An indigenous students’ political group backed by the United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF) has declared a day-long blockade in Rangamati for Sunday, to protest the death of its leader after torture allegedly by the security forces.
Through a statement signed by PCP Office Secretary Ronal Chakma, the group said it would also observe a sit-in programme in front of the Rangamati deputy commissioner’s office on Tuesday, and boycott Naniarchar Bazar the following day.
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The Democratic Youth Movement and five women’s groups of the Chittagong Hill Tracts including Hill Women’s Federation have expressed solidarity with the programmes.
Several organisations including Bangladesh Students' Union and Bangladesh Students' Federation have demanded impartial probe into the death of Romel.
Romel – an HSC examinee and PCP Naniarchar Upazila unit general secretary – was taken by army members from Naniarchar Bazar to a camp on April 5 and handed over to the police the following day.
Police admitted him to Chittagong Medical College Hospital on April 6 with chest pain. He died on Wednesday afternoon while undergoing treatment.
His family members claimed that they were barred from meeting him at the camp, as well as in the hospital.
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Our Rangamati correspondent reported that Romel’s body had been taken to Burighat Wednesday night by the police. The body was kept at the shop of local ward Member Babul in the night due to heavy rain, Officer-in-Charge Abdul Latif told the Dhaka Tribune.
The body was cremated at his Purbo Hatimara village Friday afternoon in presence of family members.
On April 6, Romel’s father wrote to National Human Rights Commission Chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque demanding justice for the "inhuman torture" inflicted upon his son by the army personnel.
[caption id="attachment_59172" align="aligncenter" width="721"] The letter to the NHRC chairman by Romel Chakma's father
UPDF and PCP have also alleged that Romel was severely tortured by the army personnel, a claim refuted by the force.
In the statement, the groups demanded an independent judicial inquiry into the incident, punishment for Naniarchar Zone Commander Md Bahlul Alam and Maj Tanvir, compensation for the family, and an end to torture and harassment in the name of security drives.
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PCP central General Secretary Anil Chakma said that the law enforcers could have tried him under the law if he had been a criminal.
“But they did not do so. It is not natural death. We demand a judicial inquiry into the incident,” he said.
The UPDF in a separate statement termed the alleged incident of torture “medieval brutality.” The leaders have demanded the arrest of Maj Tanvir and “exemplary punishment for all the people responsible for the death of Romel.”
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They also demanded that the army and law enforcers should stop arresting innocent people without specific charges.
According to the army’s ISPR, Romel had already been sick when he was detained by the army personnel on April 5 and was handed over to the police on the same day.
ISPR Director Lt Col Rashidul Hassan told a Bangla newspaper that no army personnel had tortured Romel. He also claimed that Romel had two cases filed against him for subversive activities.
In October last year, police arrested the PCP’s central general secretary, Bipul Chakma, while he was taking his mother to a hospital. She died after around 20 hours.