Attempt to evict a Jumma village by army in Bilaichari, houses and shops set on fire


Hill Voice, 15 March 2023, Rangamati: There are allegations that the Bangladesh Army are in the process of eviction of the Jumma-dominated Gachban village in the remote area adjacent to the border link road in Farua Union of Bilaichari Upazila under Rangamati District. Already, 17 families out of 26 families in that village have been compelled to move to other places and the remaining 9 families have also been ordered to leave by the army.

It is reported that the army are constantly threatening, abusing and harassing the villagers to evict the remaining 9 Jumma families from the village. Recently, the Army have been accused of burning a house of Jumma villager, vandalizing two shops and throwing the soil on the Jum-farming land of four families.

On the other hand, the villagers said that although Jumma people are being evicted, a new army camp and a big mosque were built on the side of the road.

According to local sources, on March 1, 2023, around 12:00 pm, a group of army led by Senior Warrant Officer Ahmed and Warrant Officer Govinda of Gachban Army Camp of Army’s 34 BIR Bengal rushed to Gachban village and demolished two shops of Jumma villagers. The owners of the shop are – (1) Chibukye Chakma (35), son of Lal Mon Chakma and (2) Basu Chakma (30), son of Moni Chakma.

About an hour after the incident, Senior Warrant Officer Ahmed along with two other army personnel went to demolish the house of a villager named Batye Lal Chakma (25), son of Buddhalila Chakma. At that time Batye Lal Chakma was not at home, he went to a wedding ceremony elsewhere. Senior Warrant Officer Ahmed stopped demolishing house when the Karbari of the village who was present there requested ‘not to burn it till the owner comes’. But before the owner returned home, the army set the house on fire in the afternoon.

It is learnt that the villagers are currently spending their days in extreme uncertainty, fear and difficult conditions after losing their source of income, shop and shelter house.

It is reported that the army personnel of the Gachban army camp are also creating obstacles in various ways for the purpose of eviction of those 9 families in Jum cultivation. A few days ago, army personnel brought soil with their tractors and poured it on the designated area for Jum farm. As a result, four families are not able to do Jum farming at that place.

The four victim families are- (1) Karbari Shubamoy Chakma (45), son of Moni Chakma, (2) Amar Bijay Chakma (25), son of Farak Dhan Chakma, (3) Batye Lal Chakma (25), son of Buddhaleela Chakma and (4) Buddha Leela Chakma (65) son of Unknown.

A few days before the said incident, local Karbari Shubamoy Chakma was forced to get out of the vehicle while he was on his way to Farua by Senior Warrant Officer Ahmed Karbari. At that time, Senior Warrant Officer Ahmed demanded an explanation to Karbari saying ‘Why are you not leaving the village’ and abused and behaved disrespectfully.

A few days later, Captain Maruf of that camp went to the village and ordered that no one in the village could set fire on Jum-land for preparation of cultivation. Captain Maruf further said, ‘Here I will stay for three months, I will see how you set fire to Jum-land.’ Then he abused the villagers in unspeakable language.

It should be noted that on February 6, 2023, Captain Maruf of 26 Bengal Engineering Corps of Gachban Army Camp and Subedar Md. Ahmed Farua called a meeting with 9 families including Karbari (village head) of Gachban Para area of Farua Union and instructed the 9 Jumma families to move away with their houses and belongings within 15 days.

Earlier, on January 30, 2023, Bangladesh Army chief General SM Shafiuddin Ahmed paid visit to inspect the border road construction project in Bilaichari-Barkal area and he ordered the 9 Jumma families to be removed from their residence, Captain Maruf said.

An elder of Farua area, who did not want to be named in this regard, said that the army are trying to occupy the place of the said villagers mainly for the purpose of setting up their tourism business center in that area.

He said that the army are not only constructing the border road. In the name of border road, they are evicting Jumma people from their homesteads along with destroying their resources and occupying attractive places for tourism business. Signboards are also being put up on some places stating the sites are reserved area or designated for army.

It should be noted that only last year (2022) due to the construction of this border road and connecting road by the government and the army without considering livelihood of Jumma people, at least 500 Jumma families suffered losses in three hill districts.