Army withdrawn, but land not returned to original owner in Barkal

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Photo: Symbolic

Hill Voice, 28 March 2023, Rangamati: All army, BGB and police personnel have been withdrawn from the camp of the security forces built by occupying the land of local indigenous Jumma people in Madonpara of Aimachara in Barkal upazila under Rangamati district, but it has been reported that the camp site has not been returned back to the original owners.

Moreover, the army summoned the local headman and instructed him not to demolish any of the houses in the withdrawn camp.

According to local sources, yesterday, March 27, 2023, at around 2 pm, all the army, BGB and police personnel of the said camp left the camp with their weapons and belongings and went to the army zone headquarters of the neighboring Jurachari upazila. During the transfer, they also took 20 local Jumma villagers as laborers.

While leaving the camp, Camp Commander Subedar Md. Momin called Sepom Chakma, Headman of Saichal Mouza No. 164 of Barkal and instructed that no one can demolish the abandoned houses of the camp. He also said that they (army) will visit it in every one or two months.

It is worth mentioning that according to the CHT Accord , after the withdrawal of the temporary camp, there is a provision to hand over the camp site to the owner or to the Hill District Council, but the army did not have any discussion with the owners of the site regarding the withdrawal of the camp and did not hand over the camp site to the owners.

It is known that in 2019, a group of army of Jurachari upazila along with some police and BGB personnel set up the camp of the security forces by force at a place called Shimegaj Chug of Madanpara in Aimachara Union in 164 no. Saichal Mouza without any consent from the owners. It is learnt that the owners of the land are Shantashil Chakma, son of Rasik Mohan Chakma, and Anil Chandra Chakma.

Again, army personnel were recently withdrawn from the army camp, forcefully built on the site of the Shijokmukh Sarbajanin Buddha Bihara in Baghaichari under Rangamati district, but later a signboard was put up illegally declaring the site of the Buddha Bihara as a reserved area for the security forces.

The signboard stated, ‘Camp used by security forces, no entry without permission’ and ‘Damage of any kind to government property located in the camp is a punishable offence’.

Out of 545 temporary camps, 66 temporary camps were withdrawn in two phases in 1998-2001 and another 35 temporary camps in 2009-2013, immediately after the signing of the CHT Accord. As a result, around 450 temporary camps are still active in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Also many camps which had already been withdrawn were re-established. 20 camps were reset up during the last covid pandemic alone.

In addition, the then Awami League government imposed de facto military rule called ‘Operation Uttoron’ in 2001 violating the CHT Accord. As a result, instead of the demilitarization of CHT region as per the CHT Accord, military supremacy is more strongly imposed there.

By virtue of ‘Operation Uttoron’, the army have been controlling all the affairs of the CHT including General Administration, Law and Order, Judicial System, development works.