Memo to PM demanding compensation for affected families due to Sajek border road construction

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Hill voice, 1 March 2023, Rangamati: The affected Jumma people for Sajek boarder road construction have sent a memorandum to the Prime Minister for proper compensation and making obstruction of the Jumma families from building houses and movement on their own land adjacent to the border road.

Yesterday, March 31, 2023 around noon a protest gathering and human chain was organized under the banner of the affected residents of Sajek in Udaipur area of Sajek Union in Baghaichari Upazila of Rangamati District.

The gathering was presided over by Bibrakanti Chakma and the speakers were local businessman Alomoy Chakma, former Union Parishad Council member Mohan Lal Chakma, Karbari Buddhi Ranjan Chakma, Lalit Karbari, Uday Ranjan Chakma and others.

The memorandum was sent to the Prime Minister through the Upazila Executive Officer of Baghaichhari Upazila. It says:

“The border road construction by Bangladesh Army and BGB that 10 km to the north and 10 km to the south from Udaipur Junction to Sajek International border in Sajek Union under No. 168 Kanglak Mouza and No. 167 Ruilui Mouza in Baghaichari Upazila is nearing completion. It is very worrying and regrettable that the government and 20 ECB of the army have been continuing the construction of this border road without any discussion and prior consent from the local leadership and residents of the concerned area and without any compensation arrangements for the affected residents.

It should be noted that at least 210 Jumma families have directly been affected while several hundreds of Jumma families indirectly since 2021. In particular, the houses, shops and teak, agar, bamboo and various forest and fruit trees belonging to the Jumma people were severely damaged during the construction of the road. Not only this, it has damaged Jum-farming lands of many Jumma families and natural environment and forests due to cutting of many hills. But no compensation was given to the affected families. We submitted memorandums to various authorities in August 2021. Still we haven’t received any compensation yet. So, we demand appropriate compensation.

Human chain in protest of BGB’s obstruction and demolition of Jumma houses in Sajek

Even Jumma villagers are being prevented from building houses on their own land adjacent to Sajek border road including Sijakachara. For example, on November 12, 2022, Commanding Officer (CO) of BGB’s 27th Battalion, Lt. Col. Md. Shariful Abed (SGP) and Baghaichari UNO came and instructed the Jumma villagers not to erect any house.

On November 13, 2022, a group of BGB members came and demolished the houses of 4 villagers of Bara Kamalak Para and prevented the construction of 2 houses and took the poles and bamboos gathered for construction of the houses to the camp. Apart from this, the army and BGB have been setting up checkposts at various places and searching the local residents and obstructing their movement.

It should also be noted that many of us were uprooted from other regions of Baghaichari, Longadu, Kawkhali, Barkal, Naniarchar of Rangamati district and Dighinala Upazila of Khagrachari due to the prevailing situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), who spend their lives cultivating various fruit plantations and Jum farming that have been built with great hard work. Most of our ancestors were affected and displaced by the Kaptai Dam.

Press meet to demand compensation for Jummas affected by construction of border road in Baghaichari

We had high hopes that through the proper implementation of the CHT Accord signed in 1997, land disputes in CHT would be settled by the Land Commission as per the CHT Accord and the Internally Jumma displaced families would be rehabilitated by the Task Force. But in the last 25 years, we have been living in great anxiety and despair because of the non-implementation of the CHT Accord and the non-resolution of land disputes and the non-rehabilitation of Internally Displaced Persons.”

In the memorandum, the affected residents urged to implement the following demands immediately:

1. To immediately take appropriate measures to compensate the Jumma families affected by the construction of Sajek border road.

2. To Immediately stop the obstruction to the constructing houses of Jumma people on their own lands adjacent to the Sajek border road.

3. To immediately take the initiative to resolve the land dispute of CHT through Land Commission.

4. To immediately take measures for the full implementation of CHT Accord.

Apart from the Prime Minister, copy of the memorandum was sent to the Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of CHT Affairs, Chairman of CHT Regional Council, Chairman of Rangamati Hill District Council, Deputy Commissioner of Rangamati Hill District.