100 families live in fear of eviction in Lama, a village head arrested

Around 100 families of five indigenous villages in  Lama upazila under Bandarban district are now living in fear of eviction from their ancestral homes as land grabbers in the name of setting up rubber plantation there have been threatening them with consequences. The families of five villages are 30 families of Ruposhi Puraton Marma Para, 30 families of Ching Kung Mro Para, 25 families of Konau Mro Para, 15 families of Noa Marma Para, and 15 families of Ching Khung Marma Para under Lama upazila.

The indigenous villagers alleged that the local administration was helping the land grabbers to occupy their land. In January 2015, the influential land grabbers compelled four indigenous families of around 25 members at Konau Mro Para in Longkyong mouza to leave their homes. It is learnt that the victims took shelter in remote Sangu reserve forest and Alikadam upazila of the district. Gazi Rubber Plantation, a business concern of Gazi group, was behind everything.

The indigenous villagers claimed that hired gangsters had destroyed their Jum cropland and vandalised Jum farm houses when they refused to bow to the threats and pressure from the land grabbers. It is alleged that Gazi Rubber Plantation has illegally purchased around 700 acres of land in Lama upazila with the help of upazila administration. They grabbed more than 2,000 acres of land of the indigenous people in the upazila.

On 29 May 2015, a scuffle between the locals and the workers of Gazi Rubber Plantation broke out when the indigenous people protested the land grabbing. Following the incident, the company filed a false case with Lama police station, and Koy Hla Ching Marma, a karbari (a village chief of indigenous peoples) of Ruposhi Puraton Para under Puposhi union in Lama upazila, was arrested on 30 May 2015.

The indigenous people mostly depend on Jum cultivation and forest resources for their livelihood. The villagers submitted a written complaint against the land grabbers to the upazila administration on 12 May 2015. Even they approached Bandarban Deputy Commissioner several times in this connection. But the local administration did not take any action in this regard.

Since the 1997 signing of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord, thousands of acres of indigenous land mainly in Lama, Naikkhyongchari, and Alikadam upazilas under Bandarban district have been grabbed by influential private rubber plantation owners and horticulturists with the alleged involvement of district and upazila administration. (This report has been prepared based on information collected through Kapaeeng’s networks and news of The Daily Star titled ‘100 families face eviction threat’ published on 27 June 2015).