Seventy-year-old Sing Yu Marma and his only son have to keep vigil on their remaining 40 decimals of Jhum land almost round the clock as an influential man has already grabbed their 3.60 acres of jhum land among four acres of their land in Bangamura Marma Para in Bandarban Sadar upazila.
“The land grabber named Mohiuddin gave death threat to me and four other families of Bangamura Marma Para to leave our land,” said the indigenous man, worried about impending poverty amid mental agony with his physically challenged wife.
“We used to get good amounts of paddy and other crops from our four acres of land but now we are facing food crisis along with uncertainty to survive on our ancestral land as most of our jhum land has been grabbed,” he lamented.
The affected five families are now living in fear of ouster from their ancestral homes as three male members of the families had to go to jail in a 'false' case filed by the alleged land grabber in July.
“I had never gone to any police station in my life but police arrested me on July 24 and again on July 30. The land grabber has snatched away peace from our life,” said Ba Chaw Mong, karbari (local chief) of Bangamura Marma Para.
“The land grabber is very influential, he managed the local administration and police,” said U Hla Aung, another victim of the land grabbing of the para.
Mohiuddin grabbed around 1.26 acres of jhum land of the four families including the karbari, said U Hla.
“On July 28, hired thugs of Mohiuddin destroyed our jhum cropland and hung a signboard there. On July 29, the land grabber filed a false case against seven of us and the next day the court sent three of us to jail when we attended the court,” he added.
The indigenous families, dependent on jhum cultivation and forest resources for their livelihood, are worried about their future as they are hardly in a position to engage in legal battle with the influential person.
Mohiuddin committed forgery during the signing of the papers, said Prue Mong U, headman of Kuhalong Mouza.
Refuting the allegations, Mohiuddin said, “I bought land legally from people of the area and I have documents.”
Md Shafiul Alam, additional deputy commissioner of Bandarban, said, “We proceeded with this case following our surveyor's report, which misguided us, saying that no indigenous families are cultivating the lands.”
“We didn't know that there is a dispute between indigenous villagers and Mohiuddin. We are investigating the matter seriously,” he said.
Golam Sarwar, officer-in-charge of Bandarban Sadar Police Station, said, “Police did not harass anyone in this regard. Rather we will help if anyone complains to us.”
There are 80 Marma families in Bangamura Marma Para in Bandarban and if anybody has to leave this area amid insecurity due to land grabbing, it will be an ominous sign for the community living in the area for generations, said Buddhajyoti Chakma, a senior journalist of the district.