At least 7 innocent Rohingyas were arrested yesterday in a village in Rathedaung Township over the blatant allegations of refusing to participate in the census re-enumeration process, while many other villagers have been being tortured since then, the local reliable sources say.
The arrested victims were identified: 1. Mv Ataullah son of Tazuddin 44, 2. Mv. Yousuf Jalal son of Sayed Ahmed 52, 3. Mv Mohd Ali son of Hafez Ahmed 42, 4. Mr. Matalab son of Mohammed 58, 5. Iman Hussain son of Furuk Ahmed 42, 6. Abdu Salam son of Sultan 48, and Boni Amin son of Ayub 22 all are from Rajarbill Rathedaung.
In November 2014, a group of authorities and census holders came to Rajarbill and called up all the villagers in the name of a meeting but forced them (the villagers) to fill up a form (in which their ethnicity is pre-mentioned as Bangali). However, even after trying for 8 days, they only managed to force 15 families to fill up the forms. Later, the other villagers refused to attend anny meeting as they came know the reality behind such meetings.
Hence, the authorities left the village without getting any more people filled up the forms. A few days later, they sent a letter to village headman mentioning “we will come on 10th February 2015 once again and all the villagers must attend to participate in census enumeration and taking family-group photos. If you refuse, we will take action against them.” And they also listed down 6 elders and respected persons from the village accusing that they (the six people) are campaigning to urge the villagers not to take part in the census re-enumeration.
These 6 people are: 1. Mv. Abdul Shukkur (Principle of the Madarasah, the religious school) 2. Mv. Ataullah (former principle of the Madarasah) 3. Mr. Bandula, 4. Mr. Matalab, 5. Mr Amir Ahmed, 6. Mr. Nizam. Later on the day, some military personnel came to village and inquired about the people. Since the people had gone into hiding, the military were unable to arrest them. Hence, the military broke into their homes and seized away some things suspected to be very important.
Around 8:00AM yesterday, about 26 members of the census enumerating body arrived in the village and summoned all the villagers for a meeting at the school premise in the village. About 40 people attended the meeting. During the meeting, the authority threatened and tortured the villagers to bring on their families and to sign on census paper and to fill up the so-called census forms along with family-group photographing.
About 14 families came up due to the force used by the authority and filled up the form and took family-group photographs and 26 families still refused to attend. Of the absent families, two are respectively families of Mv. Ataullah and Mr Matalab targeted by the government since before.
These two people were arrested by the Border Guard Police (BGP) subsequently and taken to custody with their hands cuffed. And the census papers of other 26 family were forcibly taken away to the border guard police station in the township and the police ordered these families to be present at the police station next morning (i.e. this morning) with all the family members for the census papers.
The BGP, on their way back, also arrested Mv Yousuf Jalal and Iman Hussain and took them away to their station. Again about 4PM yesterday, a group of 10 BGP personnel came to the village and arrested 3 more people from blacklisted by the authority mentioned above. And the police ordered all the Rohingya passers-by to attend the police station the next morning for family census verification.
Among the last 3 arrestees, Boni Amin son of Ayub was sent to jail as he was not in the family registration list for a year.
At about 8PM, the village headman went to the police custody for their bails. He was rather insulted and ordered to bring more 3 warranted persons the next day and 70 more families for the census at the police station.
The arrested people were not given any food and tortured in the custody for whole night.
Around 8am this morning, 19 families of the 26 families went to the police station for census. And of the remaining 7 families, six were forced to attend the police station for the census. The police harrassed them; forced the women to take off their veils and scarves; the men to take off their caps; and took family group photos.
“This was the worst ever treatment of our people under the banner of census enumeration and taking family group photos. So brutal and humiliating!” said a victim.
At about 11am today, the 6 people arrested the previous day were released and threatened of getting arrested once again if they disclosed the matter to other villagers.
There were only 24 Rohingya village hamlets in Rathedaung Township amidst 24 Rakhine villages tracts. 3 of the villages were uprooted during the violence against Rohingya in 2012 and placed them in IDP camps in Shilkali (Chinkali) village located nearby southern-most Maungdaw. Now, “the besieged Rohingya community in Rathedaung is under pressures of the Rakhine extremists and the government forces. And we have become victims of harassments and tortures. We are living without any hope” said a local Rohingya victim.