We Owe it to Kalpana Chakma

Last updated May 10th, 2020


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June 12, 1996. This was the day of the much-awaited national elections to form the new parliament.

Under a caretaker government, formed in response to a movement after the questionable February elections, expectations were high.

It was on this day, as the people went to cast their votes, that we were shaken with the news of the abduction of Kalpana Chakma.

Kalpana Chakma, general secretary of the Hill Women’s Federation, was abducted from her home by the military.

In Bangladesh and internationally, the struggle of the CHT people and the role of the army in repressing them have been raised many times.

Kalpana was an activist, someone who could not and would not be shut up by threats alone.

She was an independent, strong-willed, politically aware young woman who had protested against atrocities taking place in the hill districts.

Just a few days before her abduction, she had an altercation with a Lieutenant Ferdous, stationed in her area. It was this same Ferdous who allegedly abducted her.

Women’s groups, citizens’ groups protested. Activists immediately visited her home, met her family, people in the area.

We held protests, formed human chains, sent petitions to relevant authorities, met with the three elected representatives from the CHT, all hill people themselves.

Despite the fact that by now we had a democratically elected government, it seemed demanding accountability from the army was not yet on the cards.

We wait to see the day when such accountability can be ensured. The lieutenant probably remains in service and may have been given promotions.

The military wheels turn secretly and silently to ensure protection to its own and distancing from civilians.

The citizens of this country, Bangladesh, that won its independence through its people taking up arms to liberate themselves, do not need to be informed or taken into confidence, when it comes to the armed forces.

Rumours were floated stating that Kalpana was sighted in Tripura. Rumours that did not fool anyone.

Till today, the case remains unresolved.

A three-member committee was set up by the then Awami League government, comprising retired Justice Abdul Jalil, Professor Anupam Sen and the-then commissioner of the Chittagong division, who we were informed had submitted their report.

Despite many petitions and demands, the report has never been made public.

Going through past records, we see that on the occasion of the 12th year of Kalpana’s abduction, on June 12, 2008 our present foreign minister, along with others, demanded that the report be published and Kalpana’s abduction case be taken up.

The Awami League government is back in power.

We are awaiting their role in making the report public and ensuring that Kalpana’s case is taken up. We owe it to the memory of Kalpana and her family, we owe it to the indigenous women and peoples of the CHT, owe it to all marginalised peoples and their struggles, we owe it to ourselves and to our country.
New Age, June 12th, 2010.

Writer : Khushi Kabir

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