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Protest against land acquisition for Ruma Cantonment and BDR Wing HQ in Ruma of CHT
On 8 November 2010 indigenous Jumma peoples in Ruma upazila under Bandarban Hill District organised demonstration and held meeting at Ruma Upazilla HQ protesting against acquisition of lands of the Jumma people recorded in their names as well as occupied by them so far for expansion of Ruma Cantonment of the Bangladesh Army and establishment of new wing headquarter of BDR (Bangladesh Rifles) in Ruma. The protest was organised by the local Jumma people under the banner of the People from All Levels in Ruma.
It is noted that the Army authority during the pre-CHT Accord period put a plan to acquire 9,560 acres of land for expansion of Ruma cantonment. Since mid 1980s the local Army authority time and again made attempts to have acquisition of the proposed area. Every time the local Jumma People particularly the Murung (Mro), who numbering to about 15,000 (Fifteen thousand) are to be uprooted even from their whole mouza (local traditional area unit) and would become completely landless and deprived from their livelihood, the occupation of plough land cultivation and shifting agriculture cultivation.
During the state of emergency in 2007-2008, when the Army administration emerged as the most powerful force in the country and the CHT was brought under double military Rule i.e. the Operation Uttoran renamed after the CHT Accord and the State of emergency of 2007-08 there was an attempt by the army to evict the local Jumma people including Mro community from proposed area. In order to executing the programme of the acquisition of the said land area many local Jumma persons were tortured and arrested among whom, the Mro leader named Ranglai Mro was notable. Very recently the local army authority led by Lt. Col. Wasim, Commander of the Ruma Cantonment took up the process once again.
It is noted that Lt. Colonel Wasim, the then Army Zone Commander of Bagaichari Army Zone under 24 Infantry Division of Bangladesh Army was the main perpetrator of the communal attack upon the Jumma People at Baghaihat area in Sajek Union under Bagaichari Upazilla in Rangamati Hill District in February 2009 where two Jumma villagers were shot death and around 450 houses of 12 (twelve) Jumma villages were completely burnt to ashes. The UNDP-CHTDF (United Nations Development Programme- CHT Development Facility) has been all the time prepared to provide rehabilitation to the affected Jumma families. But the army authorities imposed embargo that unless primarily 100 (one hundred) Bengali settlers families, which were collected from different Cluster Villages since 2007 (Bengalee Settlers Settlements) from neighbouring Dighinala Upazilla in Khagrachari Hill District and Longadu Upazilla in Rangamati Hill District and presently 500 (five) hundred settlers' families were not rehabilitated there they would not allow the UNDP-CHTDF to work for the rehabilitation. UNDP-CHTDF formally put proposal to the GoB through Ministry of CHT Affairs (MoCHTA) for the purpose but it is yet to yield any positive response.
On the other hand, the GoB authority took plan to acquire another 25 acres of land at Thana Para under Poli mouza in Ruma Upazila for the purpose of establishment of BDR headquarters in Ruma. Though BDR officially showed 25 acres of land for acquisition, however, it will be more than 25 acres as BDR marked the boundary of the proposed area up to bank of Shanghu river and Barshi Para and Upper & Lower Rumachar Para other than Thana Para will be affected. If the proposed BDR Wing headquarters is set up, then it will uproot 40 families of Thana Para, 15 families of Barshi Para and 50 families of Rumachar Para (Upper and Lower) from their ancestral land who belong to Marma community. Even a hostel for local indigenous students and a carpentry & sewing training centre run by a local NGO named Toymu will also be uprooted from Thana Para area.
On the day of 8 November 2010 the meeting was chaired by Mr. Numlai Mro, Headman of Pantola mouza and the meeting was addressed by Mr. Mongcha Ching Marma, member of Galenga union Parishad (a local government council), Mr. Cham-a-u Marma, Headman of Chanda Mouza, Mr. Kyochya Prue Marma, Karbari of Rumachar Para, Mr. Ruihla Mro, ex-member of Galenga union parishd, Thoiching Marma, Karbari (Village head), Mr. Ukya Ching, President of PCP (Pahari Chhatra Parishad, a student wing of PCJSS) of Ruma Branch and Vice president of PCJSS of Ruma branch Mr. Jial Bawm while general secretary of PCJSS Mr. Lue Prue conducted the programme. The procession was brought out in Ruma bazaar area at ruma Upazilla HQ in Bandarban Hill District.
The protesters submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister of GoB through the Upazila Nirbahi Office (UNO) demanding for cancel of the plan to acquire lands for the expansion of the Ruma Cantonment and setting up the new BDR Wing HQ there and to stop uprooting them from their ancestral territory as well as depriving them from their occupations and livelihoods.
It is noted that although the PM Hasina and her GoB frequently continue reiterating fullest implementation of the CHT Accord but there has been hardly any progress in it. But, the process of forcible land grabbing and expansion of settlements of the Bengalee settlers as well as fresh infiltration, which has been the main process to wage the war against the indigenous Jumma people of CHT continue unabated.
It is further noted that though until the date there have been more than 400 hundreds army camps and cantonments, BDR and Ansar camps yet there are attempts from various corners of the GoB to set up new camps of army and BDR on the pretext of combating terrorist activities and drug trafficking in CHT. But, the reality is to occupy lands to make rooms for the expansion of settlements of Bengalee settlers in CHT.
Remarks: Article 17(Ka) and 17(Kha) of CHT Accord respectively narrate that all the temporary camps except the BDR camps and 6 (six) permanent army installations would be closed down and the vacate lands would be restituted to the owners (obviously the Jumma peersons) and the concerned Hill District Council. So the move for expansion of the Ruma Cantonment and setting up the new BDR wing HQ in Ruma is violation of the said provision of the CHT Accord of 1997. Considering the extremely deplorable condition of the Jumma people of the Ruma Upazilla in Bandarban Hill district of CHT it appealed to raise the issue with the PM and the Army Authority in particular and send urgent action letter as well.