At least 250 houses belonging to Jumma tribal people, the indigenous inhabitants of the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh, have been burnt to the ground by Bengali settlers. An elderly woman, Guna Mala Chakma, was trapped in her home and burned to death.
The arson attack happened on June 2, after the body of Nurul Islam Nayon, a Bengali motorcycle driver, was found and local people blamed Jummas for his death.
Eyewitnesses say that army and police personnel stood by and did nothing as settlers, protesting against Mr Nayon’s death, went on the rampage, setting fire to Jumma houses and shops in three different villages.
The Bangladesh government has been moving Bengali settlers onto the lands of the Jumma tribal people for more than 60 years. The Jummas have gone from being practically the sole inhabitants of the Hill Tracts to now being outnumbered by settlers.
Tensions between the communities remain high, and violence in one area can often trigger revenge attacks elsewhere.
Settlers have often been allowed to carry out such attacks with impunity, with the security forces ignoring pleas for help from the Jumma community. It has been reported that on June 4, a peaceful protest against the arson attack was violently dispersed by the police and army. Soldiers punched Jumma protestors and beat them with sticks, after demonstrators had called for the perpetrators of the arson attack to be brought to justice.
Survival International is calling for those responsible for the arson attack, and for the death of Nurul Islam Nayon, to be brought to justice. It’s also urging the Bangladesh government to urgently investigate the role of the security forces during the attack on the villages and the subsequent peaceful protest.