Vol. 5 Num 109 Sat. September 11, 2004  

Army pullout from CHT opposed by settlers
Speakers recall memory of Pakuakhali tragedy

Speakers at a discussants meeting opposed withdrawal of army from Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) fearing insecurity for Bangalee settlers.

If army is withdrawn, Bangalee settlers might have to take up arms to protect themselves from alleged attacks by a section of tribesmen engaged in various crimes including toll collection, they said at a discussion meeting reminiscing the Pakuakhali tragedy in which 34 Bangalee woodcutters were killed by the then Shahtibahini in 1996.

"There will be no alternative to taking up arms to save settlers from tribesmen's oppressive activities if army is pulled out and government will be responsible for any situational arising thereof", said Jamat-e-Islam district Ameer ASM Shahidullah said at the meeting held on Thursday.

It was jointly organised by Parbattya Gono Parishad (PGP), an oganisation of Bangalee settlers and Jamaat-e-Islam.

He demanded redeployment of army in areas from where they were withdrawn, considering the prevailing situation.

The Shantibahini was disarmed and its members were granted general amnesty after signing of the landmark CHT peace agreement on December 2, 1997.

On September 9, 1996, some Shantibahini members in a letter called the woodcutters to join a discussion in Pakuakhali jungle in Baghaichhari upazila. As they went there, armed Shantibahini men cordoned and slaughtered them.

On the following morning, army and police recovered some 28 bodies, most of those with throats slit or severed, floating on the Mainee river.

The massacre stirred all quarters and the then government formed a committee to probe the incident. But its report has not yet been made public.

The speakers demanded immediate publication of the probe report, rehabilitation of the affected families, compensation for them and trial of all killings in the CHT over the years.

Presided over by Rangamati Poura Jamaat Ameer Nurul Amin Patuary, the meeting was addressed by, among others, PGP leader Jalal Uddin Choudhury Alomgir, district Jamaat Assistant Secretary Abu Bakar Mulla, its leader Harunur Rashid, Islami Chhatra Shibir leader Abdullah Al Mamun, Advocate Mokhter Ahmaed, Jahngir Alam and Jamshed.