Friday, August 21, 2009

Quicknote: Hartal, landlessness, and rape cast a shadow in CHT

No significant moment is ever enjoyed without a number of problems occurring. Luckily, the problems are usually solvable, if the responsible party acts in a just, efficient, and timely way. These problems become an opportunity; an opportunity to prove that the radical change is just what needs to be done. Bangla Nation believes that the Bangladeshi government must seize the initiative in dealing with these problems before they escalate. The US and UK should continue to monitor this ongoing situation and be ready to step into to promote enclosure and land reform in the CHT once the withdrawal process is complete and the security situation normalized.

Prime Minister Hasina found herself in this position today. Earlier a woman, presumably Bengali, from Islampur village was found raped and murdered in a neighboring indigenous village, Modonmohanpara, in Panchhari sub-district, Khagrachhari. In response the Bengali settler organization Samo Odhikar Andolan and its student front Parbatya Bangalee Chhatra Parishad called for a dawn-to-dusk hartal (general strike) in the sub-district (Daily Star).

Bangla Nation believes that PM Hasina should immediately condemn this violent act, for not only does it disturb the peace in a restive region, but is an abominable crime against women. While the hartal will probably go forward, since the Bengali settlers have been threatening one for a month now, the security must ensure that this passes peacefully and without incident. Most importantly, if Bengali settlers attempt to avenge Nasima's death they must be arrested without delay. Finally, while protecting the indigenous community from the possible excesses of the Bengali settlers, they must also fully and impartially investigate Nasima's death.

Yesterday, the High Court rejected two petitions attempting to prevent the continued withdrawal of the Army brigade and camps from the CHT (New Nation).

Thus, the Awami League government has earned a green light to continue upholding the 1997 Peace Treaty despite the reservations from Bengali settlers. The police forces must continue to provide impartial security to both groups of residents. The government, as well as the U.S. and UK, should work together in solving ongoing landlessness among the adhivasi community (Daily Star) and promoting a sense of shared identity between the settlers and the adhivasis.

Such projects could be as simple as providing teams of surveyors to help speed along land surveys or logistical and communications support to the government in the shape of vehicles and laptop computers. NGOs should also take steps in promoting community development and conflict resolution by promoting a shared sense of responsibility for the security and development of the region.

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