accord which known as “Peace Accord” was signed between the government of Bangladesh and the Jana Samhati Samiti (JSS), a political party of the Jumma people. The “Peace Accord” is said to have been signed to resolve the decades old Chittagong Hill Tracts problems.

However after over 8 years the government have yet to implement the “Peace Accord” and the Chittagong Hill Tracts problem remains where it was before. The military is still there in full strength.

Appeal for action

The Bangladesh Chittagong Hill Bhikkhu Sangha-SriLanka is appealing to the the government and the people of Sri Lanka, including journalists, human rights groups, and members of parliament and other prominent individuals, to put pressure upon the government of Bangladesh to safeguard the identity of the Jumma Buddhists, to immediately stop human rights violations, to withdraw the military and Bengali Muslim settlers from CHT.

They have also appealed to human rights organizations to send a fact finding mission to the Chittagong Hill Tracts to assess the human rights situation in the area.
The group called for a strong condemnation of the gross human rights violations in the CHT including the recent barbaric attack on the Jumma Buddhists and land grabbing by the Bengali Muslim settlers. They strongly demanded the Bangladeshi government to punish those responsible for the attack and land grabbing, provide compensation to the victims and to stop human rights violations in CHT.