Feb 11, 2008

Chittagong Hill Tracts: Land Management Flawed

A fact-finding mission has uncovered poor land management by local authorities as ordinary people await implementation of 1997’s peace treaty.

A fact-finding mission has uncovered poor land management by local authorities as ordinary people await implementation of 1997’s peace treaty.

Below is an article published by New Age National:

Flawed land management has resulted in loss of ancestral lands of ethnic minority people to Bengali settlers, which could spark fresh tension in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, a civic group warned.

Wrapping up a field trip to the south-eastern hill districts, the citizens’ group pointed out that inefficacy of the land commission, constituted to resolve land disputes in the hills immediately after the signing of the CHT peace treaty in 1997, created room for fresh tension in the region, home to at least 11 ethnic groups.

It called upon the government for full implementation of the treaty signed 11 years ago [in 1997] to bring in meaningful peace in the area that accounts for one-tenth of the country’s total land area.

‘An uneasy situation has been prevailing in the hills and it can explode into a volatile state any time unless there is a timely intervention,’ said Ajay Roy, a former Dhaka University teacher, who led the fact-finding mission to the CHT.

The team included teachers, writers, journalists, development workers and retired bureaucrats, and extensively toured in groups in the hilly region between January 28 and 30 [2008] to see life of the indigenous people.

The delegation looked into the rights situation, land disputes, voters’ registration with photographs and other social aspects and talked to a host of people, including chairman and members of the CHT regional council, chairman of hill district council, deputy commissioners, leaders of the ethnic and religious groups, Bengali settlers, local media representatives and common people on the ground during the trip to Khagrachhari and Rangamati districts.

Team leader Ajay Roy said the delegation received numerous allegations, including intimidation and eviction of indigenous people by Bengali settlers, who in some cases got assistance from the local administration.

‘They (ethnic group people) want to get back their lands where they have been residing for generations,’ Roy said Sunday [10 February 2008] at the National Press Club, briefing the media on the findings.

The delegation observed that in many cases ‘dual administration’ was found hampering the development process in the CHT and made the regional council and district councils almost dysfunctional.


In the name of taming anti-peace elements, the security forces have heightened their surveillance and expanded their security periphery confiscating lands of the jumma people, causing a sense of fresh fear among the hill people.

‘The indigenous people consider this expansion and land acquisition as an encroachment on their place and privacy,’ said the report.

Taking part in the discussion on the report, senior politician Pankaj Bhattachariya said it seemed that certain quarters had been hatching conspiracy to destabilise the entire peace process in the CHT, which might affect the national politics.

He called upon all concerned to be vigilant against any ill intention of any quarter. 

Zillur Rahman Siddiqui, a former vice chancellor of Jahangirnagar University who presided over the discussion, appreciated the move by the citizens’ group saying it was a timely trip. 

He called upon the government to consider the demands of the indigenous people to establish peace in the CHT through full implementation of the treaty.  He said the citizen’s group should hold dialogue with the government and other political parties to help resolve the CHT problems.

The discussion was addressed by Rangalal Sen, Rabindranath Saren and Chaitali Tripura among others.