Hill Voice, 3 June 2022, Chittagong: A citizens’ rally has been held in Chittagong demanding effective steps to stop grabbing lands of indigenous peoples across the country including Lama and on various demands including return of all lands of indigenous peoples occupied in the name of rubber plantation in Lama, full implementation of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Accord.
This civic gathering has been organized by various organizations including People’s Voice, Bangladesh Adivasi Forum, Bangladesh Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Unity Council, and Hill Student Council at the corner of Cheragi Pahar in Chittagong on June 3, 2022. Leaders of various professions including politicians, academics, engineers, journalists and cultural personalities of Chittagong joined and spoke in solidarity with the demands of the indigenous peoples.
In addition to those demands made by the organizers of the rally, there were also demands of the arrest of the main culprits who set fire to the indigenous people’s plantations in Lama, withdrawal of lawsuits against Jum cultivators, cancellation of lease of Lama Rubber Industries, adherence to traditional land rights, adequate compensation to the victims.
At the rally, the affected indigenous peoples, including the Karbaris (Village heads) of village of Dhenge Chara, Natun Para, Langkom Para and Rangen Mro Para in Lama, described the days of the fire in Lama’s Jum hills and plantations. They said that they are not able to cultivate any land at present due to burning of Jum land. They are now in the midst of the future uncertainity due to having lost their lands.
At the rally, Professor Mohammad Alauddin of the Department of Anthropology, University of Chittagong, said that it was a shame for the government, which had signed the Accord two decades ago. Those whose land has been occupied will have to return their land. All achievements will fail if we do not protect the rights of indigenous peoples.
Bangladesh Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Unity Council president Tapas Hor said, people would not tolerate anyone’s arrogance in this country which became independent through the war of liberation. If the state oppresses the citizens, the citizens may organize to protest. Then the political parties will have to decide what action to take. Repeated deprivation of rights cannot continue.
Engineer Delwar Majumder, former president of Chittagong Center of Engineers Institution Bangladesh, said that the country was liberated in 1971 by sacrificing life with the hope that there would be no exploitation and oppression in the country. But today people are captive in the hands of the profiteers of cruel capitalism and destructive profit tendencies. The people of the hills are living like foreigners in their own country. The land of hill area has been occupied in the name of rubber plantation for years. It is barbaric to uproot someone. And when they protest, they were termed as terrorist. There the servants of the Republic behave like lords. The identity of the hill people is being erased. They must be guaranteed the right to a free life, not eyewash. Those who are few in population should be favored by the state. If anyone wants to stay in the hills, they must respect the people of the hills.
At the rally, Professor Ashok Saha said, ‘There is torture in the plains as well as in the hills. Land robbery is going on in the hills. Land grabbers now go into big chairs by doing politics. Everyone should be vocal against this injustice. This struggle will continue till the logical conclusion.’
Drama personality Pradip Dewanji said, ‘Remember that indigenous people are not alone in this country, we are with you too.’
Poet and journalist Kamrul Hasan Badal said that the country was not liberated for such as the reality of today’s protest. As a citizen of Bangladesh, I am ashamed and apologize for the aggression and ethnic oppression that has been inflicted on you. Ziaur Rahman planted poison tree in the CHT. That poisonous tree has become larger spreading branches. Environmentally destructive work is being done in the name of development in the hills. The feature of the land is being changed. A five star hotel is being built occupying land. A great sin is being committed by deleting the original name. If the Bengali who established the right to language and freedom with the blood of the chest deprive somebody of his rights there is nothing worse than that. Everyone has the right to protect his birth land and mother language. Let the fight for his rights continue.
Speaking at the rally, Sharif Chauhan, president of People’s Voice, said that no one could usurp indigenous people’s land. Occupied land must be returned. Compensation must be paid for the crops that were in those lands. We want full implementation of the CHT Accord which was formulated to resolve the crisis. One of the conditions of the Accord is the settlement of land disputes. The Land Commission has no activities till date. They have to return the land immediately after starting its work. No industrialization will be accepted by evicting the indigenous peoples. There must be a continuing socio-political program in the fight against evil.
He further said that political parties should stand by the hill people in the current situation. Political parties talk about human rights but they do not talk about the rights of the people of the hills. They do not say anything about the oppression in the hills. The solution to this problem depends on political decision alone. Decisions must be made to protect human rights in the hills and plains. If the protest continues, one’s rights will be protected.
Binimoy Chakma, general secretary of Metropolitan Committee of Hill Student Council said ‘Main foundation of our culture is the Jum cultivation. Where will the people of the hill go if that Jum house is burned down? To do development, the people of CHT must be listened. Land is being repeatedly occupied in violation of the CHT Accord. We want the arrest of the main culprits of land grabbing and full implementation of the Accord.
Anil Chakma, vice-president of the Hill Workers Welfare Forum, said there was a conspiracy to undermine the Accord. The movement for the rights of the Jumma people will continue.
Supriya Tanchangya, president of Chittagong metropolitan of Hill Student Council moderated and Mohim Uddin of CRB Raksha Manch, Suresh Baran Tripura, President of Tripura Welfare Forum, Utpal Barua of Bright Forum for Bangladesh, Writer Shipra Das, Tong Pong Mro of Bangladesh Mro Students Association, Naresh Chakma, student of CU, Karbari Langkam Mro of Langkam Para, a villager Yeochang Mro, Karbari Rangen Mro of Dhenge Chara Natun Para among others expressed solidarity at the rally.