Aug 20, 2013

Chittagong Hill Tracts: Taindong Attacks Were Attempts At Land Grabs

The August 3 attacks in Taindong by Bangalee settlers were aimed at grabbing land from indigenous peoples according to Representatives of the International Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission and the Parliamentary Caucus on indigenous affairs

Below is an article published by the Dhaka Tribune:

Representatives of International Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission and parliamentary caucus on indigenous affairs Monday visited the hill villages at Taindong of Matiranga in Khagrachhari where Bangalee settlers on August 3 swooped on the indigenous people.

Prof Anu Muhammad of Jahangirnagar University, who accompanied the team, told the Dhaka Tribune: “The pattern of the recent violence is almost the same like the previous ones. The arson attack seems to be pre-planned aiming to grab the land of the indigenous people.”

He alleged that some influential people of the area launched the massacre by instigating the settler Bangalees. When the indigenous people went to the border area to save their lives, many of their land have been grabbed.”

The local administration said they were taking necessary measures for rehabilitation of the affected people and would give compensation. “But this is not the solution,” he said stressing on preventive measures.

The team visited Bagha Para and Sorbeswar Para where two Buddhist temples were ransacked, reported

During the visit, CHT Commission member Swapan Adnan and Awami League lawmaker Fazle Hossain Badsha talked with the victims while rights activist Khushi Kabir, National Human Rights Commission member Nirupa Dewan, barrister Sara Hossain, and Prof Anu Muhammad were also present.

Meanwhile, representatives of the indigenous communities in the district claimed that the “communal aggression by Bangalee settlers” in six villages from July 29 to August 3 had happened only due to the culture of impunity, says a UNB.

They also expressed dissatisfaction over inadequate relief for the affected families, noting that some 1,000 families in Taindong were living in a desolate condition as most of their belongings were looted during the attacks.

The Relief Committee estimated the loss to be no less than Tk17m. The relief so far distributed among the affected is comparable to a drop of water in the sea, the report observed. They also demanded that the each family be given Tk600,000 and rationing for five years.

The observations were made by the leaders of a citizens’ platform “Relief Collection and Distribution Committee for the Affected in Taindong-Tabalchhari Area” at a discussion with a team of Dhaka-based rights activists at a boarding in Khagrachhari town on Friday.

Their nine-point demands include government steps against BGB officials for inaction, formation of a judicial probe body and transferring the case to the speedy trial tribunal in Chittagong.

Committee Convener Kiron Marma said the impunity shown to the settlers from their previous communal attacks on the indigenous people had been acting as a major impetus for the increase of such attacks in the recent times.

“Complaints against the settlers are not much listened to by the law enforcement agencies,” he said, “And there is not a single example over the decades that the perpetrators got the punishment for crime.”

Kiron said: “The arson attacks and vandalism at Taindong happened in the presence of BGB officials.”

There are at least six BGB camps near the affected areas. Atlong, Tanakka Para and Phenihcara camps within a half-kilometre distance, while the camps at Bandarshing Para within two kilometres, camps at Dwitila and Taindong within two kilometres.

Relief committee member Dhiman Khisha also alleged that the attacks were launched mainly for grabbing more lands. “Lands designated to a member of the indigenous community cannot be bought without the permission of headman of the community. But the settlers are managing to get the false land deeds from the administration,” he claimed.

“It has already changed the demography of the district [Khagrachhari] violently. In 1947, the Bangalee population in the district was only 1.97%. In 1971, only 12 Bangalee families used to live in Taingong, but now they are the majority in the area,” he noted.

“Illegal land grabbing, impunity from communal crimes are all linked to the same thread a process of ethnic cleansing by the state,” Dhiman said.