Two Jumma villages under threat to extinction at army eviction plan

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Hill Voice, 13 March 2024, Special Correspondent: The indigenous Jumma inhabitants of two remote villages along the border road bordering Jurachari and Bilaichari upazilas under Rangamati District have allegedly been subjected to eviction by the Bangladesh Army. Reportedly, the army ordered 12 families to vacate their villages and prohibition was imposed on them for Jum cultivation- the main means of livelihood of at least 17 families of two village.

According to the sources, the army abusing power in order to develop monopolistic tourism business and establish military dominance centring border road of the area, and violating the basic human rights of the local indigenous Jumma people, initiated processes of evicting these indigenous people of the two villages i.e. Gachbagan Para and Thum Para. Once the tourist centre is set up, those two villages will be wiped out. Shukkarchari, Chongrachari and Mandirachra in Bilaichari upazila and Mandirachra in Jurachari upazila will also be ousted spontaneously.

It is explored that the two villages Gachbagan Para and Thum Para adjacent to the under construction border road by the Bangladesh army was affected. However, the Gachbagan Para village is in Dumdumya union under Jurachari upazila, while Thum Para village is in Farua union of Bilaichari upazila. Chaichal army camp is in Gachbagan Para area. The Chaichal army on instruction of the higher army authority is executing the plan of removing the Jumma villagers.

According to the local sources, an army group led by Priya Ranjan Chakma, subedar of Chaichal army camp, going to the Gachbagan Para village by vehicle, hold a meeting calling some elderly persons of Gachbagan Para and Thum Para villagers on March 9, 2024. During the meeting, Subedar Priya Ranjan Chakma ordered 12 families of Gachbagan Para village to leave the village immediately and threatened that otherwise they would suffer difficulties. The army personnel also said they would set up a tourist centre at Pilar Chug and Langel Tila at the middle of Thum Para and Gachbagan Para, so Jum-farms cannot be developed there and adjacent areas and the Jums which were already cut cannot be burnt. That means Jum farming cannot be done in these two villages and surrounding areas.

The very next day (March 11) the army started cutting hills in Pilar Chug and Langel Tila with excavators destroying Jum-farm of Budhalila Chakma. Earlier, on March 6, the army destroyed the Jum-farm of Birosen Tanchangya with excavator.

Gachbagan Para

Reportedly, going to Thudo Karbari house in Gachbagan Para village, Chaichal army camp commander Captain Kabir and Subedar Prio Ranjan Chakma asked for the list of Jum-farms. But out of fear Karbari Thudo Chakma refused to give the list of Jum-farms. Meanwhile, Captain Kabir told Karbari Thudo Chakma, “You have to vacate the village whether you give the list or not. So, give the list and leave the village taking some compensation. No one gain anything going against the government’s decision. So, instead of opposing the government, leave the place and go elsewhere.” It should be said that the captain ordered to submit the list to the camp by 11 March night.

The families of Gachbagan Para who were ordered to be evacuated by the army are- (1) Budhalila Chakma, son of- late Madanya Chakma, (2) Lengpad Chakma, son of- Budhalila Chakma, (3) Forokadhan Chakma, son of- Dinmohan Chakma, (4) Amar Jiban Chakma. Son of- Budhalila Chakma, (5) Pendugulo Chakma, son of- Budhalila Chakma, (6) Batya Chakma, son of- Budhalila Chakma, (7) Punyalal Chakma, son of- Buidhlila Chakma, (8) Nijimuni Chakma, son of- Rabanya Chakma, (9) Bhadang Chakma, son of- Jakka Chakma, (10) Satto Chakma, son of- Mulo Bab Chakma, (11) Thudo Karbari, son of- Murungya Chakma, (12) Sebakya Chakma, son of- Naga Chakma.

The victims are said to have been passing days with great anxiety and panic. They don’t know how get remedy of their difficulties. A source requesting not to be named said that he is even afraid of telling these to anyone.

On the other hand, the families who even after cultivating Jum-farms have been restricted to farm by army are- (1) Tanchangya Chakma, son of- Chintaharan Chakma, village-Thumpara, (2) Chakko Chakma, son of- Birajmohan Chakma, village-Thumpara, (3) Madan Chakma, son of- Gyanalal Chakma, Village-Thumpara, (4) Subimol Chakma, son of- Ramani Kumar Chakma, Village-Thumpara, (5) Dayalal Chakma, son of- Bhagaban Chakma, Village-Thumpara, (6) Budhalila Chakma, son of- late Madanya Chakma, Village-Gashbagan Para, (7) Lengpad Chakma, son of- Budhlila Chakma, Village-Gashbagan Para, (8) Farokadhan Chakma, son of- Dinmohan Chakma, village- Gashbagan Para, (9) Amar Jiban Chakma, son of- Farakdhan Chakma, village- Gashbagan Para, (10) Pendugulo Chakma, son of-Budhalila Chakma, village- Gashbagan Para, (11) Batya Chakma, son of- Budhalila Chakma, village- Gashbagan Para, (12) Punyo Lal Chakma, son of- Budhalila Chakma, Village -Gachbagan Para, (13) Nijimuni Chakma, son of- Rabanya Chakma, (14) Badang Chakma, son of- Jakka Chakma, village- Gash bagan para, (15) Satto Chakma, son of- Mulo Bab Chakma, Village- Gashbagan para, (16) Thudo Karbari, son of- Murungya Chakma, Village- Gash Bagan para and (17) Sebakya Chakma, son of- Naga Chakma, Village – Gashbagan para.

It is laernt that 23 Jumma families are currently living in Gachbagan Para and Thum Para. These Jumma families have been living since 1998, upon signing the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord in 1997. Their main means of livelihood is Jum farming. However, in the last 24/25 years, many of them have developed banana plantations, mango-jackfruit plantations, tiger grass plantations. Besides, along with paddy, many people also cultivate ginger, turmeric, sesame, pepper etc.

At present, these Jumma families are known to be in extreme despair due to the army’s obstruction on Jum farming. They expect help from everyone to protect their homes, land and livelihood.

It is reported that on March 8, 2024 at around 3 pm, Bangladesh Army Chief of Staff General SM Shafiuddin Ahmed visited Chaichal army camp by a helicopter. The very next day (March 9), the army personnel from Chaichal camp went to the two villages and conveyed the army chief order to them- – to stop Jum farming and the 12 families of Gachbagan Para have to leave their village.