Pakuyakhali Tragedy: A Story of Forgotten Genocide
Pakuyakhali tragedy, the day of Darkness of Chittagong Hill Tracts history is on 9 September. In this day in 1996 in Rangamati, Shanti Bahini driven by Santu Larma killed 35 innocent Bengali woodmen. 28 bodies were found near the killing spot two days after killing. Dead bodies were buried in Langdu Upazilla Council yard.
Bloodbath was not new for Shanti Bahini in CHT Hills but this could not be treated as murder, this was massacre, carnage. These evils used local knife-ware to kill those innocents. The innocents were wantonly tortured by those ‘Hyenas’. Most of the dead bodies could not be identified because of those butchers’ brutality.
Eunus Ali, the luckiest one who escaped from the massacre. He still can remember the psychopaths’ sick eyes and the wounded innocents’ scary look. He still can hear the sounds of the earsplitting of the tortured and an ill-outburst of those Demons’. Blood flowed into the Chara (Small Falls) instead of water. Kachalong and Mainy Khal (Small Canal) turned red. Humanity shuttered down in front of the horror screams of victims. Eunus still traumatized by those dreadful memories. He said, ‘I saw the mutilated, maltreat dead bodies. I heard the ear-piercing scalding of widows and mothers. I can never forgive them. It cannot be. Those memories still paralyze me with hatred. I had no other way but crying that day.’
Four leaders of the then ruling government promised to ensure justice publicly in Longdu Upazilla Council’s yard. They were also made a promise of financial support to victims’ family as compensation and would offer a government job to victims’ children. Though victims’ families were compensated BDT. 50,000 at a time, the promises were ignored broadly. Victims’ families are still suffering. Today is the 23rd year of the massacre. And the family members of the dead woodmen are still live hand to mouth.
After the massacre, Langdu Police filed a murder case and several investigation committees were formed however the so called investigation yet not been finished and the murderers are celebrating 23 anniversary. Osman Ali, one of the victims died in the massacre. His mother said to the reporter, she is living in precariousness for a long time. The family is still waiting for Ali Husain, another victim. His body was not found after the killing.
Nur Banu, widow of a victim Helal Uddin is also going through a taught time. They demand justice. Families of victims want a government job for their children. Most of the families left Hills because of poverty.
This massacre was preplanned by Shantu Larma and his alliances. 15 days before massacre, Shanti Bahini sent letter to the businesspersons and woodmen of Gulshakhali, Kalapuja, Gathachhora,, Sonargoan of Langdu Upazilla. In the short note, “Coming 9 September, Boro Babu (High Officials) is willing to sit with businesspersons and woodmen and will set the rate of donation” was written. Mentioning that, businesspersons and woodmen were angry with Shanti Bahini’s high demand of donation and collection procedure. Bengali community was happy to attend the meeting so that they can bargain on the donation.
Meeting venue was selected in wilder area of hills where Shanti Bahini established a ‘bamboo fort’ for the sabotage. Businesspersons of Mainy bazaar area decided not to attend the meeting in the wilder place because of their own safety though they admitted to attend the meeting previously.
On 9 September 1996, it was quite festive environment in early morning in every village of Langdu Upazilla because the illiterate-ignorant woodmen were excited to meet the ‘Boro Babu’ (Big Boss). Woodmen were entering into the hilly forest to attend the meeting. They were fully unarmed. As soon as those woodmen reached a Chakma shop near the meeting venue, a number of armed camouflages tided up every five attendees together. When those innocent woodmen asked, why they were being tied up, Shanti Bahini replied, that was a ‘new technique’ of transportation to meet the ‘Boro Babu’. Woodmen doubted and denied to go. Alas! At that God forsaken day, their doubt was right and their denial was in the wrong time.
All 35 were held in a field. Shanti Bahini men were taking a group of five men who never came back. Eunus Ali had desperate thoughts when he saw 15 men were gone. Every time a group of woodmen were gone, there was sharp screaming from the killing spot. Woodmen were illiterate but had already figured out the nature of the meeting as well as Eunus Ali.
Eunus Ali excused himself for needing toilet. He was taken to a Chara (Small Falls). Shanti Bahini men shot him. Then he pushed the guard away and jumped to the falls. And finally he is the sole-survivor. Because of his survival, many other Bengali did not fall into the Shanti Bahini’s trap. Other attendees heard the gunfire, and then they suspected and did not attend the ‘scheduled’ meeting. Shanti Bahini estimated to slaughter 5000 Bengali on 9 September 1996. But that ‘silly’ gunfire and the escape of Eunus Ali helped saving lives.
Two days after the massacre, Military troop of Mainy Zone accompanied with Eunus Ali and hundreds of locals went to the killing spot. On the way to spot, the Chara (Small Fall) water did not have its crystal clarity. It was red instead.