Hill Voice, 8 August 2020, Bandarban: It has been alleged that the houses in 3 Mro villages have been threatened to be burnt for occupying land in Sorai Union of Lama Upazila of Bandarban district. The families of the villages alleged that several rubber companies, including Lama Rubber Industries and Meridian Company, have been giving this threat.
Mro villagers are being threatened with lodging lawsuits against them, arrests and torture if they are not evicted. Meanwhile, though the Mro families lodged a written complaint with the Bandarban Deputy Commissioner and Lama Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) in 2019, it is learnt that they have not yet received justice or their land has not been recovered.
Meanwhile, Rangien Mro, Karbai (village head) of Dhenkichhara Natun Para in Sarai Union, said that they have been living in Dhenkichhara area of Doluchhari mouza of the union for generations. Two years ago, out of 48 families, 14 families moved to Dhenkichhara Natun Para due to harassment and threats from rubber companies. More 16 families have been living in Dhenkichhara Noapara for several years.
He added that these Mro families have been cultivating Jum (shifting cultivation) for ages. The Jumfarm lands in the vicinity of the neighborhood which were developed and occupied by our forefathers have now been forcibly occupied by Lama Rubber Industries and Meridian Company. The people of the company are threatening us in various ways to leave the village. If we do not leave the village, our houses will be set on fire and company people will come and attack us.
At one point, some of them were called to the police camp at Lama Upazila headquarters following a written petition signed by four villagers, including Karbari. At that time, the police verbally ordered them to leave the village within a week. If they do not leave, they will be evicted and the land of Lama Rubber Industries will be vacated from the occupation of Mro villagers.
Arif Hossain, Manager of Lama Rubber Industries, told to the correspondent that Mro people were living illegally on land leased for a rubber plantation in 1988-89. They have been told to leave the village peacefully. No threats were made to them. He claimed that out of 1,600 acres of land owned by 64 shareholders of the company, 600 acres of land are under occupation of Mro peole.
Some Karbaries of the area said that there is no land in the name of Lama Rubber Industries Limited in Sorai Union. In this regard, Arif Hossain and Md. Selim, Altaf Hossain, Abu Daud, Delwar Hossain of Lama Rubber Industries Ltd. said that the lands which were taken lease in the name of the persons have been given to the company by the lease/share-holders.
Rangyien Mro (Karbari) of Dhekinchhara Natun Para said that several rubber companies in Lama Upazila have taken over our land and gardens. Among them, Lama Rubber Industries has occupied 1,600 acres, Meridian Company 3,000 acres and Lama Quantum Cosmo School has grabbed 3,500 acres in Lama Upazila. Because of their obstacles, harassment and threats, we are not able to do anything like Jum farming, gardening, erecting houses.
John Tripura, Headman (Mouza Head) of Daluchhari Mouza, said that if a rubber plantation does not make plantation on the leased land within 10 years as per the 1997 Chittagong Hill Tracts Agreement and the lease agreement between the government and the leaseholders, the lease agreement will be considered void. According the lease is to be cancelled automatically as there was no plantation for 26 years since 1989. For this, he has appealed to the Deputy Commissioner of Bandarban hill district last year to take possession of the leased land under Mouza authority.
Meanwhile, Bandarban Deputy Commissioner Dilip Kumar Banik said to the Mro people not to leave villages. He directed Lama Upazila Executive Officer Noor Jannat Rumi to investigate the matter and take legal action.
Youngring Mro, a victim of the case, said the Lama rubber companies had filed a false case against us with Lama police station. Around 20/30 people have been accused in the case. The people against whom have been sued in the case are 1. Rangyien Mro (Karbari), son of late Laipung Mro, 2. Chaco Mro, son of unknown, 3. Youngring Mro, son of Rangyien Mro, 4. Rangrum Mro, son of Rangyien Mro, 5. Nale Mro, son of Emoy Mro, 6. Engyongring Mro, son of Nale Mro and 8/9 more unknown people of Dhenkichara Natun Para of Sorai Union in Lama Upazila.
“We are living in panic now,” he added. The people of the company can attack us at any moment. They are currently obstructing the cutting of bamboo and trees and cultivation in our occupied lands.
Para Bon of Kalu Mro Para destroyed by forest robber gang in Lama, villagers in panic
Residents of remote Kalu Mro Para of Daluchhari Mouza of Gajalia Union under Lama Upazila in Bandarban district have complained that a group of forest destroyers are occupying the site of ‘Para Bon’ (Village Common Forest – VCF) and cutting down trees and bamboo from there. Mro villagers appealed to those concerned to protect the forest area and the Para Bon (VCF). Mang Ru Mro, a Karbari in the neighborhood, said local public representatives and law enforcement forces were not getting action despite appeal was submitted to them for justice.
Mang Ru Mro added, ‘They have been living in the area for a hundred and fifty years. Their livelihood depends on the trees and bamboo of the surrounding forest. They have land documents. Even then, they are not able to save their land.’
Para Bon (Village Common Forest) is a vast forest land in the Chittagong Hill Tracts which protects biodiversity, environment and natural resources. The importance of this VCF is immense and essential in everything from water conservation to the livelihood of the indigenous Jumma people.
Many villagers of Kalu Mro Para including Krong Pong Mro said, ‘One such important forest (VCF) in the hills is being destroyed for two months. Despite many requests, the headman of the mouza Hlathui Mong Marma’s son Suikyacha Marma, businessman Md. Yunus, Belal and Md. Ilias are destroying our Para Bon (VCF). Teak and bamboo smugglers are indiscriminately destroying water sources. How can we survive in these hills without water? The traffickers are regularly pulling teaks with two elephants.’
He added, “We have lodged a written complaint with the Union Parishad and Upazila Parishad chairman, but they are working in favour of deforest destroyers instead of help up. Around 6,000 bamboos and about 40 big Gorjan trees have already been cut down from our Para Bon (VCF).”
Karbari Mang Ru Mro added, ‘There are 7 families with 34 members living in our village. About three months ago, there was an extreme food crisis in our village. The food of the people of the village was provided by selling some trees of this Para Bon (VCF). The Para Bon always protects us when the villagers face any major problem including food crisis. Even, if we want to protest, the tree smugglers have filed false cases against us.’
Suikyacha Marma said, “The Mros occupy a lot of land. I took the land with the Headman report. I am cutting down trees and bamboo from my land.’ Defending himself, accused Md. Ilias also said, “I didn’t cut any trees or bamboo.”
Local chairman Mintu Kumar Sen denied the allegations, saying, “The people of the village are occupying the extra land. The land from where the bamboo and trees are being cut down is not a Para Bon (VCF).”
Chairman of Lama Upazila Parishad Mostafa Jamal said, “The problems are being created mainly because the headman of the mouza make recommendation report in favour of settlement to different people at different times.”
SM Kaisar, Divisional Forest Officer of Lama Forest Department, said, “It is very sad that elephants are using for trafficking trees from the Para Bon (VCF). I am taking immediate action against it.”