Kalpana, I send you my greetings. I have wronged you, and there is no forgiveness [now]. I was so surprised to receive a letter one day, written in such beautiful handwriting. I don’t remember the date. But the letter says 4.3.95. Today is 11th July ‘96. You were forcibly taken away by armed miscreants exactly a month ago. Since reading the terrifying news in the newspapers I have been so fearful – I’ve been wondering how you are. Since then I’ve been looking for your letter which I’d put away somewhere safe for replying later, with some other letters. But I’d forgotten all about it, maybe, because I’d sorted and re-organised my papers. I finally found it today, close at hand.
Kalpana, I don’t know where you are. I don’t even know if you are alive. Every day I search the newspapers, I look for good news, or maybe, [statements] demand[ing] your release. Is there strong public opinion in your favour? Thus far, I have seen several statements from Mahila Parishad, Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Oikko Parishad, and your Pahari Chatra Parishad etc. I saw that Barrister Shahjahan led a rally outside the press club, I’d have gone if only I’d known.
Kalpana, I hadn’t known you for very long. We didn’t have very many days. But you filled out as a person through your letters. The earth of Chittagong is wet from the blood of many brave souls. Masterda Surja Sen, Ramkrishna Biswas, Ambika Chakrabarty, Pritilata Waddedar, Kalpana Dutta, Sarojini Pal, Nalini Pal, Kumudini Rakkhit and thousands of revolutionaries, all from Chittagong. They inspired us to oust the British from India, and later, to fight against the Pakistanis to gain our independence. Hundreds of thousands had unitedly raised their voices, ‘Surja Sener poth dhoro, Bangladesh swadhin koro.’
Kalpana, any abduction is a cruel, barbarous crime. A clear violation of human rights. No abduction is a petty crime, nor is it unforgiveable. But you are not ordinary. You’d been seething against oppression and torture faced for long by common paharis from the Pakistani ruling class, and after independence, from Bengali rulers. Or else, how could you have shouldered the responsibility of the Hill Women’s Federation? You’ve not completed your studies yet. You wrote in your letter of your determination to finish your studies.
Kalpana, can anyone deny that nearly one lakh paharis were made homeless because of the construction of the Kaptai dam during the 1960’s? How can one deny that in Bangladesh in 1972, [a country] achieved from the loss of lakhs of lives, the attempt to protect the existence of ten Jumma nationalities was annulled because it contradicted the central idea of ‘Bengali nationalism’? [How can one deny that] Instead of opening up paths for the development of pahari culture and undertaking necessary legal, administrative and practical measures which recognise the democratic aspirations of paharis, the decision to settle nearly one lakh homeless Bengalis in 1979 was not the right step – does not the continuing murder, assault, oppression, and other such incidents prove that [it was wrong]? And that is the reason why, because the situation in 1985-86 had worsened so badly, that 30,000 paharis fled from their soil and home which is dearer than life itself, and took refuge in Tripura state, later, the figure rose to 56,000.
Kalpana, have the pahari people forgotten the massacres that took place one after the other from 1989? We remember the Logang massacre, Kalampati union, Beltuli, Belchhori, Feni valley, Panchhori, Tabalchhari, Khagrachhari, Mohalchhari, Chongra-chhori and many more incidents, oppression and elimination in other areas [of the CHT].
Your letter is a bproof that you have not forgotten [these incidents]. You became a strong voice of protest against the oppression suffered by pahari people. Is that why they abducted you? Whoever did, is a coward.
A N Rasheda taught Botany at Notre Dame College; the above piece is an excerpt, published in Kalpana Chakmar Diary, edited by Hill Women’s Federation, Dhaka, 2001. The article originally came out in the daily Sangbad on July 14, 1996. Excerpt translated by Rahnuma Ahmed.
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