18. The Silent Slaughter in Bangladesh

Sources: SURVIVAL INTERNATIONAL, Date: 4/5/93, Title: "Anniversary vigil to remember massacre of Bangladeshi hill tribes," Author: Charlotte Sankey; THE GUARDIAN, Date: 5/8/92, Title: "Massacres in Bangladesh," Author: Robin Hanbury; TENSION, Date: 5/24/92, Title: "Murder among the Hill People," Author: Aditi Sharma

SSU Censored Researcher: Sunil Sharma

SYNOPSIS: One of the most horrifying acts of mass murder in recent years continues to go unreported in the U.S. and international press. On April 10, 1992, an estimated 1,200 tribal men, women, and children were massacred in Logang village, Bangladesh. All 1,200 victims were Jummas, the tribal peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

The massacre occurred after a group of boys from a village of Bengali settlers near Logang village attacked two Chittagong Hill Tract girls in an attempt to rape them. A boy was wounded when one of the girls defended herself with a knife. The other boys fled the scene and "reported the incident to their village." Within moments of the incident, a group of Bengalis, Bangladeshi soldiers, and paramilitary troops converged upon Logang village. Almost all of the tribal people were herded and locked into their homes and the houses were set ablaze. According to eyewitnesses, the bodies of the victims, some still alive, were then dumped into open pits.

The massacre of the predominantly Buddhist tribal people occurred a couple of days before the annual Chittagong Hill Tract festival in Biju. A number of lawyers, university professors, members of parliament, as well as a large number of friends and relatives of the tribal people happened to be in the Tract area. This group of people formed a commission to investigate the incident and to record evidence from the survivors. Had it not been for the fact that these people were in the area for the festival, the massacre would probably have gone totally unnoticed. The Chittagong Hill Tract area has been sealed off by the Bangladesh military for 15 years.

Despite the findings of the commission, the government only admitted that 13 people were killed, while the military conceded 140 deaths. Bangladesh, a country very dependent on foreign aid, did not want to draw attention to the tragedy.

According to human rights groups such as Survival International and Amnesty International, the April 10th Massacre, though unprecedented in scale, is not an isolated incident. Survival International reports that the Massacre "is part of the Bangladeshi government's attempt to wipe out the hill tribes altogether, who are mostly Buddhist." The organi-zation also reported that for the last 20 years, "murder, rape, and torture are almost everyday events." The government offers the Buddhist hill tribes "the choice of conversion to Islam, death or exile."

Despite its abysmal human rights record, Bangladesh continues to receive Western aid. Twelve days after the Massacre, the World Bank, after consulting Western donor nations, approved a (US) $1.9 billion aid package to Bangladesh. In 1992, the U.S. provided Bangladesh with $136 million in grants via USAID and the Food for Peace program.

Charlotte Sankey, press officer for Survival International, charged, "It is appalling that the international media keep their eyes closed to the systematic destruction of the Jummas in the same way that it ignored the situation in East Timor-until a foreign journalist was killed among 180 other protesters."

COMMENTS: The press office of Survival International, in London, said that even now very few people know what is happening in Bangladesh and they need to be informed. "Doesn't the public have a right to know that 1,200 people were massacred?"

Survival International noted that it holds a vigil outside the Bangladesh High Commission in London every month and that the vigil will continue until the Bangladesh government stops its present policy toward tribal peoples.