The influential land grabbers with the support of political figures successfully forcibly evicted 21 families of the indigenous Chak community from their ancestral homes of Chak Para at Badurjhiri under Naikhangchhari upazila in Bandarban on March 15, 2013 in the name of rubber plantation. The newspapers reported that victim families including of around 100 members are being homeless to lose their 582 acres of land by the grabbers and now they are living in vulnerability of death.
The victim of Chak community took shelter in another place
These traumatized indigenous families became refugees after losing down all and living in inhuman situation in another shelter at Baishari village of the same upazilla. Besides, another 210 families of the Indigenous Mro communities in Lama upazilla are sufferings in fears of abandon from their land. However, the grabbing process is known to have been creeping for the last four years following an illegal lease of land handed over to the vested interest quarters.
The Chak— one of the tiniest communities among other indigenous communities in Chittagong Hill Tracts concentrated in remote forest villages at Naikhongchhari upazila in Bandarban Hill District in South-Eastern part of Bangladesh covered with hills and natural forests. They are facing severe threats of armed muggers hired by the land grabbers and lost their all belongings. The bandits raided Chaks houses at night and robbed everything including domestic cattle’s. The outsiders mostly land grabbers targeted their land and plundering every natural resources from it and forced the Chaks to abandon their homesteads due to the invasion of rubber and tobacco monoculture.
In this context, ALRD’s network partner Kapaeeng Foundation conducted a fact finding investigation in this two upazila with 14 members of civil society rights based activists group comprising human rights defenders, indigenous rights activists, media activists and development workers led by eminent human rights defender Pankaj Bahttacharya. They have been visited the spots for three days on 14-16 June 2013 to observe profoundly the occurrence through visiting the victims, local leaders, accused group, policemen, general people at local level with detail discussion. Moreover, they made an interview of the Chairman of the Hill District Council, District Commissioner of Bandarban district, Bohmang circle chief and Chakma circle Chief in Bandarban. After returning back, Kapaeeng Foundation held a Press Conference on 19 June, 2013 in cooperation with ALRD at Liberation War Museum in Dhaka Bangladesh with the investigation team.
The investigation team talking with the local people
The press conference demanded the protection of indigenous Chak and Mro villagers from eviction as well as get back their land and to arrest accused land grabbers as soon as possible. While sharing the report to the media, the speakers viewed the incidence as a clear violation of human rights. Nevertheless, the land acquisition process is still going on in CHT, which basically started from 1970 by the state, security forces and all major political parties along with private and real estate companies directly or indirectly occupied a vast tract of land owned by the indigenous people. They emphasized reformation of government policy in dealing with indigenous issues. It was also alleged that influential politician used to take possession of lands in Bandarban hill district and the local administration does not step to stop the land grabbing. They cautioned that the situation in CHT might again become volatile because of a sense of insecurity of its people who are continuously losing their land due to non-implementation of the CHT peace accord signed between Bangladesh Government and Jana Samhati Samity (JSS) in 1997.
Some remarkable recommendations were made in the written statement by fact findings team is as follows:
Indigenous people have been facing forced evictions regularly in CHT, but the perpetrators’ are protected by local administrations. The protection should ensure to indigenous peoples too to pass their lives in freedom by state laws and regulations. The accused land grabbers should be arrested as soon as possible.
Return indigenous peoples land and rehabilitate the displaced families to their own place soon.
Leasing to business companies in a democratic state without public concern is an attitude of non-democratic and being the historical dominant political system. So, illegal land leasing should be cancelled.
At least five acres lands should be allocated for each evicted family which could be mere handover internally.
Provide vocational training to evicted community using their skills and expertise in modern time.
Amendment of contradictory provisions of CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001 as per decisions of CHT Accord Implementation Committee and Inter-ministerial meeting held on 30 July 2012 with Law Minister in the chair.
Later on, ALRD’s Executive Committee member Raja Devasish Roy, while drawing attention to this issue to the Prime Minister’s Advisor on Public Affairs Mr. H T Imam, he (Mr. Imam) expressed his deep concern over the issue and assured to look into this matter.