Kalpana Chakma, an indigenous and women rights activist was abducted on 12 June, 1996 from her home in Rangamati, Chittagong Hill Districts which is the most militarized part of Bangladesh. The government’s investigation agency totally failed to provide any information regarding her whereabouts even after 17 years of the abduction, mainly due to the slow pace in the investigation along with government backed negligence in impartial investigation to the abduction allegedly committed by the army personnel.
She was abducted from her village home at New Lalyaghona, Baghaichari in Rangamati which is a remote area of CHT region. She was abducted several hours before polling to the seventh national elections began. Kalpana had been campaigning for independent candidate Bijay Ketan Chakma, then senior presidium member of Pahari Gana Parishad, supported by all hill peoples’ organisations which were then active.
Soon after, the abduction Bijoy Ketan chakma along with few others rights activists visited the spot and documented and recorded deposition of eyewitnesses and other evidences.
Kalpana’s brother, Kalindi Kumar Chakma later filed a First Information Report (FIR) where he reported that Kalpana was abducted by Lieutenant Ferdous (from Kojoichori Army camp in Rangamati), along with two Village Defence Police (VDP) members – Nurul Haque and Salah Ahmed.
The military has categorically denied their involvement. Due to the national and international pressure after the abduction , the then prime minister Shekh Hasina established a three-member judicial enquiry committee in September 1996, to inquire into Kalpana Chakma’s abduction. One of the member of the judicial enquiry committee Professor Anupam Sen, vice-chancellor, Premier University, formerly professor of sociology, Chittagong University, in 2010 admitted to media that “Enquiry committee didn’t have full powers’” to investigate the abduction despite of being a judicial enquiry committee.
The report was titled, ‘Rangamati Parbotto jelar Miss Kalpana Chakma opohrito howar ghotona todonto koribar jonno gothito todonto commission kortrik prodotto todonto protibedon’ Investigation report of the enquiry committee set up to investigate the abduction of Miss Kalpana Chakma of Rangamat, Hill district). The Commission submitted its report after more than one year of the abduction. The report was not made public.
The 40-page report of the judicial enquiry concluded that ‘Kalpana Chakma has willingly or unwilling been abducted but it was not possible for us to identify the abductor for lack of witnesses and evidence and there remains no grounds to recommend that legal action should be taken against anyone’. The commission also said that it found no involvement of the military or the VDP in the abduction. It failed to identify any suspects.
After the judicial enquiry committee investigation, The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of police started another investigation into the matter. CID took more than 16 years to conclude the investigation and later submitted its report to the court.
The court, however, had to reject the report submitted by CID saying it did not identify the abductors and lacked information about Kalpana’s whereabouts.
In 2010, a Rangamati court ordered the reinvestigation of Kalpana Chakma’s case following her brother Kalindi Kumar Chakma’s rejection of the CID report. The CID report also failed to identify anyone involved in the abduction. The case is now being investigated by the police superintendent of Rangamti who has expressed her unwillingness to investigate the case.
Later, on January 16, 2013, the court appointed Rangamati Police Super Amena Begum for reinvestigating the incident. But, till date she had failed to submit any investigation report and prayed for more time.
Moreover, On April 24, 2013 Amena had filed a petition with the court praying for giving the investigation duty back to the CID and involving the additional superintendent of police. The court, however, did not entertain the prayer and ordered her to proceed with her duty.
Kalpana’s brother Kalindi Kumar Chakma, who claimed to be a witness of the alleged abduction, told in several occasions to media: “It seems they [law enforcers] are playing a game with us. I am frustrated. All I can do now is call upon the conscious people of the country who believe in humanity to help me ensure justice for my sister, whom we lost 17 years ago.”
The slow pace of investigation has triggered a global campaign for ensuring justice for Kalpana and her family. The Amnesty International on November 13, 2013 started a campaign titled “Write for Rights” on and requested solidarity letters for Kalindi. Till date, around 250 such solidarity letters for Kalpana has been received from around the world.
There have been many news reports in the last 17 years in the media about Kalpana Chakma’s abduction. The International Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission wrote about the abduction of Kalpana Chakma in their report ‘Life is not Ours’. Amnesty International Urgent Action issued a statement about Kalpana Chakma in 1996. Human Rights Watch in its 2009 report ‘Ignoring Executions and Torture: Impunity for Bangladesh’s Security Forces’ mentions Kalpana Chakma’s case under “Key Cases of Impunity the New Government Should Address”.
A number of articles in international media also has been published regarding the abduction including “Lost but not forgotten in Bangladesh” in Huffington Post in December, 2013.
The abductors of Kalpana Chakma are still free. Sources in the military said: prime accused lieutenant Ferdous is still serving his duty in the force. The state has failed to give justice for Kalpana Chakma. For how long will we continue to let put up with this impunity that the state provides to perpetrators of such violence.
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