Monti Chakma, general secretary of central Hill Women’s Federation, who was abducted along with one of her colleagues on March 18 by a group of armed men, addressed a press conference at Dhaka Reporters’ Unity on Sunday morning where she described the abduction in detail and named several of her abductors.
Surrounded by her friends and well-wishers, Monti said the abduction was carried out by people she knew, and accused the administration and law enforcement agencies of being aware of the incident.
She said on the day of the kidnapping, she was at Kumudchhari Student Mess discussing various matters with Doyasona Chakma, general secretary of the Rangamati chapter of the Hill Women’s Federation, Dharmasingh Chakma, and Kunteku Chakma.
“Around 9:15am, the discussion was broken up by the sound of gunfire. Everyone fled for cover. Doyasona and I tried hiding in two houses adjacent to the mess, but we were discovered by the assailants.
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“Although they are referred to as ‘Nobbo Mukhosh bahini’ (new masked men), they do not wear masks. All of them are more or less known to everyone in the villages.”
Monti went on: “I was caught and dragged to the courtyard as they held me in a chickenwing. They asked Doyasona to cooperate with them. When she refused, they fired a shot at the ground near her feet to intimidate her into acquiescing,” Monti recanted.
Afterwards, they set fire to the mess without any regards for loss of life or material.
She continued: “Before leaving the area, they shot Dharmasingh and would have killed him if his sister had not rushed to his side and clutched him desperately. While they were walking away, I heard one of them lament ‘could not kill a single one of them’ before we were forced to walk.”
The two CHT-based women’s leaders were made to walk around five miles in broad daylight by their abductors.
She identified several of them as- Tapan Jyoti Chakma alias Borma, Prottoy Chakma, Ronoy Chakma, and Kailash Moni Chakma. The kidnappers paused at a house in the village of Perachhara to rest for a while.
They were put on a motorboat from Perachhara to a village called Monghla via a major river route in Naniarchar, Rangamati. After dinner, they were taken to another village called Gullachhari close to the army camp in Islampur.
“Five of the kidnappers were assigned to guard us night and day. Tapan left before threatening to follow up on his previous threats to rape me. We spent two days there in abject terror,” Monti said.
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On March 20, the two were put on the motorboat again to be moved to Mohalchhari. Although Tapan, who appeared to be the in charge of the kidnapping, was not with them, Monti identified three of the kidnappers as Uttaran, Riton, and Jimot.
Around 9pm, they disembarked at Monatek where a group of seven to eight people received them.
“They took us to Dhonpudibazar in Muvachhari, which is known as a stronghold of JSS MN Larma reformers. We were forced to walk to another house where we stayed the night. After waking us up at the crack of dawn, we were forced to walk for at least six hours to a remote location in Chhoto Merung. I recognized two more – Toru and Miton – who were accompanying several other members. We feared for our lives in this desolate place.
“After being moved again following another overnight stay, we found ourselves in Bajechhara village near Chongchhari army camp. It was at Bajechhara where we were imprisoned for days. We could not step out of the house. We could rarely get opportunities to freshen up. The guards would even accompany us to the toilets.”
Monti said she and Doyasona were ordered to read out scripts absolving the kidnappers and the JSS reformers of all responsibility in regards to the kidnapping. Furthermore, they were instructed to blame Proshit Khisa for the kidnapping which the abductors wanted to pin on UPDF infighting.
When the abductees asked if or when they would be released, the answer was surprising.
“A weapons shipment has arrived. Our leaders including Tapan have gone to receive it. Your release might be finalized after they return,” one of the abductors told Monti and Doyasona.
On April 7, the abductors gave them a change of fresh clothing – pants, t-shirts, and a cap. After changing, they were taken to Boradam village in Dighinala with an armed escort.
Monti said: “We were put up in a house next to Boradam Government Primary School. The army was occupying the school for a function during the time.”
On April 12 midnight, Monti and Doyasona were woken up and moved to another house. The next few days saw them move again and again to Khagrachhari. Monti noted that it was strange that they were not stopped at any of the check-posts.
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After spending five days in Khagrachhari, Tapan arrived on April 17 and hinted at releasing them soon.
He approached Monti and tempted her with providing a job and saying: “What else can a woman do? Get married and work in the house.”
Tapan returned the next day and took photos with the abductees.
On the night of April 19, the two were handed to their parents at the gates of the Armoured Police Battalion office in Khagrachhari sadar in full view of public representatives and the police.
Monti said her release was conditional. The abductors demanded they give up politics, never leave the village without Tapan’s permission, and never discuss the kidnapping with anyone.
“If we violated their conditions, they threatened to harm us and our families,” Monti told the audience.
Lax nature of law enforcement
Doyasona’s father Bishadhon Chakhma filed a case against 19 people on March 23. Monti alleged that the police did not make any inquiries during the period of abduction and even after their return.
She also accused the administration and law enforcement agencies of being aware of the kidnapping.
Monti fled to Dhaka on April 24 and said her family is being threatened for her actions. She appealed for the security of their families.