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Victims of land grabbing held press conference in Dhaka

Hill Watch Human Rights Forum
NEWS No. 58/2007, December 09, 2007

Victims of recent land grabbing at a press conference in Dhaka today demanded of the interim caretaker government of Dr. Farkruddin Ahmed to immediately put a stop to grabbing of Jumma people’s land in Mahalchari and other places of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. (Photo of the press conference attached)

Held at 2:30 p.m. at Reporters Unity Building, the press conference was attended, among others, by Biddya Binod Chakma, Headman of Kiang-ghat Mouza, Dinendra Lal Chakma, Headman of Lemuchari Mouza, Gyana Lal Chakma of Gamaridhala village, and land-grab victims Shushil Bhushan Chakma and Ms. Angali Chakma. A total of 18 victims and members of Mahalchari Land Protection Committee came to Dhaka for the press conference.

Mr. Biddya Binod Chakma read out a written statement to the journalists present at the press conference. He alleged that, “during the last nine months over 366.02 acres of land belonging to 120 Jummas and a primary school in 12 villages under 4 Unions of Mahalchari Thana and Khagrachari Sadar Thana were forcibly taken away.”

The statement further said, “Since March Jumma peoples’ lands have been forcibly taken away one after another taking advantage of the state of emergency. We had been enjoying those lands for generations. We had planted teak and Gamari orchards, bamboo groves and many other kinds of fruit trees on those lands.”

“A powerful quarter is directly as well as indirectly instigating and abetting the settlers to grab our lands”, alleged Mr. Chakma and added that if prevented, the land grabbers threatened the Jummas with arrests and death in “crossfire”.

The statement further said, “We have shown valid land documents, but they did not pay heed to them.”

He accused the local administration of not taking any action to stop land grabbing and said, “we have complained to the local authorities, but got no justice.”

He put forward a three-point demand which includes 1. putting an immediate stop to land grabbing in Mahalchari and return the grabbed lands to their rightful owners; 2. bringing the land grabbers and their abettors to justice and 3. recognition to traditional land laws of the Jumma people.

Land-grab victims Shushil Bhushan Chakma and Angali Chakma answered the questions of the journalists.

In reply to a question, Ms Angali Chakma said, “the settlers are constructing houses near our home. When we protested, the settlers told us that the food rations that they get from the government would be stopped if they refused to settle in Jumma peoples’ lands.”

She expressed fear that her lands might be taken away by the time she got back home.

Hill Watch Human Rights Forum provides accurate, objective and reliable information on human rights abuses in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. For further details contact: hwhrf_99@yahoo.com or hwhrf.cht@gmail.com

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