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Friday, January 29, 2010

Indigenous People, Settlers Clash: Tension mounts in Rangamati

Source: The Daily Star News

Tension is mounting in Gangaram Mukh area under Baghaichhari upazila in the hill district over a clash between settlers and indigenous people on January 21 that left 12 people injured.

Following the incident, indigenous people have boycotted the only bazar Bagaihat while blockade on Bagaihat-Sajek road has been continuing, causing suffering to some 40,000 people of the remote area.

Sources said the district administration is yet to take an initiative to resolve the problem.

Gyanendu Bikash Chakma, an indigenous leader of Gangaram, said the incident took place in the area when the World Food Programme (WFP) team came to distribute food grains among the people.

A section of settlers looted some 20 sacs of WFP rice and beat up some 12 indigenous people, he alleged.

Sajek Nari Samaj (SNS) then put up a blockade on the road and boycotted Bagaihat bazar, demanding return of the indigenous lands allegedly grabbed by the settlers. The movement has been continuing, he added.

Mohammad Nazim Uddin, a leader of the settlers, denied the allegations of looting rice and beating up any indigenous people.

Moreover, they (Indigenous) have made the lives of the settlers miserable. They have been passing days without food, water and medicine. Even they cannot move freely for fear of indigenous cadres, he alleged.

“For the last two years, they killed our six men, including Rashel, Aman, Mojibor, Alakesh, Rahman and Nurunnabi, but we are deprived of getting any legal aid from the administration.”

Chiko Chakma told The Daily Star that, “The settlers wanted to grab their lands and orchards. We informed the local administration of the matter several times, but it didn't take any action.”

L Thanga Pankhuya, chairman of Sajek Union Parishad, said the disputed land belongs to the government reserve forest. So none can claim that it is their land.

Baghaichhari Upazila Nirbahi Officer Humayun Kabir said local people have been suffering for road blockade and boycott of the bazar.

The district administration has been holding talks with both sides to settle the matter, he added.

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