Remembering Kalpana Chakma

June 29, 2010

It was about 14 years ago that a 20-year old indigenous rights activist Kalpana Chakma disappeared and is presumably dead.  We know that she was kidnapped along with two of her brothers in the middle of the night, the day before the 1996 general elections.

She was the fiery and young general secretary of the Hill Women’s Federation, a group dedicated to a peaceful Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).  She spoke out against abuses committed by the Bangladeshi Army in the indigenous areas that make up the CHT.  For this, she apparently paid with her life.

In human rights work, there is an immediacy that comes from ensuring that human rights defenders are protected now.  We also lose sight of activists in countries like Bangladesh with the whirlwind of Guantanamo Bay, Gaza and other human rights crisis closer to home.  But, we are sometimes forced to remember those rights activists who paid the ultimate price for defending the rights of their people.  Kalpana Chakma was one of those individuals and we must not rest until we bring the people who kidnapped her to justice.