Sunday, April 17, 2011

Four killed, scores hurt in worst ethnic clash in Bangladesh hills


Photo: Bangalee settlers torch indigenous homes in Manikchari on April 17, 2011
 SALEEM SAMAD

IN A worst ethnic riot four Bangla-speaking settlers were killed and 50 others injured over land grabbing at Ramgarh upazila, south-west Bangladesh on Sunday.

According to official sources, the four deceased were Bangla-speaking Muslim settlers from land hungry floodplains and some of the injured were admitted to government health centre in "critical condition".

The civil administration imposed a ban on movement and assembly of more than three persons in the riot-torn area. Large contingent of law enforcing officers are patrolling the region to maintain peace.

The worst riot in a year began in the afternoon and continued for nearly three hours, before riot police and para-military forces pacified the rivals.

Independent newspapers Daily Star correspondent who could be reached over mobile phone and identified as Cippru Marma, an indigenous of the area said, the incident took place as settlers wanted to grab their ancestral lands and were planting banana trees.

Local administration official also said that at least 20 houses of the Buddhist ethnic people were torched in reprisals for the killings.

Dispute over land ownership is one of the major causes of conflict between Bangalees and the ethnic groups in the hill-forest area, a home to at least 15 ethnic communities.

The plain land settlers allegedly occupied lands which belonged to the ethnic minorities during the two decade-long insurgency from mid-1970s to late 1990s.

The insurgency came to an end through signing of a 1997 treaty between the government and the ethnic groups. [ENDS]

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes in Jihad, forced migration, good governance and politics. He has recently returned from exile after living in Canada for six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

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