Bangladesh army grabs indigenous land for expansion of cantonment in Ruma
On 8 November 2010 indigenous peoples in Ruma upazila under Bandarban Hill District organised demonstration and held meeting at Ruma upazila head quarter protesting against acquisition of indigenous peoples' land for expansion of Bangladesh Army cantonment and establishment of new wing BDR (Bangladesh Rifles) head quarter in Ruma. The protest was organised by the local indigenous people under the banner of the People from All Levels in Ruma.
It is noted that the army authority during the pre-CHT Accord period put a plan to acquire 9,560 acres of land for expansion of Ruma cantonment. Since mid 1980s the local army authority time and again made attempts to have acquisition of the proposed area. The local indigenous people particularly the Murung (Mro), who number about 15,000 are to be completely uprooted from their traditional.
During the state of emergency in 2007-2008, when the Army administration emerged as the most powerful force in the country and the CHT was brought under double military Rule i.e. the Operation Uttoran renamed after the CHT Accord and the State of emergency of 2007-08 there was an attempt by the army to evict the local indigenous people including Mro community from proposed area. In order to execute the programme of the acquisition of the said land, many local indigenous people were tortured and arrested among whom, the Mro leader named Ranglai Mro was notable. Very recently the local army authority led by Lt. Col. Wasim, Commander of the Ruma Cantonment took up the process of land grabbing once again.
It is noted that Lt. Colonel Wasim, former Zone Commander of Bagaichari Army Zone was the main perpetrator of the communal attack upon the indigenous people at Baghaihat area in Sajek Union under Bagaichari upazila in Rangamati Hill District in February 2009 where two indigenous villagers were shot death and around 450 indigenous houses were completely burnt to ashes.
On the other hand, the Governemet of Bangladesh took plan to acquire another 25 acres of land at Thana Para under Poli mouza in Ruma for the purpose of establishing a BDR headquarter in Ruma. Though BDR officially showed 25 acres of land for acquisition, however, it will be more than 25 acres as BDR marked the boundary of the proposed area up to bank of Shanghu river and Barshi Para and Rumachar Para. If the proposed BDR Wing headquarter is set up, it will uproot 40 families of Thana Para, 15 families of Barshi Para and 50 families of Rumachar Para from their ancestral land who belong to Marma community. Even a hostel for local indigenous students and a carpentry and sewing training centre run by a local NGO named Toymu will also be affected.
On 8 November 2010, the protesters submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister through the Upazila Nirbahi Office (UNO) demanding cancellation of the planned acquisition. Although the PM Hasina and her government frequently reiterate full implementation of the CHT Accord, there has been hardly any progress in it. But, the process of forcible land grabbing and expansion of settlements of the Muslim settlers as well as fresh infiltration, which has been the main tactic to wage genocide against the indigenous people of CHT continue unabated.
Though there are more than 400 army, BDR and Ansar (Islamic Guards) camps in the CHT, Bangladesh government is still trying to set up new camps in the CHT on the pretext of combating terrorism and drug trafficking. But the real aim of the Bangladesh government and army is to grab land to make rooms for Muslim settlers in the CHT.
Remarks: Article 17(Ka) and 17(Kha) of CHT Accord narrate that all the temporary camps except the BDR camps and 6 permanent army installations would be closed down and vacated land would be returned to the owners and the concerned Hill District Council. So the move to expand the Ruma Cantonment and set up the new BDR wing HQ in Ruma is violation of the CHT Accord of 1997.
Sources:PCJSS (Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti)
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