Monday, April 18, 2011

Four killed, scores hurt in ethnic clash in Bangladesh hills

Photo: Bangalee settlers torch scores of indigenous community homes
SALEEM SAMAD
THREE BANGLA-speaking settlers and an indigenous minority were killed and 50 others injured in a violent ethnic riot over land dispute in southeast Bangladesh on Sunday.

The worst riot in a year began in the afternoon and continued for three hours before riot police and paramilitary forces pacified the rivals.

According to official sources, the four deceased were mostly settlers from the land-hungry flood plains.

Some of the injured were admitted to a government health center in critical condition.

Local administration official also said that at least 20 homes of ethnic Buddhist communities were torched in reprisal for the killings.

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

A correspondent for the Daily Star, Cippru Marma, said by telephone the incident

took place as Bangalee settlers acted to take ownership of their ancestral lands by planting banana trees.

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 indigenous communities.

The settlers allegedly occupied lands that belonged to the indigenous minorities during the two-decade-long insurgency from the mid-1970s to the late 1990s.

The insurgency came to an end in 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