Allegation of occupation of land of indigenous Mro villagers in Rowangchari

Photo: Local villagers are protesting by erecting fences

Hill Voice, 15 August 2022, Bandarban: There have been allegations of land grabbing of local indigenous Mro people by some influential individuals in Taracha Mouza area of Taracha Union of Rowangchari Upazila under Bandarban Hill District.

According to locals, the persons involved in this land grabbing are Taracha Mouza headman Hlathowaihri Marma, tourism resort entrepreneurs Philip Tripura and Zulfikar Ali Laban. It is known that the headman Hlathowaihri Marma is also a local Awami League leader.

According to the victims, recently the entrepreneurs of the tourism resort Philip Tripura and Zulfikar Ali Laban purchased 3 acres of land from Mendui Mro of Jamini Mro Para village in Taracha Mouza in ward no 7 for the purpose of setting up a tourist resort. But on August 13, 2022, Philip Tripura and Zulfikar Ali Laban with the direct support of Headman Hlathowaihri Marma grabbed 2 acres of farming land owned by another villager Lange Mro adjacent to land of Mendui Mro. Although all the 20 Mro families of Jamini Mro Para know about it, they dare not protest and resist as the headman Hlathowaihri Marma, Philip Tripura and Zulfikar Ali Laban are influential.

The villagers also complained that Philip Tripura and Zulfiqar Ali Laban apart from grabbing the said land are trying to occupy another 1 acre of land from Khamlai Mro, a resident of Ramri Mro Para of Tongkabati Union of No.308 Hangar Mauza under Menyak Mro headman of North Hangar area adjacent to Jamini Mro Para.

It is reported that yesterday, on 14th August 2022, angry residents of Ramri Mro Para gathered at the disputed site and erected a bamboo fence along the site of purchased land by Philip Tripura and Zulfikar Ali Laban to resist the eviction attempt. There has been widespread criticism and protest on the social media about the incident of occupation.

A rights activist from Bandarban who did not wish to be named said that for ages these innocent indigenous people have made a living by farming and gardening in these areas. Having a tradition and custom of owing lands in the CHT, many of them do not have land documents. Many of their livelihoods are now under threat and eviction due to the encroachment by the government-private and Bengali-Pahari influential individuals.

He added that if the local indigenous people lose the lands, the means of their living in such a forcible way, they will be disappeared gradually. Hence many Mro, Marma, Chak and Bawm Paras of Lama, Thanchi border, Alikadam and Naikhyongchari have been disappeared.