April 05, 2007

Justice for Choles

I am appalled and devastated with the news of the brutal murder of Choles Ritchil in the hand of the joint forces. Drishtipat Blog has details on how he was brutally murdered.

It all started in 2000 when the Government of Bangladesh nodded an World Bank and ADB funded project - Modhupur ecopark. Journalist-Blogger Tasneem Khalil writes:
"Visit one of the most attractive zoos in Bangladesh, spread over 478 square kilometres of land that is home to the largest sal forest in the world. On display: more than 25,000 Mandi and Koch adivasis (indigenous people). Welcome to Modhupur, best described by an independent observer as: “An open laboratory where the adivasis are the guinea pigs suffering endless experimentations at the hands of the forest department, multi-national corporations and their guardian institutions, the church, Bengali settlers, and the department of defense.”
You would be surprised to hear about the plans of that ecopark - 10 picnic spots in the middle of the jungle, six barracks and a wide boundary wall which will destroy much of the forest. Some kind of well thought ecopark it is without the forest. This also threated eviction from the homes of the indigenous people. So they started to resist.

The corrupt officers of forest department were poaching the trees for personal benefits. The indigenous people got in the middle of their exploit. So they had to devise 5000 false police cases to keep them out. Some adibashis were shot discreetly just to scare them away from the forest.
“They came from America, England, Europe and took away our religion,” Jonik Nokrek described the background of how Christian missionaries....Today, 85% of the Mandi and Koch adivasis are Christians and only 242 elderly Mandis follow the original Mandi religion....The church provides the people with much-needed education and health facilities that have contributed immensely to the development in Modhupur. However,....“All of this was provided at the cost of our thousand year old culture or absolute Christianization of it.

Bengali Muslim presence and their big-brotherly influence in the matriarchal Mandi society are perceived as alarming by Mandi cultural activists. "Today, our children have started taking Bengali as their first language, raising the fear that sometime soon Mandi language will become obsolete"
The story goes on and on. But how Chales Ritchil was killed in March 18, 2007 is beyond any imagination. He was a columnist and journalist and also the general secretary of the indigenous people's organization. Adibashis would turn to him whenever they need help and support. But he was killed by joint-forces who have been much criticized about their extra-judicial killings. Tasnim Khalil has details on the "justice Bangladesh style".

Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) has filed a protest to the heads of the delegations (members and observers) participating in the 14th Summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to intervene against torture to death of prominent tribal leader, Mr Choles Ritchil. Here is the full protest letter with the detailed charges. The Daily Star has run a feature on Choles's death. Drishtipat Blog has detailed articles and developments on this killing.

I hereby condemn the extra judicial killing and demand that the government should take actions against the officers involved in this murder.

Update: Please sign the petition to the Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh demanding justice for Cholesh, protection of the Koch and Mandi indigenous people and canceling the Eco-park project.

Update II: Amnesty International has published an investigative report on this along with certain recommendations. Read them here.


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