I was listening to a song written about Kalpana Chakma called “O Kalpana jadi ai na hudu galay” (O Kalpana where are you? Come back soon).
But I wonder: Will she ever come back? If so, when?
I have never known Kalpana Chakma myself, and I don’t know much about her -- yet I can’t help but think about her. It’s been 20 years since her abduction.
Kalpana Chakma -- a fearless indigenous activist, who held the position of organising secretary of the Hill Women’s Federation, was abducted along with two of her brothers on June 1996 by Army forces 20 years ago, when she was only 23 years old.
They were blindfolded and their hands were tied. Despite being shot at, her brothers managed to escape. She was held at gunpoint by a military officer and two members of the Village Defense Party, and driven away.
Even after 20 years, we have to carry out demonstrations for her justice. Why? As far as I know, till now, 35 investigation officers have looked into the case, but still there is no substantive solution to the issue.
There have been many news reports in the last 20 years about Kalpana Chakma’s abduction, but there is still a lack of authentic and reliable results.
The day after Kalpana was taken, her brothers went to the army camp to search for her, but they were forced to leave, and, later, her family was pressured by the military to leave the village.
A protest, held two weeks after her abduction, demanding her release, saw agitators shot at.
Her brother Kalindi Kumar Chakma was able to identify their three captors by name and made sure that all possible information they could give was passed on to the police. This information, however, was ignored. Rumours floated stating that Kalpana was sighted in Tripura.
What was her fault that the military personnel felt the need to make her go away? Kalpana Chakma wanted to live with honour and dignity as a member of the Jumma people.
There are many -- from both indigenous and Bengali communities -- who keep her memory alive, through their protests, demonstrations, writing, and exhibitions at the national and international level, and through their own work against the systematic oppression of the Bangladesh government towards the indigenous Jumma people in the CHT.
Members of the Hill Women’s Federation, along with Kalpana’s brother, have yet to relent in their quest for the truth.
They have campaigned ever since, and, with the help of the courts and public support from around the world, they are still fighting for Kalpana’s justice.
The disappearance of Kalpana Chakma exemplifies how far we have yet to go before we can truly call ourselves as a democratic nation.
And so, the best laid plans of those who silenced her on June 12, 1996 really have come to nothing.
Hers is the legacy of a 23-year-old whose courage to challenge the Bangladeshi military was no less than the courage of those who fought for the Bengali language in 1952, those who fought for independence in 1971, and those who have battled to reclaim democracy in Bangladesh over and over again.
But Kalpana’s case is not unique. The Jumma people of the CHT face a number of challenges in obtaining justice. Like Sabita Chakma, Tuma Ching Marma was raped and murdered, but no proper justice has prevailed, and also many other indigenous women in different parts of the country have faced the same problems.
No, we have not forgotten her. She was an indigenous Jumma activist and a women’s rights activist.
She was someone’s daughter and sister. Her name was Kalpana Chakma.