Justice and security needed for Bangladesh's indigenous Jumma people
|Publisher||Minority Rights Group International|
|Publication Date||12 March 2010|
|Cite as||Minority Rights Group International, Justice and security needed for Bangladesh's indigenous Jumma people, 12 March 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4dfb654d28.html [accessed 23 July 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
After a series of violent attacks against Bangladesh's Jumma indigenous people, residents are rebuilding their destroyed homes and mourning the deaths and injuries of members of their community. The attacks on 14 Jumma villages on 19 and 20 February were only the latest in a long campaign of violence against the Jumma.
The Jumma traditionally practice shifting agriculture in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, but the Bangladesh government has encouraged migration of majority Bengali settlers into the region, encroaching on Jumma land. As in past incidents, the military was reportedly complicit during the February attacks in which settlers burned down as many as 300 houses, as well as a Buddhist temple and a centre run by the United Nations Development Program. An investigation by the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) revealed that the incidents were premeditated; the organization concluded that, "the illegal attacks had the full and direct support of the Bangladeshi army."
According to ACHR, the army beat Jumma who refused to leave their villages and then opened fire as settlers set fire to Jumma homes. ACHR said at least six people were killed, while other reports said two Jumma died in the violence. The ACHR has accused the military of attempting to cover up the extent of the violence by blocking access to journalists and human rights defenders and putting a curfew in place to allow bodies to be removed under cover of darkness. The true death toll may never be known.
The Jumma have suffered repression since Bangladesh gained independence in 1971. Acts of violence have included murder, torture and rape to drive them from their land. In response, Jana Samhati Samiti, a Jumma political party, set up an armed resistance force. The government signed a peace deal with Jana Samhati Samiti in 1997, but acts of violence have continued and settlers still pour into Jumma traditional land, often with support of the army. Unless the Bangladeshi government respects the terms of the 1997 peace agreement and takes firm steps to rein in its military, as well as settler vigilantes, attacks against the Jumma are likely to continue.