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Dhaka Tribune

UNDP official ‘grabs’ jhum land to set up rubber garden

Update : 29 Jul 2013, 04:58 PM

A UNDP official allegedly grabbed 40 acres of jhum land that once belonged to six indigenous families at the Ruma upazila of Bandarban, to set up a rubber garden.

Khusiroy Tripura, the district manager of UNDP, occupied a large tract of land (under 353 no. Koladi Mouja) of Naitong Para at the upazila, sources said.

The land – previously used for jhum cultivation, an agricultural technique more accurately known as “shift-ing cultivation” – had been in the possession of the affected families for over a hundred years.

The land owners were identified as Chingsunu Marma, Choshoi Marma, Kambrasing Marma, Shoilaching Marma, Komuiching Marma and Ongshoishing Marma.

They said they had received “threats of intimidation” in case they went to the administration with com-plaints of encroachment.

Shoichingthui Marma, headman of the Mouja, said the law stipulates that a piece of land that was left fal-low or a hilly terrain would belong to the one who cultivates it first.

“Without prior permission, you cannot even enter the land being cultivated by others,” he said.

In the Chittagong Hill Tracts, most of the indigenous people are heavily dependent on jhum cultivation for their livelihood.

On hill slopes and forested terrains, they cultivate crops such as rice, pumpkin, chili, barley, maize, cotton and aubergine – usually for 8-10 months a year.

Sources said, some indigenous people settled in what is now known as Naitong Para about a hundred years ago, and successive generations have lived in the area since.

A total of 65 families now live in the neighbourhood and practice jhum cultivation to make a living. They have about 500-600 acres of jhum land at present.

Shoichingthui Marma said he was aware of the land grabbing incident but could not take any step “as no written complaints from the affected families came his way”.

Talking to the Dhaka Tribune, Ongshoishing Marma, an affected land owner, said the UNDP official grabbed his land and that of five others by force.

Admitting that he had set up a garden for rubber plantation on a stretch of land in the locality, Khusiroy Tripura insisted “it wasn’t in anybody’s possession.”

Meduk Marma, chief of Naitong Para, refused to comment on the allegation, but admitted the land was owned and cultivated by the families living in the area.

When contacted, Ruma Sadar Union Parishad Chairman Shoibong Marma said nobody had informed him of the matter. “If anybody would like to make such a complaint, he or she should contact the upazila nirbahi officer without further delay.”

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