Thousand acres of lands occupied by an AL leader on plea of Tourism

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Hill Voice, 01 April 2020, Bandarban: The inhabitants have raised an allegation of illegal occupation of lands measuring some 1000 thousand acres by Md. Shafiullah, Chairman Naikhyongchari Upazila Parishad and also President of Naikhyongchari Upazila Awami League Branch on plea of tourism. It has been learnt that the mass of lands is lands for Jum-cultivation and falls under category of mouza lands.

An investigation reveals that on plea of tourism, the Jum-cultivation lands measuring some 1000 acres have been taken away under illegal occupation covering some 100 acres in No. 270 Naikhyongchari Mouza, 350 acres in No. 272 Jaruliachari Mouza and 550 acres in No. 269 Sonaichari Mouza. Jum cultivation in the said lands is practiced as the sole livelihood earning by the indigenous Jumma peoples living of 30 families in Jumkhola Para, 80 families in Kyakrop Para, 110 families in Khyawng Para, 90 families in Lamar Para and 50 families in Singthuai Para. All of them belong to the Chak and Marma indigenous communities. The indigenous communities living therein informed that they have been living there on Jum cultivation while combating with the fierce wild animals since the ages together.

The said Awami League leader began to encroach the lands of indigenous people gradually since February 2018. It is seen during the investigation, distance from that tourist spot of Sonaichari to Naikhyongchari proper is 8 kilometers. A dam has been constructed by cutting the foothills of both sides of the stream with dredger. Size of the dam has been made larger for commuting facilities. Hills are being cut and flattened to make the road wider.

Meanwhile, 8 kilometers mud road has been made by flattening 15 hills while destroying the natural environment prevailing there. The streamlet is being filled up to construct the dam. Though cutting hill is illegal but it is by might of power, the Awami League leader is getting all these legalized without obtaining any permission from the authority – alleged by the native people. The areas are being occupied by way of showing intimidation and allurement of employment in the tourism complex. Several hundreds of poor indigenous families are all set to face food crisis for not being able to cultivate their Jumming lands. Besides, they do not have any other alternative earning source for dependable livelihood. Alongside, it is feared that the livelihood of several hundred indigenous families will be under threat.

It is further known that some more mud roads were made by cutting the hills last year. From amongst the 15 hills flattened for travelling of the tourists, 4 were size-wisely very large.  Many fruit gardens grown by the indigenous people by employing relentless tilling, have also gone under illegal occupation – even rubber plantations of some other Jumma cultivators have also gone under such occupation. A project worth of BDT 12 million was given approval from the Bandarban Hill District Council for construction of roads and dam in those illegally occupied areas. The money of the approved project was released in the last fiscal year. With the said amount, it is to cover the expenses for construction of 40 meters long dam and 2 Van-Box culverts. People of the affected area submitted application to the administration alleging against the Chairman Md. Shafiullah’s illegal occupation of lands. But no administrative action has been taken against him for being a leader of the ruling party.

On the other side, also in the dense forest of Dochari Union under Naikhyongchari Upazila, the land robbers, having occupied the lands, are cutting trees and bamboos irrespectively and extracting the forest resources away. It is leant that the land robbers having occupied hundred acres of lands belonging to the indigenous Tripura community are denuding the forest for permanent settlement in their names. They are trafficking all those forest resources outside CHT while the remaining portion is being burnt to ashes. The livelihood earning of local indigenous Jumma villagers comprises of bamboos, broom plants and trees including collection of various forest resources and Jum cultivation in the hill slopes. The outsider land robbers are trying to destroy their income sources. This trend is regarded to be a danger signal to the lifestyle and livelihood of the indigenous people and to the very existence of the wild elephants and other species in the forest.

Source: PCJSS Monthly Report (March 2020) on Human Rights Violation Situation in CHT

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