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12 Years of CHT Peace Accord, Land remains root cause of conflicts

02 Dec 2009

Disputes over land, the root cause of the crises in Chittagong Hill Tracts, still exist even after 12 years of signing of the CHT Peace Accord.

Indigenous and Bangalee people in Khagrachhari, Rangamati and Bandarban have had to bear the brunt of the land disputes since 1979 when the then government rehabilitated Bangalee families from the plains in the area.

Locals and people concerned say only a political decision of the government after discussions with all quarters can resolve these disputes.

Indigenous people claim that the problem arose when the government rehabilitated Bangalees in land owned by them.

They also allege that they are still under a kind of military rule although the peace accord has a clause on withdrawal of the army from the areas.

Visiting the areas it was seen that in some cases more than one person have regal papers regarding the settlement of the same piece of land.

Shashi Lal Chakma, a 72-year-old man, showed The Daily Star correspondent papers given to him in 1977 for the settlement of a piece of land at Bilachhari of Barkal upazila in Rangamati.

“In 1982, a person named Siddique also claimed the land and showed papers of his ownership of that land. Now I cannot go to my land,” Shashi said.

“Many others of my community lost their land although they have legal papers of their ownership,” Shashi told The Daily Star.

Another member of the indigenous community in the same area, Guneswar Chakma, said, “I planted trees on my land in 1994 but Bangalees have grabbed that land.”

Hirok Chakma, member of Barkal Union Parishad, said, “The peace accord brought peace only to Bangalees, not us. They [Bangalees] can now easily grab our land and we have noting to do. Successive governments have done nothing to implement the peace accord.”

Almost all indigenous people in all the villages of the area have similar stories.

In 2001, the government formed the Land Commission as per the CHT peace accord and passed the CHT Land Commission Act.

The commission, however, could do nothing in the past 12 years to resolve the disputes.

Retired Justice Khademul Islam Chowdhury, chairman of the CHT Land Commission, told The Daily Star that the commission has already decided to conduct a land survey in the area. “There is no other way but to conduct a survey to solve the problem,” he said.

“Now the government will make the final decision about the survey and an inter-ministerial meeting is likely to be held this month to decide the matter,” he added.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the CHT Regional Council Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, who is widely known as Santu Larma, yesterday alleged at a press conference in Rangamati that military rule still exists in CHT in the name of “Operation Uttaran”.

Santu said invisible powers have always dominated everything in the hills. But he expressed optimism about the full implementation of the CHT Peace Accord.

The press conference was organised to mark the 12th anniversary of signing of the accord.

Talking to The Daily Star, International CHT Commission Co-Chairman Sultana Kamal said the government seems to be sincere in implementing the peace accord as it knows that it is the way to bring permanent peace to the area.

“The Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council, the Land Commission and the CHT accord implementation committee should sit together with each other and also with the leaders of the indigenous communities and Bangalees to resolve the problems,” Sultana said.

According to her, the absence of a political will is responsible for the long time it is taking to implement the CHT Peace Accord.

Source: Daily Star


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