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Appeal to Government of Bangladesh to postpone to setting up science and technology university in Rangamati
Government of Bangladesh (GoB) resumed its project to set up a science and technology university at Jhagrabill mouza under Rangamati sadar upazila in Rangamati Hill Tracts. However, local indigenous people have been opposing setting up university at their area arguing that it would uproot them once again from their ancestral land and create socio-political problem in this region.
It is learnt that in 2001 the then Government headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina passed the Rangamati Science and Technology University Act, 2001 and immediately formulated a project to set up the university in Rangamati Hill District. The GoB authority selected a site for the purpose at 104 Jhagrabil Mouza under Rangamati Upazilla. The site is located on the south of the Rangamati town and on the north-west of the Kaptai Naval Base, a training centre of the Bangladesh Navy and north of Kaptai upazila headquarters. In 2008 Rangamati-Kaptai road, which run through the Jhagrabil Moza has been completed funded by Asia Development Bank.
The inhabitants of the said selected site belong to the indigenous Chakma, Marma and Tanchangya ethnic groups. All of them were uprooted from their own homes and villages of the said mouza due to construction of the Kaptai Hydro-Electric Project Dam in 1960s, which inundated 256 square miles area including the best arable lands of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), the main granary of the region amounting to 54,000 acres and affecting 100,000 indigenous people and a few non-indigenous families. Owing to lack of cultivable plough lands they were provided uplands on high hills in their own mouza and at that time there was a condition that they would no further be displaced from there. On the other, it is noted that there is not any such a suitable place, where they could be rehabilitated with proper quantity of lands along with proper communication facilities. That is why they submitted application to the GoB to exclude their area for the project of the proposed Rangamati University.
During the period (2001-2006) of four party coalition government headed by Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia, indigenous inhabitants of Jhagrabil mouza submitted their application to the then Prime Minister for canceling the project. The PM could follow the matter and took up action. The Proposed project was cancelled in 2004.
The grand alliance government headed by Sheikh Hasina took over power in January 2009. The Education Ministry once again took up initiative to implement the previous project of the Rangamati University. The Deputy Commissioner of Rangamati was asked to proceed for acquisition of lands proposed for the site of the University. The DC took up the process once again. The local inhabitants of 104 Jhagrabil mouza submitted memorandum to the Education Minister on 11 May 2009.
In addition, the inhabitants of Jhagrabil Mouza submitted to all the local concerned authorities, i.e. Chittagong Hill tracts Regional Council (CHTRC), Rangamati Hill District Council (RHDC), Deputy Commissioner of Rangamati and Ministry of CHT Affairs (MoCHTA) for canceling the said proposed project at their area.
On 05 July 2009the Education Minister Mr. Nurul Islam Nahid convened a meeting on the matter in Dhaka. In the meeting Chairman of the CHTRC Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, who being President of the PCJSS (Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti) is one of the signatory of the historic CHT Accord 1997 said that the inhabitants of Jhagrabil Mouza submitted application previously to the GoB for which the then PM cancelled the project in 2004. This time too the local inhabitants once again submitted application for canceling it. He added that, Rangamati Science and Technology University was to a normal university with normal honour courses, which could be introduced in the existing three Government Colleges of the three Hill District headquarters, which have been so far demanded by the local people of the region. Yet, he suggested arranging a meeting with the local people to have their opinion on the issue.
He was fully supported in the meeting by Mr. Jatindra Lal Tripura, MP from Khagrachai Constituency and Chairman of the Task Force on Rehabilitation of the Jumma Refugee Returnees and Internally Displaced Jumma People and Mr. Bir Bahadur U Shwe Ching, MP from Bandarban Constituency and Chairman of the CHT Development Board. That is why it was decided in the meeting that a meeting would be held in Rangamati for the purpose. But it is astonishing that the minutes of the meeting signed by the Education Minister as Chair of it wrote that there had been no different opinion with regard to setting up the proposed Rangamati University at the selected site at Jhagrabil Mouza of Rangamati upazila. However, the minute included the decision to have a meeting in Rangamati about the matter.
On 27 October 2009 a four-member delegation of CHTRC headed by Goutam Kumar Chakma, Member of CHTRC and Convenor of the Committee on Law, Land and Local Councils had a meeting with the Education Minister in Dhaka about transfer of the concerned subjects to the Hill District Councils, like Secondary education, Education in mother Tounge and Vocational Education as well as providing facilities to the colleges and secondary schools in CHT. During this meeting the Education Minster wanted to know the opinion of the CHTRC about the Rangamati University and the delegates very sincerely opined that as the local people being displaced persons of the Kaptai Lake were not in a position to vacate their homes and hearths once again and the Rangamati University was not necessary at all to meet the requirement in education of the region at the moment so CHTRC was not in favour of it. However, they conveyed the message of the CHTRC Chairman that he was waiting for the Education Minister as per the decision of the meeting about holding a meeting with the local people.
On 10 March 2010 Education Minister Mr. Nurul Islam Nahid accompanying Mr. Dipankar Talukdar, State Minister of MoCHTA visited the sites of the proposed Rangamati University and held a meeting at Rangamati municipality hall on sharing opinion on the issues of education in Rangamati Hill District. Only two days before of the visit of the Education Minister a phone call was given from the Office of the DC of Rangamati to the CHTRC Office about participation in the meeting in Rangamati. As the Chairman of CHTRC was unable to attend it due to his prior programme in Bandarban Hill District on that day so he entrusted responsibility with Mr. Goutam Kumar Chakma, member of CHTRC to represent in the meeting. Mr. Chakma arrived at the venue well in advance. He welcomed the Education Minister, the State Minister of MoCHTA and reported that he was representing the CHTRC Chairman. Yet he was neither allowed to represent nor speak in the meeting probably fearing that he would opine to have free, prior and informed consent of the local indigenous Jumma inhabitants about setting up the Rangamati University at the proposed site.
On 01 December 2009 and 21 September 2010 the local inhabitants sent another memorandum addressed to the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and 11 May 2009 to the Education Minister Mr. Nurul Islam Nahid appealing for canceling the process of acquisition of their lands for the proposed project of the University. Until the date it yielded no response. The local inhabitants, time and again approached to the CHTRC for which it sent a letter to the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and passed copies of the same to the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee of the Education Ministry on 19 July 2010. In the letter CHTRC Chairman recommended to cancel the project of setting up the Rangamati Science and Technology University, which was not necessary at all at the moment and in lieu of it to enhance facilities in three Government University Colleges in the three Hill District headquarters to study honour courses on more other subjects and make arrangement for housing for teachers and students and provide necessary equipments.
It is a fact that once the proposed University is set up, the following affects on indigenous people will be made-
a)Hundreds of indigenous families will be uprooted once again from their ancestral lands where they settled down after displacement by Kaptai Dam in 1960s. Like Kaptai hydro-electric dam, university will gradually displace indigenous people from their ancestral land along the Rangamati-Kaptai road.
b)Thousand acres of land would have to be vacated by indigenous inhabitants where they made garden and orchards for their livelihood survival.
c)Most of the teachers, staff and students would be from other parts of the country, which would mean that the university area would be a new and strong centre of the Bengalee Muslim population. It is assumed that the said university project has been taken up mainly aiming at strategic expansion of settlement of Bengalee Muslim population from Rangamati town to the Naval Base at Jibtali of Balukhali Union near Kaptai town.
d)Due to settlement of Bengali population, negative socio-political impacts on indigenous communities will be yielded.
It is further reported that the foundation stone of the proposed Rangamati University at the selected site will likely be laid down at any moment. That is why it is very urgent to write letter to the Government of Bangladesh putting following demands-
1.To cancel decision to set up the science and technology university in Rangamati Hill district considering displacement of and possible socio-political impact on the livelihood of indigenous inhabitants.
2.To enhance facilities in three Government University Colleges in the three Hill District headquarters to study honours courses on more other subjects and to provide housing facilities for teachers and students and necessary equipments.
3.To provide adequate facilities and fund for development of primary and secondary education in the CHT including non-government schools and colleges and to ensure quality education.
Please write to the authorities listed below:
·Mrs. Sheikh Hasina, Honourable Prime Minister, Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, Office of the Prime Minister, Tejgaon, Dhaka, BANGLADESH , Fax: +880 2 811 3244 / 3243 / 1015 / 1490 , Tel: +880 2 882 816 079 / 988 8677, E-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
·Mr. Nurul Islam Nahid MP, Honourable Education Minister, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Secretariat, Dhaka, BANGLADESH, Telephone:+ 88-02-7161395 &7168711, Fax: +88-02-7167577, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
·Mr. Dipankar Talukdar MP, Honourable State Minister, CHT Affairs Ministry, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Secretariat, Dhaka, BANGLADESH, Tel: +880-2- 7161774, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
·Honourable Chairman, University Grant Commission, UGC Bhaban, Agargaon, Dhaka-1207, BANGLADESH, Tel: +88-02-9118207, 9115197, Fax: +88-02-8122048, E-mail: email@example.com