Indigenous peoples compelled to leave the village, following forcible land grabbing in Lama

13 poor families of indigenous Mro community from Amtali Para village of Fasiakhali union under Lama upazila in Bandarban district have been forced to evacuate the village due to the alleged persecution of the land-grabbers. Few non-government organizations were working for the advancement of their situation of the indigenous peoples—whose endeavor eventually became of no use due to this incident.

It was learned that local non-government organization ‘Ekota’ and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) had allocated four hundred thousand taka for the development of the livelihoods of the indigenous Mro villagers of this area. With the auspices of the UNDP’s ‘Quick Impact Fund’ project, Taka 399,900 had been allocated for cattle farming and food conservation in order to develop the socio-economic condition of the indigenous villagers. Of this overall amount, Taka 216,600 has been spent—and no instruction has been given for the use of the rest Taka 186,300 so far by the organizations.

The probe report submitted by ‘Ekota’ to the UNDP showing the reason behind such abandonment states that the indigenous villagers of Amtali Para used to cultivate Jum (shifting cultivation)—when their that land was grabbed by the land grabbers, they had to vacate the land. The report also stated that an Islamic organization, namely Muhammadia Jamia Sharif (widely known as Laden Group in the area) from Dhaka is involved with this land grabbing.

Recognizing the fact of the abandonment of the indigenous peoples, Mohammad Ismail, the chairman of Lama upazila said that “many institutions from the outside, including Muhammadia Jamia Sharif are grabbing lands illegally in the area. For this reason, the indigenous villagers of Amtali Para left the area. And many permanent Bengali residents and indigenous villagers are passing their days with eviction-anxiety.”

Besides, the Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) said that he heard about the incident of the eviction of the indigenous peoples. However nobody officially complained to him. Furthermore, the assistant superintendent of police of Lama Amzad Hossain said, “when I went to investigate in the Amtali Para village, I did not see any people in the village. Muhammadia Jamia Sharif and some other institutions are involved with land grabbing.”

However, the head of Bandarban and Cox’s Bazar region Muhammadia Jamia Sharif Anisul Islam said that “the information that the inhabitants of Amtali Para left the village due to land grabbing is not true. There are some terrorist groups in the area. The indigenous peoples had to move to the Naikhyongchari area due to their persecution.” Claiming that he is still in touch with those Mros, adding “Mro people still want to come back—if the security is ensured they will all come back.”

Notably, on last 8 May, the deputy commissioner of the Bandarban gave direction to the UNOs of Lama and Naikhyongchari upazilas to take nearly one thousand acres of illegally occupied lands by Muhammadia Jamia Sharif which are basically Jum land under the collective ownership of indigenous peoples. Local sources confirmed that UNOs were giving letters to the headmen of the area to take the land under government control.

This report is prepared as per news published on daily Prothom Alo (Bangla) on 8 July 2012. Please visit following for the news of the Prothom Alo-