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Seven villages belonging to the ‘Jumma’ tribal people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts were burned to the ground on Sunday by Bengali settlers, with the support of the Bangladesh army.
Jumma villagers, including women and children, were beaten in the attack, and their belongings looted. One hundred houses were destroyed, and the Jumma villagers have fled into the surrounding forests. Bengali settlers were also injured.
The Bangladesh army recently began a new settlement programme in the Sajek area of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), bringing in new groups of Bengali settlers. The construction of settler houses led to conflict between settlers and the Jumma.
Hundreds of thousands of settlers have been moved into the Hill Tracts over the last sixty years, displacing the eleven Jumma tribes and subjecting them to violent repression.
In 1997 the government and the Jummas signed a peace accord that committed the government to removing military camps from the region and to ending the theft of Jumma land by settlers and the army. The accord offered hope, but military camps remain in the Hill Tracts and violence and land grabbing continue. Abuses have escalated since the declaration of emergency rule in Bangladesh in January 2007.
Survival’s director Stephen Corry said today, ‘Bangladesh continues to want the land, but not the people, of the Chittagong Hills. Destroying these villages is a criminal human rights violation, a massive human tragedy, and comes close to a declaration of war. Only international pressure can end this. Quiet diplomacy has never worked there.’
For further information contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]