Seven people, including two polling officials and four Ansar members, were killed in the attack on March 18
Followers of Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS-Santu Larma) leader, Boro Rishi Chakma, carried out the premeditated gun attack on the convoy of election officials in Baghaichari upazila of Rangamati in March, says an investigation report.
The report was submitted to Chittagong Divisional Commissioner Abdul Mannan on April 11by the seven-member probe committee, headed by Additional Secretary Dipak Chakrabarty, director (local government) of Chittagong Division. The committee was formed a day after the attack.
Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, Dipak said they have identified the motives behind the attack and made a number of recommendations to prevent similar deadly attacks in future.
“We have visited the crime scene and talked to all stakeholders, including the injured, locals, public representatives, returning officers, political leaders, and law enforcement agencies."
“Our findings point to the fact this was a premeditated attack carried out by followers of Boro Rishi Chakma, who was a chairman candidate,” he said.
On election day, PCJSS-Santu Larma candidate, Rishi, who contested from Baghaichari upazila, boycotted the vote after levelling allegations of rigging and ballot stuffing the night before by supporters of his rival and Awami League candidate, Sudarshan Chakma.
Rishi is also general secretary of the Baghaichari upazila unit of the Chittagong Hill Tracts based organization. PCJSS-MN Larma leader, Sudarshan, was elected upazila chairman, but he is yet to take office.
Seven people, including two assistant presiding officers and four Ansar and VDP members, were shot dead and at least 26 others injured in the gun attack that took place in Baghaichari’s Noymile area on the Sajek-Dighinala Road, on March 18.
The convoy of election officials and security personnel came under attack when they were returning to the upazila headquarters after daylong voting in the second phase of the Upazila Parishad Elections.
When he went into hiding right after the attack, locals suspected Rishi, the former Baghaichari upazila chairman, was behind the attack. He is still absconding.
Questioned, Dipak Chakrabarty told Dhaka Tribune that the perpetrators had launched the March 18 attack to show their strength in the strife-ridden locality.
“Conceding defeat in the polls will put their existence at stake. Winning in the polls means unhindered extortion.
“That's why the attack was perpetrated to retain supremacy in the locality and keep their rival groups at bay," he said.
The probe body suspects the attackers may have missed their actual target by mistake. Such an assault on government officials is unprecedented.
Dipak said: "In our investigation, we came to know about a vehicle that did not carry any election officials. That vehicle was carrying members of the rival group and it joined the convoy.
“At one stage, the vehicle changed direction, but two or three people got off and boarded the vehicle on polls duty with election officials going to Baghaichari.”
He said: “The gun attack’s target were members of the rival group. Unfortunately, the officials on polls duty became the victims, being the wrong target.”
However, it is yet to be confirmed whether any of the injured victims belonged to the rival group in question.
In its report, the investigation committee also made a number of recommendations to avert such deadly attacks in future.
• Building "border roads" on hilly frontiers with India and Myanmar along Bangladesh's south-eastern hills, so miscreants cannot cross the border after any such attacks
• Increasing the number of border outposts
• Conducting combing operations simultaneously in three hilly districts to recover illegal arms and ammunition
• Providing government jobs to eligible family members of the deceased
• Rehabilitating those injured in the gun attack
• Recognizing the three drivers who were on election duty that day, and providing them with financial aid if possible
Additional reporting by Bijoy Dhar from Rangamati