TWENTY-EIGHT years after, the family and comrades of Kalpana Chakma, a Hill Women’s Federation leader, still await justice as authorities have failed to resolve the abduction case. Kalpana was allegedly picked up on June 12, 1996 by a group of armed men, including a junior army officer, from her house in Rangamati. The case has recently been dismissed. In April, a judicial magistrate’s court in Rangamati accepted the final report that confirmed that Kalpana was abducted but failed to identify the perpetrators. Her brother Kalindi Kumar Chakma, a witness to the abduction and the plaintiff of the case, has consistently said that she was picked up by a group of armed men and raised concern about law enforcers’ sincerity. After the case dismissal, he expressed disappointment at the ethnically-biased legal system. He alleged that the police had dropped the name of the accused from the original first information report and subjected him and the family to interrogation and surveillance over the years but left the accused outside investigation purview. The case has been dismissed without ever properly interrogating the main accused which corroborates the claim that the police are out to save the alleged Bengali abductors of Kalpana.

In addition to a judicial enquiry commission and an internal army investigation in nearly three decades, at least three police investigations were conducted on the abduction. The judicial enquiry commission concluded that Kalpana was ‘willingly or unwillingly’ abducted. It was, however, not possible for the commission to identify the abductor for lack of witnesses and evidence. In July 2014, a police investigation report to the court relied on similar rhetoric, noting that since she herself was a witness to her abduction, no progress could be made until her return. In September 2016, the police submitted their final report, confirming the crime of abduction, and sought a court order dismissing the case because there was insufficient evidence or witness to continue. The plaintiff filed a no-confidence petition in October 2016 and waited for nearly eight years before a full hearing on the petition could take place in August 2023. It is, therefore, not an overstatement when Kalpana’s family and comrades say that there is an ethnically majoritarian Bengali bias in the legal system and that legal bureaucracy is used and abused to delay and deny justice in the case.

The dismissal of the Kalpana Chakma abduction case, therefore, lends credence to the public perception that the institutional impunity that the civil and military administrations enjoy in the Chittagong Hill Tracts is an impediment to judicious investigation and has been an obstacle to justice delivery in the hill tracts. Justice in this case could have helped the government to begin an era of better understanding between the Bengali and non-Bengali nationalities.


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