Kalpana Chakma – Lost but not forgotten in Bangladesh
When I was 23 I had just left University. I lived at home with my mum and dad, had a job in a little shop near my home and when I wasn’t working I spent time with friends. I had little to no interest in activism, and really, why would I? My family and way of life had never been threatened.
At a similar age Kalpana Chakma was the organising secretary of the Hill Women’s Federation in Bangladesh, campaigning to regain the land that had been stolen from her community, the Pahari people by the Bagladeshi government through the Bangladeshi army.
It was at the age of 23 that Kalpana was kidnapped from her home. The last memories her family have of her are of a girl of 23. What does Kalpana look like now 17 years later? What would she be doing if she hadn’t been taken?
In the early hours of the morning on 12 June 1996, Kalpana was abducted from her village. She and two of her brothers were forcibly taken from their home by security personnel believed to be from the Ugalchhari army camp. They were blindfolded and their hands were tied. Despite being shot at, her brothers managed to escape.
Her brothers Kalindi and Lal were able to identify their three captors by name and made sure that all possible information they could give was passed on to the police. This information however was ignored.
The police who filed the case did not mention the names that Kalindi and Lal shared. They were subsequently omitted from the investigation, and in a 2010 Final report submitted by the officers and a government-appointed commission stated that no specific witness or evidence was found against anyone related to Kalpana’s abduction.
Members of the Hill Women’s Federation along with Kalpana’s brother did not let this rest though. They have campaigned ever since, and with the help of the courts and public support from around the world, they were able to push to have the Police Superintendent ordered to submit a new report that took into account all of the evidence. The Judge also ordered that every effort should be given to ‘rescuing the victim Kalpana Chakma’.
Once again this court order has been ignored by the police. The Police Superintendent, after months of delays, stated that she agreed with the initial report that had been submitted but that she was unable to further investigate Kalpana’s case because she was too busy with administrative work including ‘controlling the law’. There has still been no new investigation report submitted by the Police Superintendent and Kalpana’s family have been left in the dark, wondering for 17 years what happened to her.
What is most shocking is how easy it has been for those who took Kalpana to get away with their crime. If it hadn’t been for the relentless work of the Hill Women’s Federation, as well Kalpana’s family, her disappearance would have easily been swept under the carpet, and all for the apparent political gains of a few.
How could the police just ignore evidence? And once this had been brought to light for all to see, how could they just keep doing it? Why, when the court ordered a new investigation, was it never properly carried out, and why has no one after all of these failings, been held accountable?
Please join us to make sure Kalpana’s story isn’t forgotten. By simply writing a message to Kalpana’s brother and the Hill Women’s Federation you can show your solidarity with Kalpana and show them that their continued fight for justice is not in vain. Sending a letter to the authorities in Bangladesh will show them that Kalpana has not been forgotten, and that until the world knows what happened to her, we will keep shining a spotlight on them.
Send a solidarity message to Kalpana’s family letting them know that you are thinking about them and stand with them in their struggle for justice:
Kalicharan Chakma (Kalpana’s brother)
C/o International CHT Commission
House 1/3, Block- F Lalmatia
And send an appeal message to the Minister of Home Affairs urging him to give ensure Kalpana’s case is properly investigated – simply download our sample appeal letter in the 'Downloads' section below.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.