Sunday, May 18, 2008

Land grabs in the Chittagong Hill Tracts

Three examples of land belonging to indigenous people being seized illegally in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, and their property destroyed. I shall be going to Copenhagen to participate in the meeting of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission at the end of May:

NGO accused of grabbing land in Bandarban
News No. 85/2008, May 18, 2008

Development Organisation of the Rural Poor, a local NGO, is accused of grabbing lands belonging to Tripura nationality in Lama Upazila of Bandarban.

An NGO by the name of DORP has cleared fruit orchards and other trees of the Tripura people in Lama Upazila of Bandarban and then set fire to it, reports Prothom Alo, a vernacular daily published from Dhaka.

Now a signboard reading 'Saistyogram Dorp' (Sanatorium Village Dorp) has been put up over the said land, it added.

Taking responsibility for the destruction of the orchards, Dorp said it had taken those lands on lease. However, chairman of Bandarban District Council, Professor Thanzama Lusai and district administration officials refuted the claim saying there was no scope for land leases after the CHT peace accord.

The indigenous Tripura people have been living, for hundreds of years, in Tongo Zhiripara village under Soroi Union that lies about 20km north of Bandarban Sadar Upazila on Sualok-Lama road. Although a few families have land documents, others have been practicing Jum cultivation on the hills for generations under traditional land management system. The villagers said 10 - 12 days ago Dorp people cut the trees of their gardens in 25 - 30 acres of land and then set them on fire.

Khenda Tripura (65) said "I grew a mixed garden of teak, Gorjon, Gamari, mango and jackfruit in about 10 acres of land near my 2-acre plough land that I had been granted in 1982. The Dorp people have occupied both the plough land and the garden."

Rongsaha Tripura said "I grew an orchard five years ago. Now my heart breaks when I look at the destroyed orchard."

Zillyamoni, Rungkoma, Bikram Moni and many others said their titled lands and orchards had been grabbed by Dorp people.

Nurul Alam, a labourer employed by Dorp, said on orders of Dorp's Executive Director Noman and its field organisers Ayub and Malek, 20 - 25 labourers cut the orchards of the Tripura people and then set fire to it.

In this regard Dorp's Executive Director AHM Noman said they have 150 acres of hilly land in the area taken on lease. They have now taken initiative to grow a garden and build a hospital there. He claimed that the Tripuras did not possess any land in the said area.

A study of land leases records in the office of the Deputy Commissioner has revealed that Dorp's chief coordinator Babul Kumar Adhikari, AHM Noman, Nurul Islam and some others have been granted lease of 25 acres each in Doluchari Mouza. The leases were granted in the year 2000. However, under the provision of CHT peace accord land leases and transfer of lands already leased out should have ceased. The District Council officials were of the same view that as per the District Council Act of 1998, these leases were illegal.

Professor Thanzama Lusai, chairman of Bandarban District Council, said the Chittagong Hill Tracts Ministry had been requested to revoke all the leases granted after the CHT peace accord and the District Council Acts came into effect and without prior permission of the Councils. He added that he will take actions after an inquiry into the activities of Dorp.

The Officer-in-charge (OC) of Lama police station, Abul Kashem, said he had been informed that an NGO styled DORP cleared the orchards and gardens belonging to the Tripura people and added that the issue was under investigation.

Mohammad Ali, chairman of Soroi Union Council, agrees that what Dorp has done is tantamount to grabbing of indigenous Tripura people's land.

The Tripura villagers further said they had protested when their orchards were being cut. In order to scare the indigenous people off, the Dorp people filed a general diary (GD) with the local police station claiming that the Tripuras demanded Taka 2 lakhs (Taka 200 thousand) as subscription. They also alleged that the Dorp people had threatened them with arrest and even death.

Jonti, Manik Chandra, Bikram and Satyoram Tripura and many others said after the threats the indigenous people get frightened at the mere sight of police personnel in the area.
Based on Prothom Alo report published today, 18 May 2008.

From the Daily Star, March 2, 2008

20 acre lands of tribesmen grabbed in Khagrachhari
Haque's two sons are leaders of Jubo Dal and Chhatra Dal
Our Correspondent, Khagrachhari

Aminul Haque's two sons are leaders of BNP fronts-- Jubo Dal and Chhata Dal. He allegedly grabbed about 20 acre lands of indigenous people in Ganjapara union in Khagrachhari during the past alliance government.

Aminul is a resident of Mohazonpara Narikel Bagun area in the Sadar upazila. His son Bahadur Alam alias Bahar is Khagrachhari Jubo Dal vice-president and the other-- Shahidul Hoqueis a cadre of district Chatra Dal, the victims said.

The lands grabbed by Aminul Haque earlier belonged to some 10 indigenous families in Ganjapara, according to Golabari Union Parishad Chairman Chaila Prue Marma and some other sources.

While talking to this correspondent, some of the victims complained that Aminul grabbed most of the lands by using political clout during the rule of four-party alliance government. They were helpless as sections of unscrupulous officials and political leaders connived with the land grabber who also threatened of muscle power, they said.

They said they went to authorities concerned for legal action but they were 'harassed by some officials and local political leaders', they claimed.

"I went to the court of First Class Magistrate on August 8 last year to seek legal action. The then magistrate ordered police to investigate the matters and record a case", Golabari UP Chairman Chailapru Marma told this correspondent yesterday.

"But have not yet investigated the matter, let alone filing of case", he said.

Sub-Inspector Rafiq, who was asked to probe the allegations have done nothing so far, he said. "Rather, he has very good relations with the grabber", Chailapru Marma said.

He said he also submitted a complaint to joint forces in December last year to take steps for return of the grabbed lands.

Chaindi Aung Marma, 61, of Ganjapara area alleged that Haque grabbed about two acre lands of her family by making fake document.

"He (Haque) leased the land for two years for a brick field from my brother Mrasathowai Marma. After my brother died, he declined to return the land, saying my brother sold the land", she said.

Chaindi filed a case with the civil judge's court.

Anil Chakma of Perachhara Darmapur area claimed that Haque grabbed about one acre of his land. He moved police stations but to no effect, he claimed.

The victims also include Satho Aung Marma, Neeaung Marma and Lali Marma alais Lal Buri, who alleged that Haque grabbed about 10 acres of their land by using the then ruling party cadres and forged documents.

Some Bangalee people also alleged that was tried to grab their lands.

The victims alleged that Haque enjoyed the blessings of Khagrachhari municipality chairman and district BNP secretary Joynal Abedin, among others.

Joynal Abedin, a close aide to former lawmaker Wadud Bhuiyan, is also advisor to the Parbattya Chattagram Samo Adhiker Andolon (PCSAA), a forum of Bangla speaking people in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).

While contacted, Hoque said he has all legal documents on the lands but he could not show any paper. He however admitted that he is facing some cases regarding land.

Assistant Police Superintendent (ASP) Mohammad Tareq Ahmed, when contacted, said police has nothing to do till case is filed. He however said he will look into the matter.

When contacted, Joynal Abedin denied his involvement with Haque in land grabbing.


A group of citizens conducted an on-site inquiry on 28th and 29th April 2008 in Sajek Union, Rangamati District, following press reports of about 150 houses being burnt down across seven villages in the area. On arrival in the area, we saw that in eight villages within the reserved forest area in Sajek Union -- Nursery Para, Daney Bhaibachora, Bamey Bhaibachora, Purbopara, Balughatpara, Retkaba, MSF Para and Gongaram Mukh – the mostly Pahari houses which had been burnt down to the ground remained just as they were. The charred remains of burnt houses could be seen across a four kilometer long area. Many people are still in hiding. Others told us that several persons were injured during this incident. People do not have proper shelter, and some remain under open skies.
For the full story see

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