Rights advocate murdered

By January 5, 2009

Bangladesh (MNN) — Compass Direct News reports the brutal killing of an outspoken Christian defender of minorities in Sajek, Bangladesh. Ladu Moni Chakma, 55, was repeatedly stabbed and his throat slashed by Bengali Muslim settlers in August. Chakma was attacked after reporting illegal land grabs to the Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission.

A pastor of the district Bangladesh Baptist Church told Compass that Chakma often intervened on behalf of the indigenous people with the CHTC about their rights and the cruel manner in which Bengali settlers illegally took their lands. The pastor said that Chakma was murdered and his family attacked because of his outspoken Christian defense.

"They do not want any Christian to live here," the pastor said. "They hate Christians more than any other minority religions — it is one of the main reasons to evict and kill Ladu Moni. If people become Christian, many NGOs [Non-Governmental Organizations] will be set up here, and various local and international missionaries will look after them, so that Bengali settlers cannot grab lands illegally."

Chakma's widow, Cikonpudi Chakma, urged the army-backed interim caretaker government to withdraw settlers from Sajek and punish the murderers of her husband. She gave details of the Bengali settlers' late-night attack to reporters.

"Some people were shouting, ‘Open the door! Open the door!'" she said. "Without realizing anything what was going on, three Bengali people broke in our shanty hut."

She said that attackers were wielding knives, and she recognized one local man who had helped settlers seize land from indigenous villagers earlier in the year. Attackers blindfolded her and dragged her husband out into the rain. When the assailants tried to take her 13-year-old daughter, Minu, Cikonpudi said she resisted and was injured in the "tussle."

"I resisted them taking out my daughter, and… they hit my forehead with a knife," she said. Cikonpundi and her children escaped certain death and rape by fleeing through a backdoor, jumping down a ravine and rolling to the bottom. Rain-soaked, they took shelter in a nearby home and returned to their home the next morning.

"I could not contact my husband that night," she said. "On the way [home], we saw a blood-stained, stock-still body. It was my husband. His body was mutilated and stabbed with sharp knife and machete."

A police inspector told Compass that his department had arrested three people in connection with Chakma's killing. He says that the case is under investigation, and after national elections held later this month, a charge sheet will be submitted.

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