Bhushanchhara Tragedy

Horror still haunts survivors

Nur Uddin Alamgir

31 May, 2021 12:00 AM printer

CHATTOGRAM: The horror still haunts the survivors of the Bhushanchhara tragedy, the deadliest mass-killing carried out by the ‘Shanti Bahini’ around 37 years back at Barkal upazila in the hilly Rangamati district.

Around 450 people were killed and several hundred injured in the brutal pre-dawn attack carried out on the sleeping Bangalees by the Shanti-Bahini, the military wing of the Parbatya Chattogram Jana Sanghati Samiti of Santu Larma, on May 31 in 1984.

Though the trials of many decades-old incidents had taken place in the country, the Bhushanchhara tragedy remained out of focus.

Besides, neither the victims’ family nor the survivors were compensated till date.

While visiting the remote Bhushanchhara village, some 55 kilometre from the Rangamati district headquarters, a solemn atmosphere was seen prevailing in and around the area.

People from all walks of life were seen attending a condolence and discussion meeting organised to mark the day at the Bhushanchhara Primary School field.

Many broke into tears while narrating the horrifying experiences and mourning the dearer and nearer ones.

Sexagenarian Abdul Hai said they arrived at the Bhushanchhara two years before the deadly incident.

 “I lost 12 members of my family including mother, sister and nephew in the attack carried out by the ‘Shanti Bahini,” said Hai breaking into tears.

 “It was a dawn like every day when we heard gunshots from east side of the village. The armed cadres proceeded through setting houses on fire and spraying gunshots indiscriminately,” he said.

 “As I attempted to flee, they opened fire on me and other family members. Though I survived despite sustaining two bullets, my 12 family members ageing from four to 60 years were killed brutally,” said Abdul Hai.

Hai’s brother Md Abdul Hamid, who was a VDP-man then, alleged that Major Moni Swapan Dewan alias Major Rajesh of the Shanti Bahini led the killing on that day.

The elderly person demanded exemplary punishment to Moni Swapan, who later became lawmaker from BNP and deputy minister of the BNP-led four-party alliance government during the 2001-2006 tenure.

Hamid also said if the government can try the war criminals after several decades, those who were behind the Bhushanchhara carnage also should be brought under trial.

Moreover, though the then government assured compensation immediately after the incident, the victims’ family or the survivors didn’t get any assistance, alleged Hamid. He also demanded compensation and rehabilitation for the affected family members.

Nurunnahar Begum, who was injured with bullets on the day, said they hid into bush of a canal after hearing the gunshots.  “But, the armed terrorists prayed bullets indiscriminately, leaving them injured,” she said.

 “The insurgents are leading a free life after the peace accord, but the victims are neglected in all aspects,” said Nurunnahar demanding government assistance to survive further. Many others like Hai, Hamid and Nurunnahar came up with same allegations and demanded immediate steps from the government’s side.

It has been learnt that Shanti Bahini in a preplanned attack swopped on the sleeping Bangalees with firearms and sharp weapons and killed them irrespective of ages.

It is considered as the deadliest killing in the history of the Chattogram hill tracts. Other tragedies include Rajnagar massacre, Pakuakhali tragedy and Matiranga tragedy. A group of around 150 members of the insurgent group unleashed the attack on the BDR camp and Bangalees at the Bhushanchhara. The criminals including their female cadres carried out the attack in two groups till 8.30 am.

Residences were also torched to clean up the settlements. Local BDR and Army-men informed about the genocide to the higher authorities by wireless communicating tools. High officials visited the area while the bodies were buried in the mass graveyards to hide the incident. Media also couldn’t publish the news for an embargo.

Many survivors also left the area after being panicked. Bodies were lying here and there while bad odours made the environment unbearable.

On the other hand, some casualties occurred after the angered Bangalees attacked a tribal village following the carnage. Some international media highlighted the incident from outside of the country.

The incident suppressed the deadliest mass-killing at that time, claimed the sources.