On the 21 anniversary of women rights activist Kalpana Chakma's abduction, prominent human rights activists held a remembrance at Dhaka Reporters Unity (DRU) demanding exemplary punishment for those involved in her kidnapping in 1996.
The programme was jointly organised by Hill Women's Federation (HWF) and Bangladesh Indigenous Women's Network (BIWN) where rights activists such as Khushi Kabir, barrister Sara Hossain and Jobayda Nasrin spoke about Kalpana Chakma's extraordinary life that abruptly ended at the age of 23.
On June 12, 1996 she was abducted from her home in Lallyaghona village of Rangamati in Chittagong Hill Tracts. She was a vocal critic of the government and the army and was the outspoken general secretary of Hill Women's Federation.
She had been campaigning for Bijay Ketan Chakma, then senior Presidium member of Pahari Gana Parishad, supported by all hill peoples’ organisations active at that time.
Her brother Kalindi Kumar Chakma, also an eye witness of the abduction, alleged that Lt Ferdous along with the help of Nurul Haque and Salah Ahmed, members of Village Defence Police (VDP), had abducted Kalpana.
At the programme, activists and indigenous leaders also presented a seven-point demand to the government that includes exemplary punishment for those found guilty of her abduction.
Rights activist Khushi Kabir said: “Kalpana Chakma always protested with a strong voice against all torture, oppression, exploitation, discrimination, deprivation, rape, kidnapping and murder in Chittagong Hill Tracts.
“Kalpana is the symbol of protest against all kinds of state oppression against indigenous men and women.
“The Chittagong Hill Tracts is a special area. We think it is a separate part of the country but it is not. People have different cultures and norms and we must respect that.”
Barrister Sara Hossain, executive director of Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) said: “Kalpana Chakma was the first kidnapped woman in independent Bangladesh after the journalist Selina Parvin was kidnapped in 1971.
“Kalpana's case has not been resolved for 21 years. Since then, the level of violence against women in Chittagong Hill Tracts has only increased.”
The speakers of the programme said not resolving this case will tarnish the impartiality of the government's image.
They demanded a quick arrest and exemplary punishment for the guilty party through a fair investigation. They also demanded that the government ensure equality, equal rights and security for all indigenous women in Bangladesh. They also demanded a resolution for the Chittagong Hill Tracts problem.
The programme was also attended by Dr Jobayda Nasrin, assistant professor at Dhaka University, Sanjeeb Drong, general secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Forum, Monira Tripura, Dhaka metropolitan general secretary of Hill Women's Federation.
Kalpana Chakma's case was last heard by the court on June 8. The Next hearing has been fixed for July 18.