There is no freedom of expression or security in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) region for those working to learn about the complaints of the indigenous people, the CHT Commission claims.
At a press briefing at the National Press Club yesterday, the commission members also claimed that activists of some so-called organisations working to protect the rights of Bangalees in Rangamati had not stepped back despite the presence of the law enforcers. Rather, they had expressed aggression toward the commission members.
CHTC Member Dr Iftekharuzzaman, also the executive director of the TIB, read out a written statement at the event. Co-Chairman of the commission Sultana Kamal also attended the press conference where they presented their report and recommendations from their visit to the CHT area during July 2-5. This was the commission’s seventh visit to the CHT area since 2008.
Iftekharuzzaman said they had successfully completed their mission in Khagrachhari on July 2. But after reaching Rangamati on July 4, the commission members were attacked the next day by activists from some of the organisations. For this, they had to postpone their visit to Bandarban and return to Dhaka.
Sultana said: “We visited the CHT areas to trace the reasons behind land grabbing and the violation of human rights. We also wanted to see the progress of the execution of the  Peace Accord, to find out whether the CHT people are getting the benefits of the agreement and what the barriers are to its full implementation.”
In Rangamati, three members of the commission and the OC of sadar police station were injured in the attack that was carried out near the local DGFI office in the town around 2pm on July 5. Earlier in the day, they protested outside the Parjatan Motel where the CHTC members were staying.
“Surprisingly, the police did not arrest anyone after the attack even though the incident took place in front of their eyes,” Sultana said. “The agitators attacked us in front of Sub-Inspector Yusuf and his subordinate members. But they did not make any attempt to prevent the attackers,” she said demanding the immediate arrest and punishment of the perpetrators.
She said before the visit, the commission had informed the administration, the police and several organisations. “But the police later claimed that they were not informed, which is totally false and baseless.”
When asked whether the agitating Bangalee Somo Odhikar Andolon members were involved in the attack, Sultana said they had no idea.
However, at a press conference in Chittagong after the attack, Sultana said: “A number of local people, inspired by Nurjahan, gathered around our [Parjatan] hotel and hurled abuse at us.”
On Monday, the commission filed a case against the leaders of Bangalee Somo Odhikar Andolon Nurjahan and Hiru Talukder and 20-25 unnamed others.
The commission suggested that the government should express their decisions on land acquisitions openly, considering public concerns over the previous incidents and should pay compensation to the affected people regardless of their identities.
The CHTC also demanded immediate withdrawal of the “false case” filed against the indigenous people for protesting the land acquisition by the BGB in Khagrachhari.