Headman signature taken forcibly by army constructing border road in Jurachari

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Hill Voice, 6 April 2023, Rangamati: There are allegations that signatures from headmen are being taken forcibly and illegally by the Bangladesh army constructing border road in Dumdumya Union of Jurachari Upazila under Rangamati District. The collection of signatures is on from the headmen of the concerned Mouza with the acknowledgment that all the lands along the boarder roads and adjacent to the border roads are khas land.

It is noteworthy that according to the customary land rights of indigenous Jumma peoples recognised in the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord, Hill District Council Act 1989 (amended in 1998), Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Disputes Settlement Commission Act 2001 (amended in 2016) and Chittagong Hill Tracts Regulation 1900, all the lands of the respective Mouzas are regarded as the customary lands to the Mouza residents.

These lands are distributed and used as Jum cultivation, village common forest conservation, grazing land, homesteads, cremation land under the management of the headman.

So, according to the customary land rights of Jumma peoples, these Mouza lands under the headman are not considered as Khas land and no headman can issue any certificate as Khas land.

According to local sources, recently the members of the army constructing border road in Dumdumya Union have sent an order to the headman of Gandachara Mouza, Sungur Pangkhua to sign in a certificate made by the army referring that all the land along the border road area and adjacent to the border road are government khas land.

The certificate prepared by the army gave an imaginary statement saying that “The border road is being constructed on government khas land.” The alignment of the said road and all the lands adjacent to the alignment are included in the government khas land.

Meanwhile, Warrant Officer Saiful of Gachbagan army camp located in Dumdumya Union has sent a paper bearing the above statement to the Headman and Karbaries of No. 150 Dumdumya mouza.

However, Warrant Officer Saiful also said to Hedman and Karbaris that, “It doesn’t matter if you don’t sign on it.”

On the other hand, such signatures have also been taken from Balabhadra Chakma, the headman of the neighboring Rengkhong Changrachari Mouza, the local residents said.

It should be noted that the government is constructing border roads and connecting roads in three hill districts through the army without taking opinions and pre, prior and informed consent of Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council, three Hill District Councils, traditional leadership and local Jumma people. By destroying plantations, homesteads, homes, temples, schools and various structures and grabbing the lands of Jumma people, the construction of roads and connecting roads are being continued.

But no compensation is being given to the affected Jumma people. In addition, the Jumma villagers are being prevented from making houses and Jum cultivation on their own land adjacent to these roads.

Many local people have complained that the army have an ill-motive to take signature forcibly from the headmen to certify these lands as Khas lands, mainly with the aim of not paying compensation to the affected Jumma villagers and preventing them from erecting settlements on the land adjacent to the border.

Many local elders expressed their opinions that the army have been carrying out such heinous conspiratorial activity with a far-reaching plot to drive out the Jumma people from the vast areas adjacent to the border roads.