On 2 June 2017, simultaneous communal attacks took place on the indigenous ‘Jumma’ people of Bangladesh. The Jumma/Chakma community of Bangladesh is mostly Buddhist and is concentrated in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
In its report, the Jumma political group Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) noted that the communal and arson attack was carried by the Muslims with the support of the Bangladesh Army and the local police in Longadu under Rangamati hill district of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).
This attack led to the destruction of 300 Jumma houses while an elderly Jumma woman Guna Mala Chakma (75) was also killed.
The attack would remind many of the attacks on the Hindus of Bangladesh who came under Islamist scanner for an alleged blasphemy committed by a Hindu man which later turned out to be a false accusation.
The reason behind the attack?
The trouble started after the recovery of the dead body of Juba League leader Nurul Islam Nayon on 1st June in Khagrachari. Juba League is the youth wing of the ruling secular party Awami League.
A procession was taken out with his body by local Muslims who after reaching the Longadu Upazila headquarters at around 10:00 am started attacking the indigenous Jumma people. No attempts were made by the police or the army personnel to stop the attackers, say the Chakmas whom I spoke to.
Allegations on the Bangladesh Army:
Jumma representatives unanimously say that the Bangladesh Army turned blind when the ‘Bengali Settlers’ were attacking their homes.
PCJSS has noted that sensing danger when the news of procession reached the Jumma representatives, they called upon the Longadu army zone and Longadu police station authorities letting them know that the event could turn violent.
But on 2nd June, the 2nd-in-Command (2IC) Major Rafique of Longadu Army zone of 2 EBR told them that “Staging procession is a democratic right of the settlers. They will exercise their right peacefully. No untoward incident will be allowed to happen. Hence, there is nothing to be worried.”
PCJSS, however, pointed out that when the Jumma houses were attacked, looted and set on fire, the Longadu Zone Commander Lt. Col. Abdul Alim Choudhury psc, 2IC Major Rafique of 2 EBR and Officer-In-Charge (OC) of Longadu police station Mominul Islam along with the joint forces were present.
The reaction of the Jumma community?
Jumma community in India is holding demonstrations in different parts of India hoping to catch Indian government’s attention. One such demonstration in on 9th June in Delhi.
But in Bangladesh, their protests have largely gone unnoticed and have been stifled.
The clamp own on social media is also being reported which makes it even tougher to know what exactly is happening in the CHT now.
The reaction of the international community especially India?
Neighboring India, Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, Bhutan and many nations have so far not even paid the usual lip service to the plight of the Jumma people in the CHT.
Part of the problem is the lack of media interest in reporting the attacks. Last year too, India and others expressed their concerns days after the attacks started taking place on the hapless Hindu community during Diwali.
But the big question is that since the violence against the indigenous Jumma people and the religious minorities are increasing, isn’t all this going to lead to a mass exodus from Bangladesh? And if the mass exodus indeed takes place due to inhospitable conditions, then who will bear the burden of the population? Isn’t it in India’s interest to stop the exodus before the situation becomes too complex?
The pictures that show the extent of the financial damage and the depth of the human rights crisis that Jummas are facing in Bangladesh:
By Namta Gupta