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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Indigenous people want return of ancestral land

Indigenous people want return of ancestral land

Indigenous people of 11 villages under Rajasthali upazila of Rangamati district yesterday demanded return of their ancestral land acquired by Rangamati Pulpwood Forest Division in 1993 and 1995.
They raised the demand at a press conference in the district town yesterday. Headmen (mouza chief), Karbaries, union Prarishad (UP) members and schoolteachers from 334 no Dhonuchhari and 335 no Kukkiyachhari mouzas organised the conference at a local restaurant under the banner of CHT forest and land right protection movement.

Indigenous people of the 11 villages under the two mouzas have been living on 39,9,60 acres of forest land in the two mouzas from time immemorial.

Of the total 39960 acres of land, Pulpwood Forest Division at Kaptai under Rangamati Forest Department had acquired 3889 acres of land, including 140 acres of registered land, in Dhonuchhari mouza in 1993 in the name of afforestation for producing pulpwood for Karnaphuli Paper Mills.
Subsequently, the forest division acquired 715 acres land, including 104 acres of registered land, in Kukkiyachhari mouza in 1995 for the same purpose.

As result, 220 indigenous families belonging to Khiyang, Marma and Tangchangya communities, who depended on jhum cultivation for their livelihood, were compelled to leave their ancestral land and took shelter in different areas in Rangamati and Bandarban.

In the face of strong protest against 'eviction' of indigenous people, a seven-member committee, headed by the then divisional commissioner of Chittagong, was formed.

After investigation, the committee submitted its report with a recommendation for giving 5 acres of land to each of the 220 families in the two mouzas.

The committee also set a condition for the forest department that it would return the forest land to the locals after procuring soft wood from there.

The indigenous leaders alleged that instead of return of forest land to the locals, Pulpwood Forest Division has again started planting trees in the area.

As per recommendation of the committee, each of the 220 families was not given five acres of forest land, they said.

They urged the government to resolve the issue by implementing the recommendation of the seven-member committee. Otherwise, they threatened to go for agitation.

Mishu Marma, headmen of Kukkiyachhari Mouza, Lathoai Khiyang of Dhonuchhari Mouza, UP Member Chingcha Maoung Khiyang and secretary of CHT forest and land right protection movement Sudutta Bikash Tangchangya addressed the press conference.


courtesy: The daily Star

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