Strange signboards of Army-BGB in Baghaichari: New pattern of cultural invasion and land grabbing

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Hill Voice, 22 March 2024, Special Report: Recently, by taking the advantage of construction of border road and link road at Baghaichari in Rangamati district, Bangladesh Army and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) have installed strange signboards with new names of Muslim persons against the local indigenous names in various habitations of local indigenous Jumma people.

According to the locals and observers, the army and the army-led BGB have intentionally put up these signboards mainly aiming to cultural aggression in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), and land grabbing and eviction of the local Jumma people. Needless to say, the language, culture, history and tradition of the local Jumma people have no contact with those names written on that signboard.

Some examples of such signboards bearing distort names are- ‘Shaheen Tila’ in place of Bhije Hijing in Sarbowatli union of Baghaichari, ‘Mahmud Tila’ in place of Kingkar Para area in Sajek union, ‘Enamul Tila’ in place of Durbachara area in Sajek union, ‘Sajib Tila’ in place of Battala in Sajek union, ‘Shamim Tila’ at Kingkar Para, ‘Saidur Tila’ at Bhuyochara in Sajek union, ‘Ismail Tila (BOP Post)’ at Kingkar Para in Sajek union, ‘Al-Amin Tila’ at Bhuyochara in Sajek union etc.

It has been found out that the indigenous people have been living in those areas for ages and have been making a living by Jum farming and plantation. From the very beginning to date, there were no Muslim settlements. The locals have never even heard the names on the signboards.

A rights activist from Baghaichari requesting not to be named said that this is a conspiracy of the anti-Jumma army intending to wipe out the history and tradition of Jumma people. Placing such signboards will also encourage outsider infiltration in the region.

Besides, during the construction of the border road and the link road, the army and BGB authorities selected many attractive places around the road and occupied them putting signboard as ‘protected areas’ for the purpose of setting up tourist centers. Moreover, the army and the BGB authorities were found placing signboards in many places declaring protected areas, even at the sites of schools and religious institutions. They have restricted the people for movement.

Examples of these are-
(1) The army recently has put a signboard at a Buddhist temple site called ‘Mahasatipatthan Bhabana Kutir’ at Regachara in Sarboatali Union of Baghaichari stating as ‘protected area’. They imposed restriction on soil cutting and movement of locals.

(2) On behalf of Longudu Army Zone, a signboard has been placed near the Jumma village in the North Khagrachari area of Sarboatali Union in Baghaichari, stating- ‘place designated for security forces’, construction of Buddhist temple including other religious institution or any kind of structure is prohibited and punishable offence.

(3) a signboard has been put even at the site of Shantinagar Private School in Gulshakhali of Longadu Upazila mentioning ‘Shantinagar BGB Camp, Rajanagar Zone 37 BGB’.

 

Such activities can be considered as part of the extreme Islamic expansionist aggression on the Jumma people and a deeper conspiracy to wipe out the Jumma tradition and traces. It is clear that by implementing this project, the government and the army are completely ignoring the commitments and provisions of the CHT Accord to preserve the characteristics of Jumma (tribal) inhabited region of the CHT, and inflicting profound blow to the characteristics of the Jumma dominant region.

Local Jumma people fear that the border road construction project will cause far-reaching damage to the indigenous Jumma people in addition to the current crisis due to non-implementation of the CHT Accord that includes unresolved land disputes and non-implementation of the special governance system to be introduced in light of the CHT Accord. Above all, due to the anti-Accord and anti-interest of Jumma people role of the army and government, it will increase the process of outsider infiltration, cultural invasion, dominance of outsider capital, land dispossession and alienation of the natives, making it very difficult for Jumma people to survive with their culture, tradition and self-governance.

Notably, the first phase construction project of 317 km long border road (Rangamati, Khagrachari and Bandarban Hill Districts) is being implemented by the Bangladesh Army on the border with India and Myanmar. At least 776 Jumma families in three hill districts (Rangamati, Khagrachari and Bandarban) have suffered severe damage and at least 78 families have been evicted from their homesteads and villages due to this border road and link road project.

Recently, due to Rajasthali-Bilaichari-Jurachari border link road construction in Rangamati District by 26 Engineer Construction Battalion of the army under 34 Engineer Construction Brigade, a total of 23 Jumma families from 2 villages along Jurachari and Bilaichari border are at the face of eviction. The army have already instructed the villagers to vacate the villages and obstructed them from Jum farming.