Protest against occupation of land in the name of border road and setting up of camp in Panchari

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Hill Voice, 29 May 2022, Khagrachari: Residents of Panchari area of Panchari upazila of Khagrachari have staged a protest procession and demonstration against the occupation of lands of Jumma peoples by army in the name of construction of border road and setting up of army camp in Natun Shankhola and Ghilatli Para villages bordering India.

It is learnt that the road will connect Tanakka Para of Matiranga in the south and Dighinala-Sajek in the north. The construction of the road is likely to damage the plantations, crops and houses of many Jumma people along the road. The local people will suffer huge losses.

It is learnt that the procession and demonstration was held at 10:00 am on Sunday (May 29, 2022) to protest against the occupation of land in the name of construction of the border road and setting up of camp in No.2 Chengi Union area of Panchari upazila.

Tarun Jyoti Karbari from Bharatbarsha Para, presided over the demonstration after the procession with the slogan ‘No border road to destroy Jumma people by besieging’, ‘Stop land occupation immediately in the name of setting up army camps’.

Praranita Chakma moderated and Jamini Kanta Chakma also spoke at the demonstration. Student leader Bipul Chakma kept speech expressing his solidarity at this.

Land owner Jamini Kanta Chakma said army personnel were forcibly setting up camp in my plantation. As a result, I have to lose about 25 acres of land, including my plantation. I don’t want any army camp there.

In his solidarity speech, student leader Bipul Chakma said that during the war of liberation in 1971, the Jumma people of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) also fought side by side against the Pakistanis. The Jumma people living in the region thought that after independence everyone would be able to live in an independent state with their own rights. But since independence, the Jumma people have been subjected to various forms of discriminatory treatment by the ruling class of the country, including repression, killing and communal attacks in Pakistani style. In the 50 years of independence, the level of oppression has increased. Sometimes in the name of development, sometimes in the name of setting up army camps, sometimes in the name of tourism, sometimes in the name of road construction the lands of the Jumma people are being occupied and they are being evicted. This situation cannot be allowed to continue. Everyone has to stand up against it.

The speakers also demanded to stop construction of border roads by occupying lands of Jumma people and destroying forests and hills and setting up of camp forcefully on the land of Jumma people in Shankhola Para.

According to local sources, a group of BGB members came from Dhudhukchara and obstructed the demonstration.

According to local sources, the Army’s Engineering Construction Battalion (ECB) took the initiative to build the road and set up an army camp. To this end, a meeting was organized on 19 May 2022 in Panchari zone of BGB. Some local public representatives and Karbaris (village head) were also called. During the meeting, BGB’s Panchari Sadar Zone Commander Rubayet Alam PSC, Army’s 20 ECB’s Chittagong Division Commander Lt. Colonel Riazat, Panchari Upazila Executive Officer Rubaiya Afroz and Assistant Commissioner (Land) of Panchari Land Office Md. Abdullah Al Mumin were present. Among the publoc representatives, Panchari Upazila Parishad Panel Chairman Chandradev Chakma, Chengi UP Chairman Ananda Joy Chakma, Logang UP Chairman Joy Kumar Chakma, Karbari of Shankhola Para Khukumni Chakma and others were present.

In it, the army and the BGB commanders talked about their development activities in the CHT and the various facilities if the border road is constructed. Army’s 20 ECB Commander Lt. Colonel Riazat said the army have been constructing border roads in the CHT since 2019 under the direction of the Prime Minister. In the first phase, 317 km road construction work is underway, of which some works have been completed and some work is in progress, he added.

The public representatives and Karbaris expressed their views. However, the public representatives told this reporter that they did not understand why they were called to the meeting at first. Later, when the BGB and the army commanders started discussing the border road, they came to know about it.

However, the meeting promised to provide adequate compensation in case of damage to houses, plantations, lands and crops during road construction. But due to ongoing border road construction work from Sajek, Harina and Ramgarh to Matiranga’s Tanakka Para, those whose houses have been evicted and their plantations and crops have been damaged have not been properly compensated.

Then on 26 May 2022 road construction materials including bulldozers were taken to Shankhola Para area and land cutting work has been started from 28 May. It has been alleged that an army ECB base camp is being set up in the land of Jumma people in the area to facilitate road construction.

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