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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Civic group concern over the govt’s move to establish a BGB camp in Bandarban by acquiring indigenous people’s farm lands and a crematorium

Source: Kapaeeng Foundation

Civic rights group expressed concern over the government’s move to establish a Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) sector headquarters at Rawangchari upazila in Bandarban by acquiring indigenous Jumma people’s farm lands and a crematorium. They demanded immediate cancellation of establishment of BGB sector Headquarters.

Civic rights group raised the demand in a press conference held on 28th October 2014 at 11:00 am at Reporters Unity in Dhaka. The conference was held after the on-site inquiry of the grabbing of farm land and cremation ground by the BGB for the establishment of BGB sector headquarters in Kraikhyong-Hangsama Para in between Bandarban sadar and Rowangchari upazila in Bandarban district.

Mr. Dipayan Khisha an indigenous rights activist facilitated the conference while eminent columnist and researcher Saiyod Abul Maksud, Trustee of Liberation War Museum Zia Uddin Tarik Ali, associate professor of Mass Communication and Journalism Department of Dhaka University Robayet Ferdous, Human Rights Activist Advocate Nilufar Banu, Film Director Rashed Ryan and Executive Director of Kapaeeng Foundation Pallab Chakma were present among others. Rajib Mir, associate professor of Mass Communication and Journalism Department of Jagannath University read out main script of the press conference on behalf of the visiting team.

Eminent Columnist and researcher Mr. Syed Abul Maksud said that this issue should be raised in the Parliament and the establishment of the BGB sector Headquarter should be suspended until the issue is dissolved. He said this is a violation of the rights of indigenous peoples. The state is not discharging its responsibilities properly. He said that the government should immediately suspend the project.

Mr. Robayet Ferdous said that, militarization in CHT is still prevailing and there are 6 cantonment in 3 hill districts. The State doesn’t consider the indigenous people as its own people. That’s why indigenous peoples’ ancestral land has been grabbed violating the CHT Accord of 1997 and the provisions of CHT Regulation of 1900 and without any discussion with the concerned Circle Chief, Headmen, and Karbaries. There is no freedom of thoughts under military rule. He opined that by any means, the rights of the indigenous people and their lands should be protected.

Mr. Rajib Mir stated in his written statement that, they (BGB) have put up fence in a vast area without any beforehand notification. There is complains that the disadvantage indigenous people have lost almost everything they have to the land grabbers. Recently, the land grabbing for establishing of the BGB sector headquarters in the Khraikhyong-Hangsha Para of Rowangchari upazila it’s a new addition. It’s a questionable act when there is no discussion with the local leaders and the local people. Land grabbing would lead to the fear of eviction of indigenous villagers as well as demographic destruction of the region. He said that livelihoods of at least 300 families would be affected if the farm lands were was acquired for the paramilitary establishment.

The following recommendations have been proposed on behalf of the civic group that have visited the spot recently in the Press Conference:
  1. Grabbing of lands for building BGB sector Headquarter without the recommendation of Bohmang Circle Chief, Mouza Headman is a clear violation of the rules of the traditional land management of Chittagong Hill Tracts.
  2. Steps should be taken for proper discussion of the issue with CHT Regional Council, Bohmang Chief Circle, Mouza Headman, and the local dwellers.
  3. There should be a time frame with road map of the full implementation of the CHT Peace Accord of 1997.
It is mentionable that the local indigenous Marma villagers submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister of the Government of Bangladesh on 29 October 2014 demanding cancellation of land acquisition for BGB camp. They mentioned in the memorandum that Only 450 acres of land are currently available for traditional Jum cultivation for 500 landless families in 11 villages of the mouza. Out of the 7,000 acres of land under the mouza, 4,550 acres had been acquired by the forest department, 1,000 acres are unarable land and 1,000 acres belong to individual owners. At least 2,000 acres of arable land are required for the sustenance of 1,500 families who live in the mouza.

More than a month ago, the home ministry gave its approval to acquire 34 acres of land for building the headquarters along the Bandarban-Rowangchhari road in Bandarban Sadar upazila. Inhabitants of two indigenous Marma villages claimed that the community land, which provided them with a livelihood and a cremation ground, fall within the area earmarked for the headquarters. The area was sealed off with a barbed wire fence by the BGB a month ago.

Please find full press statement of civic rights group in Bangla attached herewith and visit following links for media reports: