Hill Voice, July 24, 2023, Special Correspondent: Recently, there have been an increased encroachment by the Bengali settlers on lands owned by the local indigenous Jumma people at different places in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. It has also been reported that the settlers are backed by the army to encroach on these lands.
From the beginning of July at least at four such places there have been accused of trespassing on indigenous people’s land by settlers till now. Needless to say, very often this kind of incident occurs in many areas of the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
Mahalchari: The most recent incident of land grabbing of indigenous Jumma people attempted by Bengali settlers took place on July 21, 2023 in Maischari union of Mahalchari upazila under Khagrachari hill district.
According to local sources, a Bengali settler named Md. Abdul Latif, s/o Kashem Mandal of Lemuchari area went to Bodanala village with a group of army numbering 30 from the newly built army camp in Joysen Para around 2 pm on that day.
At that time, on the advice of Md. Abdul Latif, the army personnel tried to demolish some houses of Jummas. It is to be noted that a few months ago, the Bengali settlers attacked on Jummas of that area with the intention of grabbing land of the Jumma people. Some people were injured and some houses were burnt down. Later, those burnt houses was repaired by the Jumma people.
Later, when the matter came to light to the locals, especially the women, came to the spot and strongly protested.
In the face of protests by the women, the army personnel stopped their efforts. When the soldiers asked the women “when the houses were built”, the women said they had been living here for many years. The soldiers then left without saying anything else.
Ananta Bikash Chakma, a karbari of Bodanala village, and Gunasindhu Chakma, a Ward member of Maischari union, were present at the spot at that time.
Matiranga: On July 17, 2023, in Matiranga Sadar Union area of Matiranga upazila under Khagrachari district, Muslim Bengali settlers were accused of trying to grab the land of the local Jummas. The incident took place in East Taikumbha Para of Wasu Mouza of Matiranga Sadar Union.
According to local sources, around 10 am on that day, a group of 8-10 Muslim Bengali settlers from the nearby settler area went to the East Taikumbha Para area and started cleaning the forest which is traditionally owned by the Jumma people. At one point, when the incident came to light, local Jumma men and women rushed to the spot and prevented the settlers from cutting the forest. Seeing the huge resistance of the Jummas, the Bengali settlers left the place.
Longadu: On the same day (17 July 2023), it was alleged that the traditional land owned by the Jumma people was forcibly attempted to occupy by Muslim Bengali settlers in Bhashanya adam Union of Longadu Upazila under Rangamati district and the forest including various fruit trees was cleared for this purpose.
According to local sources, a group of 20-22 Bengali settlers of Shilkata Chara settlers settlement area under No.17 Ghanomor Mouza of Bhashanya adam Union of Longodu started cleaning the forest including fruit trees on the traditional land owned by the Jummas in Shilkata Chara village around 9 am.
When the incident came to light, the Jumma land owners went to the spot immediately and asked the Bengali settlers not to clear the forest. But they did not follow the prohibition and cleared the forest of at least 2 acres of land, including mango, litchi and myrobalan trees planted by the Jummas.
While leaving, the Bengali settlers threatened the jumma people by claiming that the place belong to Md. Hossain, a resident of Shilkatachara settler area, who was leading to grab the land.
Kaptai: There was an allegation that on July 3, 2023, the Bengali settlers from No.2 Kengrachari union of Bilaichari upazila under Rangamati district have been attempting to forcefully occupy at least 24 acres of fringe land belonging to 12 Jumma families in No.4 Kaptai Union area of nearby Kaptai Upazila. According to a source, there is also instigation of army in this attempt to occupy by settlers.
Even, there is such allegation that the Bengali settlers have been obstructing the Jummas to farm in their own land and threatening of bloodshed if they would not refrain doing so.
As per locals, on July 3, 2023, Pulak Kumar Tanchangya (34) son of Noa Muni Tanchangya and Daya Man Chakma (68) son of late Kinadhan Chakma, residents of Kilyachari Bhabana Kendra Para village of No.3 Ward of Kaptai Union of 130 Barudgola Mouza, went to work hiring 20 labourers to prepare their fringe land.
While working was on, running UP member Md. Rabiul, son of late Rafiqul, along with 40/50 settlers from Kengrachari settler area of No.2 Kengrachari union of neighbouring Bilaichari upazila, went to the spot and forbid the Jummas to work and threatened that if the work was not stopped there would be a bloodshed.
At that moment, the Bengali settlers threatened the Jummas saying that all the adjacent lands would be in their custody or there would be another massacre there. The settler further said that they would take the matter to CO (Commanding Officer) of the local army zone and the CO would give a rightful solution.
The villagers have the allegation that even earlier on February 7, 2023 around 34 acres of fringe lands belonging to 12 Jumma villagers of Kilyachari Bhabana Kendra Para Village were forcefully occupied by a group of Bengali settlers, under the leadership of No.3 Ward member Mahar Ali and No.2 Ward member Nazrul of No.2 Kengrachari Union with the direct instigation of Lt. Col. Md. Ahsan Habib Naseem, CO of BIR 32 Bengal of Army. Depriving the Jummas, the lands were given to about 40/50 Bengali settler families by the army and settler leaders.