Land Commission Amend Act challenges govt control on CHT

Bangalees fear evacuations: Tribal men rapidly grabbing lands: Mutual understanding between Bangalees and tribes disappears


Reza Mahmud :
[dropcap font=”arial” fontsize=”60″]C[/dropcap]hittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Amendment Act challenges the government’s control on CHT, experts said. They said the most dangerous points that the decisions of the Commission cannot be challenged in the courts, and that the disputes will be solved as per the rituals and customs of the tribes.

“It was unnecessary to bring the Amendment because the laws of the country were enough to solve the disputes. In truth, the Amendment has created serious misunderstanding between the tribal people and the Bengalese,” Justice Khadimul Islam, the former Chairman of CHT Land Commission told the New Nation yesterday.

Major General (rtd) Syed Muhammad Ibrahim, an expert on CHT issues, said, “Some sections and articles of the Land Commission Amendment Act diminishes the government’s authority on the sovereignty of Bangladesh. If the government implements the Act,
then the country might lose one tenth of land.”

Syed Ibrahim who worked for a long time in the area during his service in Bangladesh Army, now Chairman of Bangladesh Kalyan Party, has apprehended about the fate of Bangalees living in CHT.

He said, “Very worrisome matter is that, if anyone becomes harmed by the decision of the Commission he can not seek redress in the court. It violated the court’s jurisdiction. But the persons of the Commission are not taking oath to protect our Constitution.” Sources said, the government in 1997 signed an accord with Jana Sanghati Samity to cease from insurgency.

The government formed CHT Land Commission and the Parliament passed CHT Land Commission Act in 2001 to solve the land disputes in Rangamati, Khagrachhari and Bandarbans. But the tribal leaders obstructed the commission to work.

Justice Khademul Islam said, “The tribal leaders have not cooperated with the Commission. If they cooperated, all the disputes in the hill side would have been solved easily by the laws of the land.”

The tribal leaders boycotted the Commission meetings and raised at first 23 point and finally 13 point proposals. As per those proposals, the government brought new Amendment to the Land Commission Act. The Parliament passed the Act on last October 6.

When this correspondent visited Rangamati and Khagrachhari recently, he saw the tribal people rapidly grabbing the government lands since the amendment.

They are building houses and temples in the lands of reserve forests, hills and other government lands. Apart from these, the mutual understanding between the local Bangalees and the tribal people were damaged.

The tribe men are now giving threat to Bangalees to relocate from CHT areas by damaging their houses and crops and attacking on them.

According to the Article 3(2) of the law, there will be no Bangalee representative in the commission. All the members of the commission are from the tribal people. As the government’s representative, the only Chairman may be from the Bengalese. According the Article 13 of the Law, the member-secretary and other government staffs for the Commission must be appointed from the tribal people. On the other hand, the Amendment added ‘all lands of CHT, instead of ‘disputed lands’ for the tribal people returning from India.

Deputy Commissioner of Khagrachhari, Muhammad Wahiduzzaman said, “if all demands of the tribal leaders are implemented in the name of the amended law, the country must lose its sovereignty in the area. Because, then the civil and police administrations, forests would be under the tribal groups. The security forces to be evacuated.

“The Land Commission was formed only for the rehabilitations of the 12 thousand tribal people returning from India’s Tripura. So, the Commission worked for those people. But now in the Amendment of the Act has been inserted ‘all lands’ instead of ‘lands’. It creates huge unlimited crises,” Wadud Bhuiya, the founder of equality movement and former Chairman of CHT Development Board told the reporter.

He said, “The Article 6 (ka, kha and ga) of the amendment added that the disputes would be solved under the ‘tribal rituals and methods’. It is most dangerous for the State and the government’s authority. According to this point, all the allotments of the lands in CHT must be permitted by the tribal circle chief or head man. If any tribal man now claims that the lands where now Deputy Commissioner’s office situated are his grandfather’s Jhum Cultivations land, the DC office must be evacuated if the circle chief or the head man say ‘yes’ to him.”

The experts said, according to the tribal rituals and customs, if any ancestors like grandfather and his ancestors used some lands or hills as their cattle field, they can now claim those lands. Moreover, each piece of land must be allotted by the head man in the CHT. If any land like government offices is proved that it was not allotted by the head man, it will be evacuated according to the Amended Act.

Bangalee Parbatya Nagorik Odhikar Parishad Chairman Engineer Alkas Al Mamun said, “The High Court on April 13 in 2010 announced in a verdict that the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council is illegal. But the government amended the law influenced by the council. The government should take another amendment of the law to cancel all the anti-Constitutional articles to remove all threats for sovereignty of our country.”

Firoza Begum Chinu, MP, said, “We hope the law will protect rights of every citizen. If any Bengalee faces evacuation from CHT we would not sit idle.” She said it while talking with this correspondent in her Rangamati residence.

Former State Minister and AL Rangamati District unit President Dipangkar Talukdar said, “The law will protect every citizen’s interests.” He said it while talking with this correspondent in his Rangamati residence.

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