By Fayas Ahmed | KPN News
Fourteen Burmese Rohingya refugees died, over 100 wounded and more than a hundred refugees were arrested in a clash with Bangladeshi policemen on 18th and 19th November 2004, in the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, said sources.
The clash was started when Muhammad Nurul Alam Chowdhury, the in charge of the camp, went to see the meeting with a fellow police officer with the cooperation of police and ansars. He found some of the Rohingya refugees holding a meeting against their forced repatriation to Burma. But, previously, he was informed by a Majee (a collaborator of camp officials) with some fabricated and false information about the meeting. In fact, after the meeting, the refugees seeking heavenly helps from God if they were forcibly repatriated to Burma and wish peacefully living in refugee camps in future. But, police raided the refugees and arrested the refugee leader Mohammad Ishaque, also a schoolteacher and two others. The angry mob of the refugees tried to rescue the arrested persons from the police and then the clash was erupted between police and refugees said a refugee leader who is temporary outside the camp to avoid the arrest of police.
“As soon as police and ansars arrived at the place of occurrence, the Rohingya opened fire on them. We also resorted to gunfire in self defense,” police said.
But, camp officials said that when Md. Nurul Alam Chowdhury went to visit the refugees with a fellow police officer, the angry mob of refugees held them up when both of them tried to persuade their leaders not to hold such meetings as it has been declared illegal long ago by the government.
When asked another refugee leader about the clashes said, “For our self-defense, we attacks police, ansars and Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) with stones, hoes, iron rods, knives and sticks. We have no arms. If we had arms, at least one police or ansar or BDR would be wounded by our bullets. Why they didn’t get any injuries by our bullets o at least one gun would be retrieve?
The camp officials have been awaiting some opportunities to avenge the refugees since last 9th June 2004 hunger strike. As retaliation of hunger strike, camp officials arrested some refugees with the cooperation of policemen and were sent to the Cox’s Bazar jail. Some refugees were also lodged General Diary (GD) at the police station by camp officials as criminals who were not complied forced repatriation process, said some refugees.
Superintendent of police of Cox’s Bazaar Sayed Towfique Uddin Ahmed had earlier said in an interview with the The Daily Star, on November 01 the law enforcing agencies’ raid on Thursday ( On 18th November 2004) was planned after the UN had informed the Food and Disaster Management Ministry, which holds charge of the refugee camp, of the attacks on UN staff on September 23 and October 12.
A refugee, named Sultan Ahmed said, “A guard of Kutupalong refugee camp says when I meet him before Edul-Fitir, a harsh action would be taken against the refugees after Edul- Fitir.”
The camp officials have been awaiting some opportunities to avenge the refugees since last June hunger strike by refugees. So, the information of “refugees holding a meeting against repatriation to Burma” encouraged them to take opportunity to avenge against the refugees, said an elderly refugee who preferred not to mention his name for his security reason.
Over 41 Roingya refugees and police and ansars were injured and 12 refugees were arrested in a violent clash that continued for two hours (from 9:30 am to 11:30 am). Later, refugee camp was surrounded by police, ansars and BDR at night, said a refugee.
In the clashes, traded around 200 rounds of bullets at Kutupalong camp in Ukhiya upazila on first day of 18th November 2004, said police officials.
The second day, on 19th November, about 500 forces of the said joint forces with the cooperation of reserved forces and local goons, again attacked the refugee camp from 4: 00 am to 9:00 am. This time they didn’t fire any bullet but used sticks only. The local goons looted gold ornaments, clothes, utensils and took away 40 ration books from the refugees. This time refugees were severely tortured including females and many arrested. Some female refugees were raped by local goons. Of them, one identified Rashida Begum, a refugee teacher was raped.
This day, also nearly 60 refugees were injured and over 90 refugees were arrested. It is very difficult to collect information about the situation of the refugees because of the tight security and don’t allow to speak to each other, and no one can approach to the refugee camp, said a refugee leader who is nearby the camp and unwilling to mention his name for his security.
According to the “The Daily Inquilab” of 20th November, 33 refugees were arrested by police.
The identified 14-dead refugee including 3 females and two children are: Mohammad Ishaque Master, 45, a refugee leader, Sabber Ahmed, 28, Eshan Ullah,10, son of Kabir, Mohammad Zobair, Mohamed Sadek, 21, son of Molvi Hason, Shaffiullah, Saleh Ahmed,55, Mohammad Haron, father of Nurul Alam, son of Shabbir, 7, Tasnim (female),8, Noor Jahan (female), Asiya Khatun( female),30, died at Cox’s Bazar hospital with bullet injuries, Khaleda Begum wife of Shamshu, a pregnant woman was killed at refugee camp on the spot after hitting bullet to her stomach, said a refugee master from Kutupalong camp.
Among the dead body, Mohammad Ishaque Master was killed of a deep stab wound in the chest and the attackers also stabbed in the nose and forehead. His two front teeth were pulled out forcibly and the right hand was also cut off before his death, said a relative of Ishaque Master from the refugee camp.
The corpses of Saleh Ahmed, Eshan Ullah and Sabber Ahmed were buried at Kalatoli Graveyard of Cox’s Bazar after the Namaz-e-Janaza in front of the hospital in the after noon. About 19 people attended their Namaz-e-Janaza including Camp- in-Charge and were buried at night as to avoid from common people, said a relative of the dead body from Cox’s Bazar.
Some of the injured refugees were sent to Cox’s Bazar hospital and then sent to Chittagong Medical Hospital those who were critical condition. Police officer Wahid accompanied by 7 other injured policemen and ansars were also admitted to Cox’s Bazar Sadar Hospital, said officials.
When asked a refugee from Nayapara camp, “We fell very sad and expressed deep shock at the death of refugees and convey condolences to their bereaved families. Now, it is our turn. On 19th November 2004, before Friday prayer, the Lal Bhani (violence controlling forces) is sent to our camp, and maybe, first forced repatriation will be started in our camp.”
On 20th November 2004, the authorities have withdrawn BDR personnel deployed in the camp area on 18th November as no untoward incident took place, said police officals.