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Monday, May 19, 2008

CHT Land Grabbing: a NGO ‘DORP’ occupies orchards of the indigenous people in Bandarban

Report Submitted by: Aungkyew Mong, Coordinator Kapaeeng Watch

CHT Land GrabbingA NGO 'DORP' occupies orchards of the indigenous people in BandarbanVery recently a non-government organisation named Development Organisation of the Rural Poor (DORP) run by non-indigenous Bengali outsiders occupied the orchards of the indigenous Tripura community at Tongo Jiripara of Soroi union under Bandarban sadar upazila in Bandarban district.It is leant that the DORP set fire on orchards around 35 acres after cutting its trees planted by the indigenous villagers and hang up a signboard 'Swasthagram DORP' (Health Village Dorp) on that land. DORP is opposing indigenous villagers to enter to this area and threatening, otherwise, to lodge case with police station. Local Tripura villagers are passing days with fear. DORP claimed that the lands have been leased out to the DORP. However, chairman of the Bandarban Hill District Council (HDC) Mr. Thanzama Lusai and district administration said that there is no opportunity to give leasing out any land as per CHT Peace Accord.It is worth mentioning that indigenous Tripura villagers have been living in this area alongside of Sualok-Lama road 20 kilometers away from Bandarban district headquarters. Though some villagers have title deed, but most of the indigenous villagers have been using these lands for generations as per their tradition and customs without government registration.Kshetra Tripura (65), an indigenous villager said that he got settlement of 2 acres of paddy land in 1982 and built up a mix-variety orchard on 10 acres of its surrounding grove land. DORP occupied all the paddy and grove land, he added. Another villager Rongsaha Tripura said that he built up orchard on 5 acres of land 5-6 years ago. Now he became nervous seeing his orchard has completely been burnt to ashes. All the villagers including Jilya Moni Tripura, Rangkoma Tripura, Bikram Moni Tripura informed that their lands and orchards have been occupied by the DORP.Regarding setting fire, Mr. Nurul Alam, a labourer of the DORP said that they 20-25 labourers set fire on the orchards after cutting its plantation as per direction of the DORP executive director Mr. A H M Noman, field officer Mr. Iyub and Mr. Malek. As a day labourer, they have nothing to do.Referring to this incident, executive director of DORP Mr. A H M Noman said that they got lease around 150 acres of grove lands including this land. Accordingly, DORP undertook plan to build up an orchard and hospital on this land. He claimed that this land is not owned by Tripura villagers.It is found after scrutiny of the land documents at deputy commissioner's office that 25 acres land has been leased out in the name of a group of Bengalis including coordinator of DORP Babul Kumar Odhikari, A H M Noman and Nurul Islam in 2000. However, according to the CHT Peace Accord of 1997, no lease can be made without prior approval of the concerned HDC. According to the HDC Act of 1998, any lease without prior approval of HDC is completely illegal. Chairman of the Bandarban HDC Mr. Thanzama Lusai said that CHT Affairs Ministry has been asked to cancel all these leases given after CHT Peace Accord without prior approval of the HDC. He added that necessary actions would be taken after conducting inquiry on this DORP incident.Officer-in-charge (OC) of Lama police station Mr. Abul Kasem said that he heard this incident that DORP occupied land of the Tripura community. It is being looked into, he added. Chairman of the Soroi union Mr. Mohammad Ali said that DORP incident is nothing but to occupy the land of the Triupra villagers.

[This report has been prepared on basis of news published in Bengali daily 'Prothom Alo' on 18 May 2008]

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