“There is no justice in this country when Chakmas kill Bengali people, the question of judgment comes forward when Bangali use slang on Chakmas” – Eunus Mia, the sole-survivor of Pakuyakhali genocide
Before Chittagong Hill Tracks (CHT) Peace Accord 1997, Shanti Bahinee killed thousands of citizen lived in CHT. Pakuyakhali Tragedy is one of those genocide histories by Shanti Bahinee. 9 September (1996) was the day of horror, Shanti Bahinee did to 35 innocent Bengali. The dead bodies were faceless because of Shanti Bahinees’ cruelty.
Sayed Ibn Rahmat made an interview with the sole survivor of that God-forsaken day, Eunus Ali.
SAYED Ibn Rahmat: Hello, What are you doing?
Eunus Ali: Suffering from fever, taking rest.
SAYED: How long you have been suffering? Didn’t you take medicine?
E A: I am suffering for two days. Don’t worry, brother, no need to take any medicine. Medication is not necessary to recover from fever. I will be fine within two days.
SAYED: I am here to know about the “Pakuyakhali” incident.
E A: Do you think it will work? I told the story several time to army, police, CID, journalists earlier your presence. Nothing had happened. Why should I share it to you? It is nothing but distressing.
SAYED: You knew that in Hills, Shanti Bahini would shoot as soon as they saw Bengali people. Then why did you dare to go in hills?
E A: Brother, is there any stupid who would willing to stand in front of death? Generally we go there because of our daily bread, hill is our only source of income. Though owned a very tinny land, crops come as few as we cannot depend on it for the year long. Moreover, water from Kaptai Lake was drawn the crops most of the time.
By the by, when Pakuyakhali Tragedy occurred, we were donating Shanti Bahini 30 to 40 taka for 1 square feet wood log so that were quite confident at that time to get into the forest.
SAYED: When did the deal of logging has done between you (woodmen)?
E A: 5 to 6 years before Pakuyakhali massacre, Nazrul of Boro Mahillah, well known as ‘tokta Nazrul’ (Tokta here stands for slim and taller one) proposed the woodmen if they want to provide an amount of donation should be given to Shanti Bahinee, they would be safe and not shot by Chakma. Nazrul was the messenger of Chakma and had a good relationship with Chakma. He was the middle man between Shanti Bahini and Bengali.
SAYED: When woodmen started giving payment, what may be the relationship between Shanti Bahini and the woodmen?
E A: Generally they behaved well though the rules and regulations of them were too tough to maintain sometimes. Whatever they expressed became a rule and if anybody was unable to do this, Shanti Bahini tortured them badly. And they prohibited any entrance into the forest.
SAYED: The place you (woodmen) axed how was the relationship between you (woodmen) and Chakma?
E A: Though some of the Chakmas were member of Shanti Bahini the place we axed, lots of Chakma family lived there who were familiar to us. We visited each others’ resident in festivals. Most of the time, they informed us if probability of unexpected situation or risk in hills might occurred.
SAYED: How was the relationship between Shanti Bahini and inhabitant Chakma?
E A: Shanti Bahini tortured other Chakma also. They took payment from Chakma. Shanti Bahini treated the same as they treated to us. Local Chakams were tricky and sometimes they trap the collectors. Sometimes they offered local alcohol or draw an accusation against him to harass their ladies or sometimes complain to the ‘Boro Babu’ (big boos) against him to money laundering. 2 to 3 collectors were changed due to accusation.
SAYED: It was well established that Shanti Bahini called the meeting due to unpaid 2 month’s payment. However, businessmen overlooked the meeting and massacre was the outcome. Is it true?
E A: This is completely fake statement. Businessmen never go to hill to pay the unpaid, there is no chance at all. We went to hill for log and plank and there was no way to take down those logs and plank before paying their demands.
SAYED: I was talking about the businessmen.
E A: Without paying the expected amount to Shanti Bahini, businessmen cannot take a single piece of plank. They had to pay in every check post on the road they are carrying their log. If someone wants to continue his business in hills, they are bound to pay donation. Moreover, why Shanti Bahini would killed poor woodmen like us for businessmen’s dues.
SAYED: What do you think, what is the reason they killed these many people at a time?
E A: Don’t know. Why they did this, I have no idea. They are betrayers. They even kill Nazrul (Takta Nazrul) who served them as his relative and save them from threats. He helped them a lot.
SAYED: Did you see something unusual in hills that day?
E A: My sons were supposed to circumcise that day. I was not feeling very well. But Alal (Brother in law) said, we should go to hill. To some extent, I forced myself and went with Alal. We went to hill by the side of Office Chhara ( small fall). A shop was just above the Keching (A place in Hill Tracks). We saw that 3 Shanti Bahini men sat there with their weapons. We did not doubt at all. It was quite usual to see Shanti Bahini with their weapons. Alal had a trade with Ganno Chakma. He brought money for Ganno Chakma. While Alal was in a conversation with Ganno Chakma about the trade, Kalu accompanied by some other approached and informed us that we had a meeting and we should go there. Alal said to Ganno, ‘Ganno, brother, I will give you the money after the meeting.’ But Ganno Chakma wanted to have the money before the meeting. Kalu Chakma suggested Alal that he could pay the money when he would go back to home.
SAYED: When did you suspect that there was something wrong?
E A: We walked with Kalu Chakma to get into the forest. We saw 8 Shanti Bahinee sat beside the road in 4 groups with SMG. As soon as we reached them, they belayed us. We felt they might kill us today because of their harsh behavior. After taking all their money, they tied us with twines. They explained that they would untied us after reaching to the meeting place. We explained that we were not escaping. And we complained if they untied us on meeting spot, why they would tie us tightly. Tactfully I did not make them tie me toughly.
SAYED: What did you watch when you reached the spot?
E A: After 15 to 20 minutes of walking, we saw 4 more were tied against a ‘Mera’ Tree including Takta Nazrul. There were few others who were tied against different trees. They were 29 including me. 19 Shanti Bahini were there with SMG and LMG. Another 12 Chaakma were beside Shanti Bahini with Rods, Cutlasses and knob-sticks. I knew some of them. They were Lampaya Chakma, Chhikka Karbari, Boli Chakam, Shantimoy Chakma, Babul Chakma, Gulukka Chakma, Torun Chakma (Collector), Kabir Chakma, Bimol Chakma and Somiti Ranjan Chakma. However, one of Shanti Bahini member came to us one by one with a note book and wrote down our name and the amount they took earlier.
SAYED: How could you escape?
E A: Anyway, after completing the documentation, 5 woodmen of Kalapakuijja (a place in Hills) conveyed to somewhere else. Again, 5 woodmen including Nazrul were conveyed within 10 to 12 minutes. Nazrul was straggling not to go there and pushed by an armed member which was completely unexpected to us. Shanti Bahini never did this before. They never even talked loudly with Nazrul.
This was a clear warning to us. I requested an armed guard that I had to go to toilet. The guard with another one took me in a near bush. Sitting beside bush I decided run away from this demon was the only solution. But after finishing my toilet, when I stood up, my head bumped into a bamboo stick and that alarmed 2 armed guards. I came back to the spot. I was tied up with others again. But this time I was also alert. I had freed my hand very carefully. And then in the name of the Almighty I started running.
But then I saw a LMG holder who warned me to stop running or he would shoot. I did not stop my running. As soon as I jumped I heard brush fire. Rolling down the slop I found a gap to hide myself with bushes. Fear rapid my heart to an extent that I thought Shanti Bahini might hear my heartbeat. When I came out from the crack, it was night. I started to my home. It was dark night. As I walked to my home there were dead-cold water of Chara(small falls), venomous snacks, dreadful animals but none of these frightened me like Shanti Bahini at that time. I walked the whole night and finally came out of the hills when it was dawn.
SAYED: Please express something about the Military mission on 11 September to find out the dead bodies.
E A: After reaching home, when Army came to know that I was also a prisoner of Shanti Bahini, they offered me to take them to the place. I agreed and went with them as guide. There was a fence just after the place where Nazrul pushed on his neck. We made the way through this dread forest. After a while, I found Sorafoddi’s cap and then shoe, empty bottle and more those showed us the way of killing spot. Alal’s (brother in law of Eunus Ali) dead body was found near the spot.
Shanti Bahini killed those misfortunates very brutally. They tortured them with bayonet, beat, and chopped them with cutlass, sticks and rod also. They plucked their eyes out. Most of the dead bodies could not be identified. 28 dead bodies found from the spot.
SAYED: 35 were dead during the massacre. You told that you with Army found 28. Do you have any idea about the others?
E A: I knew Ali, Dulu and two more whose dead bodies were not found. We found another 3 who were not tied up while I was there. I think, after my running away, 7 more were imprisoned and killed by Shanti Bahini. We did not find the other. In fact, there was no way to find the bodies.
SAYED: Shani Bahini killed these many people but no justice by the government. Do you (woodmen) ever urge for justice?
E A: We demanded justice. I filed a case as plaintiff. Minister assured proper judgment. I even heard that the investigation report was submitted to the government though we have no idea about the report. 14 years passed and I do not get any justice. Not only this, Shanti Bahini killed more Bengali several times. None of those murders were punished. There is no justice in this country when Chakmas kill Bengali people, the question of judgment comes forward when Bangali use slang on Chakmas’. And after the peace Accord, Shanti Bahini is the government. Who would offer justice?
I am requesting to our PM Shaikh Hasina, you can also feel the pain of losing the loving family because you were also went through this time. You made justice. Dear PM, we, who lose our fathers, sons, brothers and husbands are waiting for the judgment. Only you can make sure the righteousness.