Plot to occupy 150 acres land in the name of school in Naikhyongchari

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Hill Voice, 5 April 2023, Bandarban: There is allegations that 150 acres of Jum farming land is being hatched to encroach by outsiders using the name of a school in Naikhyonchari in Bandarban district. Many concerned persons are of the opinions that this settlement is being planned for the purpose of occupying the land by showing a soft issue of setting up the school.

According to a notice issued on August 28, 2022 by Md. Ahid Ullah, Surveyor of upazila land office of Naikhyongchari upazila, Masum Iqbal, Chairman of Seagal International School, Seagal branch of Hotel Motel Zone, Cox’s Bazar, has applied for the settlement of 150 acres of land in the name of establishing an international standard Seagal Boarding School In Sonaichari Mouza of Sonaichari Union in Naikhyongchari.

Following Masum Iqbal’s application, the said notice was issued by the Naikhyongchari land office to the applicant or his nominated surveyor or representative to appear at the Naikhyonchari Land Office on 11th April 2023 for investigation of the matter.

In the said notice, it asked to be present with information on how much infrastructure will be set up on the land, what initiatives will be taken to protect the environment and biodiversity, what will contribute to the development of tourism, what will contribute to the creation of employment, what benefits will the local residents get, etc.

In fact, according to the CHT Accord and the Hill District Council Act made pursuant to the Accord, there are restrictions on settlement of non-permanent residents in hill districts without the prior approval of the Hill District Council. Therefore, this initiative of Naikhyongchari Upazila Land Office for investigation and issuance of notice is completely illegal and against the provisions of the CHT Accord.

On the other hand, land settlement is currently closed until the resolution of the land dispute in Chittagong Hill Tracts through the Land Commission as per the Accord. But settlements are being provided for educational and, religious institutions, government projects subject to the approval of the CHT Affairs Ministry.

Using that loophole, the 150 acre of land is targeted for settlement using the school establishment as a signboard. Although it is argued to establish the school, many locals have complained that the outsider Masum Iqbal made this application for settlement of 150 acres of land mainly for the purpose of grabbing the land.

Apart from that, tourism, protection of environment and bio-diversity, employment, benefits of poor and backward communities etc. have been shown for getting settlement easily, many expert opined.

It is known that in the 150 acres of land proposed for establishing school in Sonaichari Mouza, there are total of 93 Jumma families living in Lama Para, Khyang Para, Jum Khola and Chingthwai Para and they have developed Jum cultivation, lemon plantation, teak plantation and farms and have been occupying them traditionally for generations.

It may be noted that there are many examples of expropriation of thousands acres of traditional Jum farm and Mouza land, eviction and cultural aggression.

Out of them, allegation of the encroachment of around 2,000 acres of land of Jumma peoples including Mro community and eviction of Mro inhabitants from their ancestral land in Lama through various tactics and conspiracy by the Quantum Foundation.

Quantum Foundation: the name of terror in Lama’s Sarai Daluchhari

Similarly, there are instances that the Bidyananda Foundation also expropriated hundreds of acres of land of Jummas’ land in the name of providing educational facilities. The Bidyananda Foundation has also been accused of taking up joint projects with the army for easy benefits.

Land of Mro people occupied by Bidyananda Foundation in the name of school in Alikadam

Under this circumstances, local residents have demanded cancellation of the application for settlement of 150 acres of land in the name of establishment of Seagal Boarding School.