Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, Chairman of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Regional Council, urged the headmen (traditional leaders) in the hills to work together to protect the Jumma people's existence.
Addressing the fifth CHT headmen's conference held at the auditorium of the cultural institute in Rangamati town yesterday, chief guest Jyotirindra, who is popularly known as Santu Larma, also urged the traditional Jumma leaders to play their role in protecting culture and traditions.
“It is high time the traditional leaders of the CHT raised their voices for their rights in the hills, and they have to be united to achieve full implementation of the CHT Peace Accord," Santu said in his speech.
Urging the three circle chiefs to work together, Santu Larma, also the chief of PCJSS, said “Circle chiefs, the traditional leaders of the CHT, should guide the headmen to protect the Jumma people who are under threat of eviction from their ancestral land.”
“The traditional leaders must be competent, qualified and educated to do their duty properly. They have to be alert about land grabbing and must work together to stop evictions of hill people. They should be determined to establish their rights in the hills,” he said.
“As public representatives, the headmen have a direct relation with the people and they must ensure protection of their Jhum lands," said Larma.
“Infiltration of non-indigenous people into the CHT, grabbing of indigenous people's land, communal attack on indigenous people and violence against indigenous women are rising exponentially. The situation in the CHT is worse than it has ever been. In these circumstances, headmen will have to choose the path of implementation of the CHT Accord,” said the former guerrilla leader.
Traditional leaders announced their ten-point demand, including increasing the headman's allowance to Tk 10,000 (from present Tk 1,000) and a karbari's allowance to Tk 5,000 (from present Tk 500), making traditional laws and institutions functional, and constructing offices for the headmen.
Peace will never come to the CHT until the land disputes are solved, said the speakers.
Although the government finalised the amendment of a CHT land commission bill, it could not be placed in parliament due to opposition from a vested quarter, said the speakers. The headmen are always kept in ignorance of any government development programme, they said.
Two hundred and eighty headmen out of 375 under Chakma Circle, Mong Circle and Bohmong Circle took part in the two-day conference, which will conclude today.
CHT Headmen's Network organised the conference under the auspices of the CHT Regional Council, Manusher Jonno Foundation, ALRD, and Kapaeeng Foundation.