Human chain and memorandum of villagers protesting eviction of 2 villages on Bilaichari-Jurachari border

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Hill Voice, 19 March 2024, Rangamati: Two villagers in Rangamati have formed a human chain and submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister demanding an end to the eviction of Gachbagan Para and Thum Para on the Jurachari-Bilaichari border by 26 Engineering Construction Battalion of the army.

Today Tuesday (March 19) this human chain was held at the south gate of Rangamati Deputy Commissioner’s office. Presided over by Kabari Ajit Kumar Chakma of Dulu Para, the human chain was addressed by Madan Bikas Chakma, a resident of Thum Para and Punyarani Chakma, a resident of Dulu Para. Besides, President of Rangamati District Branch of Pahari Chatra Parishad (PCP) Jiko Chakma, Central Organizing Secretary of Hill Women’s Federation Ulising Marma, General Secretary of Chittagong Hill Tracts chapter of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum Intu Moni Talukdar and prominent educationist Shishir Chakma also gave solidarity speech in the human chain.

At the end of the human chain, a memorandum was submitted to the Prime Minister with 4 demands through the Deputy Commissioner of Rangamati hill district. Ajit Kumar Chakma, Madan Bikas Chakma, Chibokkha Chakma and Punyarani Chakma signed the memorandum on behalf of the hill dwellers of Gachbagan Para and Thum Para. Barshi Chakma read the memorandum while Sajal Chakma, a resident of Farua Union, conducted the event.

The memorandum states that by abusing their power and violating the basic human rights of the local Jumma people in order to develop their tourism business centering on the border road in the area, the army have started the process of forcible eviction of the residents of two Jumma villages and have banned 17 families from the two villages on Jum farming, their main source of livelihood. If the tourism center is established and the said two villages are evicted, along with it the hilly villages of Shukkarchari, Changrachari, Dulubagan, Mandirachara of Bilaichari and Mandirachara of Jurachari will also be forced to evict.

On March 9, 2024, a group of army under the leadership of Priya Ranjan Chakma, Subedar of Chaichal Army Camp, arrived in Gachbagan Para village and called a meeting with some representatives of Gachbagan Para and Thum Para villagers. Meanwhile, Subedar Priya Ranjan Chakma ordered 12 families of Gachbagan Para village to leave the village immediately and threatened to face bad times in the future if they did not obey the order. Meanwhile, the army personnel also informed that they will set up a tourism center at Pilar Chug and Langel Tila between Thum Para and Gachbagan Para, so Jum-farming cannot be developed there and in the surrounding areas and Jum-farms cannot be set on fire. That means Jum farming cannot be done in these two villages and surrounding areas.

The very next day (last March 11) the army started cutting the soil in Pilar Chug and Langel Tila with excavators and razed the Jum-farm of Buddhalila Chakma. Earlier, on March 6, the army destroyed the Jum-farm of Birsen Tanchangya with the excavator.

Last on March 12, 2924 Chaichal army camp commander Captain Kabir and Subedar Priya Ranjan Chakma went to the house of Karbari (village head) Thudo Chakma of Gachbagan Para village and asked for the list of Jum farms. Captain Kabir told Karbari Thudo Chakma, “It does not matter whether you give or don’t give the list of Jum-farm, you have to leave the village. No one has ever benefited from going against the government’s decision. Therefore, instead of going against the government, leave the place and go elsewhere.” Meanwhile, Captain Kabir ordered to submit the list of Jums to the camp by night.

The memorandum states that on March 8, 2024 at approximately 3 pm, Chief of Army Staff General Saifuddin Ahmed visited the Chaichal army camp r. The very next day (March 9) army personnel from Chaichal camp went to the village and informed the Jumma villagers of Gachbagan Para and Thum Para that the army chief ordered to stop Jum farming and instructed 12 families of Gachbagan Para to leave village.

The memorandum further states that we currently have 23 Jumma families living in Gachbagan Para and Thum Para. These Jumma families started settling there from 1998, immediately after the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord in 1997. Our main livelihood is Jum farming. In the last 24/25 years, many of them have developed banana plantation, mango-jackfruit plantations, tiger groom plantation. Along with paddy cultivation, many people also cultivated ginger, turmeric, sesame, pepper etc.

Due to the army ban on Jum-farming, the indigenous villagers are now very disoriented. In the memorandum, the villagers demanded four points including to revoke the order for villagers to leave the village for protecting their homes, land and livelihood; to cancel establishing tourism adjacent to villages; to withdraw the ban on Jum cultivation and to provide compensation to the affected families whose plantation were destroyed. These villagers who have been ordered to leave the village are now in deep anxiety and panic.

Copies have also been provided to State Minister of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs Ministry, Chairman of Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council, Chairman of Rangamati Hills District Council for kind notice and urgent action.