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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Alienation of the Lands of Indigenous Peoples in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh

The book "*Alienation of the Lands of Indigenous
Peoples in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh*" written by *Shapan
Adnan* and *Ranajit Dastidar* is now available to be downloaded from CHT
Commission's website. The link for the book is given below:


This is a book about the ways in which the lands of the indigenous peoples
(IP) or Pahari groups of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh have
been relentlessly taken over by multiple agencies and groups from outside.
It is not an academic volume but a general one meant for a popular
readership, including all those who are concerned to do something about
these problems. However, the study is based on rigorous research, including
fieldwork among both Pahari and Bengali groups in the CHT, undertaken during
2010-11. It was conducted under the auspices of the Chittagong Hill Tracts
Commission (CHTC), which seeks to contribute to the just resolution of the
conflicts in the CHT in order to ensure the safety of the indigenous peoples
and their lands.

Historically, the indigenous peoples had constituted the overwhelming
majority of the population of the CHT. Bengalis accounted for less than 2%
of the population in 1872. However, from the late 1970s, counter-insurgency
operations resulted in the forced eviction of around one lakh Paharis from
their lands and homesteads. During 1979-85, more than three lakh Bengali
settlers were brought in from the plains of Bangladesh and placed on Pahari
lands by the government, forcibly changing the demographic composition and
land distribution of the CHT. This influx of migrants and land grabbing
further intensified the ethnic conflict between the Paharis and the Bengalis
during the 1980s and 1990a. It was formally ended in 1997 by the CHT Accord
between the Government of Bangladesh and the Parbatya Chattagram Jana
Samhati Samiti (PCJSS), the party leading the Pahari resistance.

Even though 13 years have gone by, many of the critical clauses of this
peace agreement have yet to be implemented by the government. Moreover, the
influx of Bengalis from outside and the grabbing of Pahari lands have
continued unabated with little restriction by the authorities. Lands have
been forcibly acquired by not only government agencies but also Bengali
powerholders and private commercial interests with connections to the major
political parties and agencies of the state. The failure of all the
governments in power since the 1997 Accord to take effective measures
against continuing in-migration of Bengalis and the eviction of Paharis from
their lands threatens to undermine the social and political stability of the
CHT. It also raises the prospects of renewed ethnic and political conflict
in the region.

This book focuses on the multiple and complex mechanisms that have been used
to grab Pahari lands in the CHT, inclusive of state power, illegal violence,
and fraudulent manipulation of land records. Furthermore, not only the lands
of the IP, but also those of ordinary Bengali settlers, have been grabbed by
powerful interest groups, inclusive of private corporations, with
connections to political parties, the civil administration and security
forces. Such takeover of the lands of poor Bengali settlers by powerful
Bengali interest groups also reflects a growing trend in intra-ethnic and
classed-based land conflicts in the CHT. The use of legal and illegal means,
including violence and fraud, to establish rubber, timber and horticulture
plantations, as well as undertake commercial speculation in real estate,
corresponds to the process of 'primitive accumulation' feeding into
predatory forms of capitalism as well as the notion of 'accumulation by
dispossession' under neoliberal globalization.

The concluding section of the book puts forward a wide range of policy
measures aimed at (i) limiting the mechanisms and factors facilitating land
alienation, as well as (ii) reducing inter-ethnic tension and conflict in
the CHT. These policy recommendations are addressed to all concerned,
including the government, the indigenous peoples of the CHT, progressive
sections of mainstream Bengali society, donor agencies, the media, public
interest organizations, pro-people NGOs, advocacy groups and activists at
home and abroad.

The contents of the book are organized into four thematic chapters, as

Chapter 1 introduces the study and describes how the research was designed,
as well as the conditions under which fieldwork was undertaken.

Chapter 2 provides a critical review of the implementation of the CHT Accord
up to 2010, specifying the significant clauses that have not yet been
implemented by the government in a substantive manner. It also takes note of
parallel demographic, economic and social changes in the CHT taking place
independently, which might be irreversible and could make the CHT Accord
increasingly irrelevant.

Chapter 3 provides detailed analysis of the multiple and complex mechanisms
of land alienation at work in the CHT. The roles of the various public and
private agencies involved in land grabbing are analyzed with empirical
evidence, inclusive of pertinent case studies wherever adequate data are
available. The analysis takes account of significant shifts in the
mechanisms of land alienation from the 1970s to 2010, explaining the nature
of changes before and after the Accord.

Chapter 4 provides policy analysis concerned with the prevention of further
alienation of the lands of the IP of the CHT as well as the restitution of
their already occupied areas. It puts forward specific policy
recommendations on many critical issues, including the resolution of land
conflicts, role of the controversial Land Commission, the full
implementation of the CHT Accord, as well as a proposal for independent
research and monitoring of critical trends in the CHT.

*Author Profiles*

*Shapan Adnan* was educated at the Universities of Cambridge and Sussex. He
has been a member of the teaching faculty of the National University of
Singapore and the Universities of Dhaka and Chittagong, and has held
visiting research positions at the University of Oxford. His research
activities have been broadly in the fields of political economy and
political sociology, much of it based on ethnographic fieldwork. He has
published on a wide variety of topics including: agrarian structure and
capitalist development; structures of domination and resistance; alienation
of lands of the peasantry and indigenous peoples; causes of ethnic
conflict; determinants of fertility and migration; socio-economic and
environmental impacts of development interventions; and critiques of flood
control and water management. Contact email: amsa127@gmail.com

*Ranajit Dastidar* has studied economics at the University of Chittagong and
obtained a PhD in political economy from the National University of
Singapore (NUS). Besides work experience in commercial banking and NGO
programmes, he has been involved in many socio-economic research projects
and evaluation studies. His research interests include: impacts of
technological innovation and the nature and extent of capitalist development
among traditional fishing communities; forms of marginalization of
indigenous peoples; and changes in the social organization of production of
rural communities. Contact email: rana.dastidar@gmail.com

*The Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission* is independent and fully committed
to an approach of constructive engagement with all stakeholders in
Bangladesh. Its mandate is as follows: -

To promote respect for human rights, democracy, and restoration of civil and
political rights, participatory development and land rights in the
Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh, including examination of the
implementation of the CHT Peace Accord of 1997. The CHT Commission will
build on the work undertaken by the original CHT Commission between 1990 and


Hana Shams Ahmed
Coordinator, CHT Commission

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