Jumma man hacked to death by settlers after speaking out over land thefts

Jumma man Ladu Moni Chakma was hacked to death on Tuesday by a group of Bengali settlers at his home in the Sajek area of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh. His wife, Shanti Bala Chakma, who was also attacked, was taken to hospital.

Local people believe that Ladu Moni Chakma was targeted because he had given information to members of the recently reformed Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Commission about settlers stealing land from the indigenous tribes of the area.

The eleven tribes in the Chittagong Hill Tracts are collectively known as Jummas after their practice of ‘shifting cultivation’, known locally as ‘Jhum’. Hundreds of thousands of settlers have been moved into the Hill Tracts over the last sixty years, displacing the Jumma people and subjecting them to violent repression.

The Bangladesh army has recently intensified its programme to settle Bengalis in the area. In April, settlers, with the support of the military, burnt seven Jumma villages in the Sajek region after disputes over land thefts. Jumma villagers, including women and children, were beaten in the attack.

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.

The international Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission (CHTC), formed in 1990, was instrumental in informing the world of the gross human rights violations taking place in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. It operated until 2001. Now, the CHTC has reformed and has just undertaken a preliminary investigation in the Hill Tracts from 7-10 August 2008. The co-chairs include Vice Chair of the UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group, Lord Avebury, and the eminent Bangladeshi human rights activist, Ms. Sultana Kamal. The commission called on the government to speed up the implementation of the 1997 peace accord.