Aug 01, 2007

Chittagong Hill Tracts: Leader behind Bars

A Chittagong Hill Tracts land rights leader has been sentenced to 17 years in prison after protesting against forced evictions.

A Chittagong Hill Tracts land rights leader has been sentenced to 17 Years in Prison after protesting against forced evictions.

Below is an article published by The Progress Report


Ranglai Mro, a Jumma leader from the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh, has been sentenced to 17 years in jail after protesting against the eviction of his people from their land to make way for an army training centre.

Ranglai Mro was arrested by the police and army in February and charged with possessing illegal firearms. It is thought that the charges were invented in retaliation for his defence of the Mru’s rights to their land.

750 Mru (or Mro) families were evicted from their land in remote villages of the Bandarban Hill District of the Chittagong Hill Tracts in December 2006.

The evictions were to make way for an artillery training centre. The army claims that it purchased the land in 1991-2 and that the Mru failed to leave, despite several notices.

The disputed land covers 11,445 acres and houses seven tribal villages, one primary school and two churches. The Mru have consistently objected to the army’s acquisition of their land.

The Mru are one of the eleven 'Jumma' tribes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The Jumma practice shifting cultivation, known as ‘Jhum’, on the hilly slopes, and they hunt and gather in the forest.

The Mru rely on their land as their only source of survival. Since they were evicted they have been suffering from lack of food and struggling in the cold weather.

The military have a long and brutal history in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. They continue to have a strong presence in the region, despite the peace accord signed in 1997, which promised the withdrawal of all temporary military camps in the region. Human rights violations against the tribal population remain common.

Many other Jumma leaders have been arrested and imprisoned since a state of emergency was declared in Bangladesh in January. Jumma rights groups believe that the army is using the state of emergency as an excuse to increase oppression in the Chittagong Hill tracts.

Organizations such as are urging the Bangladesh caretaker government to make good the promises made to the Jumma people in the 1997 Peace Accords, to return the lands stolen from them, and to end the military occupation of the Hill Tracts.