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Friday, August 2, 2013

Update Report on eviction of Chak indigenous peoples by land grabbers at Naikhyongchari in Bandarban

On 13 May 2013, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Bangladesh, requested the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs (MoCHTA) to conduct an inquiry of eviction of indigenous Chak villagers from their ancestral villages in Naikhyongchari of Bandarban district and to submit the report to the NHRC. Accordingly, the MoCHTA appointed Mr. Alamgir Hosain, Deputy Secretary, to investigate the incident. After conducting investigation to the spot, Mr. Alamgir Hosain submitted the report to the NHRC.
It is mentionable that on 12 May 2013 Kapaeeng Foundation submitted a complaint to the NHRC regarding eviction of 21 Chak families of Padujhiri Chak Para of Alikkhyong mouza under Baishari union of Naikhyongchari upazila in Bandarban district. The indigenous families abandoned their village allegedly in March-April 2013 following disturbances, harassments and threats of outsider land grabbers. Most of the evicted indigenous Chak families are Jum cultivators (traditional shifting cultivator).
Mr. Alamgir Hosain, Deputy Secretary of MoCHTA, visited the spot on 29-31 May 2013 and took depositions from locals and placed his 32-page report to the NHRC on 11 June 2013. He found most of the allegation reliable and factual. He mentioned in the report that the Chak villagers abandoned their village due to continuous threats by the land grabbers to leave their villages.
The investigation report mentioned a few reasons which led to the land grabbing, such as, (1)The land grabbers never faced prosecution for their perpetration; (2) They are able to  maintain the occupation over land without any trouble somehow once if  they could grab the lands; (3) There was no survey and no land demarcation of the land ownerships; (4) Propaganda/rumors that the land will be recorded in the name of land grabbers if the land survey is conducted in future; (5) Partiality of the public representatives and government officials in favour of illegal land grabbers for several reasons; and (6) Absence of any positive role by the  Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional council (CHTRC) and Hill District Councils (HDC) regarding the issue.
The report identified 14 land grabbers, namely-
  1. Mr. Shamsul Alam (former chairman) occupied 60 acres of land;
  2. Mr. Jalal Ahmed (former chairman) gang occupied 150 ares of land;
  3. Md. Alam (defeated chairman candidate in last election) occupied 150 acres of land;
  4. Mr. A Mannan occupied 15 acres of land;
  5. Mr. Kamal occupied 20 acres of land;
  6. Mr. Maummad occupied 50 acres of land;
  7. Mr. Sirajul Hoque occupied 5 acres of land;
  8. Mahammad Ali occupied 12 acres of land;
  9. Mr. A Rashid occupied 20 acres of land;
  10. Mr. Joynal occupied 30 acres of land;
  11. Ms. Rozina occupied 15 acres of land;
  12. Moshref Ali gang occupied 25 acres of land;
  13. Md. Jakariya occupied 25 acres of land;
  14. Md. Shafiul Alam occupied 5 acres of land.
Among the land grabbers, Md. Alam and Mr. Kamal are leader of ruling Awami League. The report said that the said land grabbers occupied land and planted rubber without having permission from the Hill District Council (HDC). As per HDC Act 1989, no land of the hill tracts can be transferred, settled, leased out or acquired without having prior permission from concerned HDC. The government authorities did not take any action against the land grabbing. Besides the individual land grabbers mentioned-above, the business companies namely, Destiny Group, Mostafa group, Laden group, Shamin group, S Alam group, PHP group, Meridian group, Exim group, Babul group, Acme group are also involved in grabbing land.
The recommendations of the investigation report included the followings:
  1. To arrest and punishment of  the perpetrators who are involved in land grabbing and eviction of the Chak indigenous people of the area and restitution of the lands belong to Chak people;
  2. Rehabilitation of the evicted Chak families in their land  with full security;
  3. To fix the borders (land marks) of the  lands which  have been permited for horticulture in legal way and to take control over additionally ocupied lands of them by the government; 
  4. To provide land ownership to the local indigenous peoples and fix the borders of land owned by permanent Bengali  residents;
  5. To file case by police regarding the robbery on indigenous Chak people by miscreants apointed by land grabbers on 13 March 2013;
  6. To suspend the headman of Alikhyong mouza Chaw Hla Mong and appoint a qualified headman (traditional leader);
  7. To provide finacial support to local indigenous peoples for gardening and horticulture;
  8. To improve the road (communication) systems from union headquarter to the remote villages;
  9. Increase police petrol in the villages of the remote hilly areas (atleast once a month);
  10. To consider as well the recommendations of  Chairman of Baishari union Mohammad Manirul Hauque made during the investigation, which are as follows:
  1. In order to improve the livelihood, culture and tradition of local indigenous people, to build a ‘ Tribal Zone’ through fixing a specific area;
  2. To provide land ownership to both landless  indigenous and Bengali people;
  3. To improve communication system with indigenous villages of the remote forest areas;
  4. To provide hostel facilities for better education for indigenous people of each union of the upazila.
Subsequent to the submission of the report by the deputy secretary of MoCHTA, each Chak indigenous family was provided with some relief including 30 kg rice, 6,000 taka and one bundle of CIT sheet. Also, the headman of Alekhyong mouja Chaw Hla Mong was suspended by the authority in accordance with the recommendation. However, not with standing the specific recommendation to arrest and punishment of the perpetrators who are involved in land grabbing, robbery and eviction of the Chak indigenous people of the area, the local administration have not taken any effective measures to arrest and punish the land grabbers. Without arrest of land grabbers who are responsible to evict Chak indigenous villagers, the security of the Chak indigenous villagers will not be secured. Furthermore, though as per recommendation, a case on robbery was filed and some alleged persons namely (1) Surut Ali from Bombabil of Baishari, (2) Md. Belal from Bombabil of Baishari and Abdul Gofur from Gorjanya of Cox’s Bazaar district were arrested charging robbery by the police, but they were released on bail after a week.
Meanwhile, on 26 June 2013 the district administration arranged a meeting at Bandarban sadar upazila auditorium with the chairmen of the Upazila Parishad (local government council in upazila/sub-district level), Upazila Executive Officers (UNO), Officer-in-Charges (OCs) of the police stations, mouza headmen, chairmen of the union council (local government council in union level) and officials of the land administration. The meeting was presided over by Deputy Commissioner of Bandarban district M Tariqul Islam while the Member of Parliament (MP) of Bandarban constituency Mr. Bir Bahadur was present as the chief guest. In that meeting, though the demand of forming a committee to identify the land grabbers and restitute the lands was raised by local MP, public representatives and police officers, the Deputy Commissioner did not form any committee for this purpose. Consequently, the meeting was termed as an eye wash of the administration instead of necessary effective measures to solve the problem.
Currently, the local administration is trying to settle evicted Chak villagers on the village from where they were evicted. But local administration has not taken any measure to ensure their security. Therefore, on 30 June 2013 evicted villagers submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister demanding to cancel all leases for which the Chak villager were evicted, arrest of land grabbers and to provide adequate compensation for rehabilitation and to implement the recommendations of investigation report of the MoCHTA immediately etc.

Kapaeeng Foundation
(A Human Rights Organization for Indigenous Peoples of Bangladesh)

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