Concern of 24 prominent citizens over the occupation of plantations, hills and lands owned by indigenous peoples

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Hill Voice, 24 March 2022, Dhaka: Today, March 24, 2022, 24 prominent citizens of the country have expressed concern over the occupation of plantations, hills and lands owned by indigenous Jummas in the Bandarban Hill District and demanded an independent investigation into the incident to ensure their occupation of their lands in a statement.

The statement said, ‘according to recent media reports, the residents of Langkom Mro Karbari Para, Joy Chandra Karbari Para and Rengen Mro Karbari Para of Soroy union under Lama upazila of Bandarban hill district have sought the intervention of the Prime Minister to get back the plantations, hills and lands seized at a human chain and protest rally held at in front of the Bandarban Deputy Commissioner’s office on Sunday morning, March 20, 2022.’

The statement said, ‘Kamal Uddin, director of Lama Rubber Industries Limited, with the help of some local land grabbers, has seized about 300 acres of indigenous people’s land. The company has filed false cases against the indigenous people at various times when they protested.

Although the land ownership of the plains indigenous peoples is determined by the existing law of the country, the land ownership of the indigenous people in the three hill districts is collective. The principle of ‘universal property ownership’ is the basis of their land ownership. As a result this ownership is lineally verbal. It is managed by the Headmen and Karbaris of the hill villages under three Circles. But in the last 30 years, the amount of land under the control of these hill villages has decreased by 51 percent. In other words, more than half of the hill people’s social ownership of land and property has been lost.

Prominent citizens said, ‘We are deeply disappointed by the lack of visible action by the administration in the occupation of the jum plantations and lands of the Jumma people of Langkom Mro Karbari Para, Joy Chandra Tripura Karbari Para and Rengen Mro Karbari Para of Sorai Union in Lama Upazila of Bandarban; we are concerned. There were no assurances for justice or any assistance for the affected families from the local administration, which has upset us.’

They further said, ‘In this circumstances we demand immediately to complete an impartial investigation into the occupation of jum plantations, hills and lands of indigenous people of Soroy union under Lama upazila of Bandarban, to take action against the land grabbers arresting them immediately under the existing law and to ensure the possession of Mro people in their villages.’

The citizens who signed the statement are- Pankaj Bhattacharya, President, Okkyo NAP, Rasheda K. Chowdhury, a former adviser to the Caretaker Government, Ramendu Majumder, a member of the Presidency, the Sammilito Samajik Andolon (joint social movement), Dr. Sarwar Ali, Trustee, Liberation War Museum, Dr. Fauzia Moslem, President, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, Dr. Nur Mohammad Talukder, Member Secretary, Forum Against Communalism and Militancy, SMA Sabur, President, Bangladesh Krishak Samiti, Khushi Kabir, Human Rights Activist, M M Akash, Professor, Dhaka University, Robayet Ferdous, Professor, Dhaka University, Saleh Ahmed, General Secretary, Sammilito Samajik Andolon, Dr. Lenin Chowdhury, Public Health Specialist, Ranjit Kumar Saha, Member of the Senate, University of Dhaka, Parvez Hashem, Advocate, Bangladesh Supreme Court, Abdul Wahed, Acting President, Jatiyo Shromik Jot (National Workers Alliance), Advocate Jibanananda Jayanta, Organizer, Ganajagaranmancha, Dr. Selu Basit, Cultural Activist, Razia Samad Dalia, Social Worker, AK Azad, Cultural Activist, Alok Das Gupta, President, Uthon Cultural Organization, Dipayan Khisa, Information and Publicity Secretary, Bangladesh Adivasi Forum, Bibhuti Bhushan Mahato, Member, National Adivasi Parishad, Central Committee, Kazi Abdul Motaleb Jewel, President, Bangladesh Chhatra Maitri, Gautam Shil, President, Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL).