Recently the Khagrachari district administration has taken initiatives to acquire 31.63 acres of lands belonging to indigenous villagers of three villages namely Santosh Kumar Karbari Para, Gobinda Karbari Para and Notu Chandra Karbari Para of Dighinala union under Dighinala upazila in Khagrachari district for establishment of battalion headquarters of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB).
It is learnt that, in 2002 the Home Ministry ordered the district administration to acquire land for BGB headquarter in order to strengthen security of the Bangladesh–India border of Baghaihat of Baghaichari upazila of Rangamati district and Naraichari of Dighinala upazila of Khagrachari district. The local indigenous villagers fear that at least 50 indigenous families will be evicted from their ancestral land if the scheme is implemented.
On the contrary, the local administration claimed that there are only 2.20 acres of recorded land in the name of one Ramani Mohan Chakma and another one late Birsen Chakma amid 29.81 acres of land under acquisition. The remaining 27.61 acres of land are khas land of the government.
But the indigenous villagers informed that there are recorded land of at least 15 persons and 0.30 acres of land in the name of each 58 persons given settlement by the local headman. Furthermore, there are also 2.00 acres of land recorded in the name of Baghaichari Government Primary School.
The president of school governing committee Mr. Debotoru Chakma informed that there is a helipad, an Ansar camp and an army camp on 5.20 acres of land in the identified area. The helipad was established on 2.00 acres of recoded land of one Bajaram Chakma, the army camp was constructed on the 2.20 acres recoded of land of one late Lalit Mohan Chakma and the Ansar camp was set up on 1.00 acre of recorded land of one Manoranjan Chakma.
The headman of Dighinala mouza Mr. Prantor Chakma said that the intension of government is to occupy the indigenous peoples’ land in the name of construction of army camp or BGB camp. He said that the construction of BGB camp means strengthening the settlement of Bengali settlers at the area.
It is learnt that in 1989 during the critical political situation of Chittagong Hill Tracts, the local indigenous people of the area took refuge in the neighboring country India for safety. At that time, an army zone was established at the area. They returned to the homeland in 1998 after signing the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord, but failed to return to their homesteads. After that, they filed a writ petition in 2005 to get back their homesteads.
The Karbari of Sontosh Kumar Karbari Para Mr. Sontosh Kumar Chakma said that in 2005 total 11 persons including him filed a writ petition in High Court to get back their land which was incorporated in the extended area of the army camp. But they have not received any notice yet from the High Court. They have become astonished and helpless when the initiative to establish BGB headquarters has been taken in the meantime. One of the writ petitioners Mr. Ram Chandra Chakma said that there are total 14.20 acres of recorded land of 11 persons including him. As they have not received any notice or decision from High Court even after 8 years, finally they have started to build their homes on that land, but the army authority always obstructed them. At last, on 23 September 2013 a scuffle took place between the indigenous villagers and army due to the obstruction of the soldiers again when the indigenous peoples tried to erect houses on their land.
On 24 September 2013 Democratic Youth Forum, PCP and Hill Women’s Federation, the branches of United Peoples’ Democratic Front (UPDF) organized a protest rally and gathering on 24 September at Dighinala and on 25 September at Khagrachari town against the clash and land grabbing. The secretary of information and publicity department of PCJSS, Mr. Mangal Kumar Chakma, in his reaction said that, construction of BGB camp through evicting public habitation will not be acceptable to anyone. He said, PCJSS would not accept it if the common people are affected.
Regarding the clash of 23 September 2013, Major Moin of Dighinala army zone said that there was no scuffle with anyone of them on that day. Rather, the tribal people were approaching toward them with sharp weaponries. He further added that official initiative is yet to be started to set up camp on this location. However, the government would acquire land through paying reasonable compensations and government can acquire any land as per requirement through paying compensations and any one has to comply with it, he said.
Regarding the setting up of headquarters, Commander of the 51 BGB Lt. Colonel Azad said that district administration was ordered by Home Ministry to manage the land acquirement. They would start construction of BGB battalion headquarters soon after completion of the land acquisition.
The Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Khagrachari district Mr. Masud Karim said that the acquisition process is at the final stage. The land would be acquired except the lands of 10 cases of writ petition in the High Court. When asked whether the matter was discussed with the Hill District Council, the DC said, the land would be acquired through accomplishing all legal procedures.
On the other hand, the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord (clause 26b) states, "Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, no land, hill or forest under the controlled and within the jurisdiction of the Council shall be acquired or transferred by the Government without consultation with or the consent of the Council".
(A Human Rights Organization for Indigenous Peoples of Bangladesh)