To Mr. Nobutaka Machimura
Honorable MinisterMinistry of Foreign Affairs,
Date: September 21., 2007
Subject: An appeal to stop ODA to Bangladesh
We are writing on behalf of the Jumma People's Network-Japan, an organization of the exiled Jumma peoples in Japan, along with other organizations to express our deep concern over what appears to be a planned and systematic campaign of the settlers and members of Bangladesh military to grab lands belonging to the Jumma people in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), especially in Dighinala Upazilla under Khagrachari district.We have learnt from various sources that during the last 2-3 months, more than 500 acres of plough land as well as hilly land have been taken away by force in Dighinala Upazilla under Khagrachari district. Of these, 42 acres have been grabbed in Rengkarjya Mouza No. 28 under Merung, 149.18 acres in Choto Merung Mouza No. 29, 5.2 acres in Bara Merung Mouza No. 30, 300 acres in Kobakhali Mouza and 26 acres belonging to Boalkhali Buddha Vihara and Orphanage under Dighinala Thana.It is to be mentioned herewith that despite our appeal to Bangladesh Government on 31st August, 2007, land-grabbing and threats by the Bengali settlers with guidance of the army still continues in CHT.To highlight the recent land grabbing pattern, let us explain a few cases below:a. On 19 July 2007, Betchari sub-zone commander Major Qamrul Hassan (37 Bengal, 4 Bir) in Bara Merung forced three Jumma villagers to abandon their 5.2 acres of land to three settler families, despite the fact that Jummas showed their documents of possession. The same commander also forced Mrs. Supriya Chakma of Boradam village to abandon her 3.2 acres of plough land in Betchari village of Merung area to a settler woman. On 2 August, 2007 illegal settlers Md. Yunus and Md. Nazrul and his brother Sirajul took away two acres of first class paddy land from sixty year old Buddhamuni Chakma of Tara Charan Karbari Para village, with the help of the Army.b. Sporadic land grabs: Kobakhali caseAs part of a systematic land grab campaign throughout Khagrachari district, the settlers have grabbed approximately 300 acres of land belonging to Jummas in Kobakhali Mouza (No. 51) under Dighinala Thana of Khagrachari district. Of this, 59 acres of lands were grabbed from 1 to 15 August with the help of the army personnel from Dighinala zone. Dighinala Army zone Commander Major Qamrul Hassan has kept up his efforts to expand Bengali settlement in Dighinala. Reports reaching from Dighinala said, The Jumma villagers tried to protest but all in vain. 'When the army backs the settlers, we are helpless and our protests become useless', said Nigira Mohan Chakma (50) of Reserve Chara village, who has also lost his 2 acres of hilly land.c. Fresh attempt at expansion of Bengali settlement in Sadhana Tila, BabucharaAccording to sources, the army is making desperate attempts to settle 812 Bengali families on approximately 300 acres of land in Sadhana Tila under Babuchara in Dighinala Upazilla of Khagrachari district. The settlers have begun clearing the land since 13 August. The area houses a Buddhist temple and a sizable Jumma settlement. If the plan is implemented, the temple will be destroyed, many Jummas will be evicted and dispute over land will increase dramatically. The zone commander of Dighinala Major Qamrul Hassan has reportedly announced an incentive grant of Taka 50,000 for each settler family who will be willing to settle there, in addition to Taka 1,000 as monthly allowance. He has also threatened to cancel the ration cards of those settlers who would refuse to resettle in Sadhana Tila. The situation in Sadhana Tila remains volatile and tense as the settlers continue to provoke the Buddhist monks and Jumma villagers in order to find pretext for launching a full scale communal attack. Moreover, since 30 August, the army personnel have been cutting jungle around the Sadhana Tila Buddhist temple. They have also stepped up patrol to provide protection to the settlers. e. Extension of Bengali settlement in BabucharaAccording to reliable sources, the government is allegedly planning to settle 18 thousand Bengali families on a vast area of land stretching between Dhanpata Tila, north of Babuchara in Dighinala, and Naraichari bordering Tripura state of India. f. An estimated 250 acres of titled land belonging to Jumma people in North and South Shantipur village, Sutokorma Para village and Manikkya Para village under Choto Panchari Mouza (No. 246) in Latiban Union of Panchari Thana have been illegally occupied by Bengali settlers. g. A total of 200 illegal settler families have been implanted in East Gamaridhala under Dadkuppya Mouza (No. 259), about 7 kilometers south of Khagrachari district town. The army personnel directly planned and implemented the settlement.We have also learnt that illegal land grabbing and settlement of non-resident plain settlers have continued in other parts of the CHT. The Chittagong Hill Tracts in the southeastern corner of Bangladesh is home to eleven ethnic nationalities that have been living there for centuries. They have their own customs governing land use and management system which is often referred to as traditional land rights by which lands are owned by the whole community. The successive governments of Bangladesh have refused to acknowledge this right of the Jumma people and settled under a state-sponsored transmigration programme approximately 400,000 landless Bengali people on the lands of the Jumma people. This has had a devastating impact on the Jumma societies and became a perennial source of tension and conflict in CHT.An Appeal to the Japanese Government and its Citizens:It is our earnest appeal to the Japanese Government and the Japanese people that the Jumma peoples in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh, who are an indigenous group distinctive to the majority Muslim Bengalis, are subject to systematic ethnic cleansing by the successive governments of Bangladesh. We are losing our land rapidly due to continued land grabbing and forceful occupation of our land by the majority Bengalis with the help of the Bangladesh Army. Gross violations of human rights, including massacre, unlawful killing, torture, arbitrary arrest, falsified cases, burning of villages, religious persecution, and political oppression are well reported and documented. Our population with a Buddhist majority had decreased from 98% in 1947 to 50% present day. If the international community does not come to rescue us, we will perish within a few decades. The CHT, Bangladesh's only Buddhist region, will be Islamized very rapidly. We have no choice but to deliver this appeal to your government, because Japan is one of the main donors to Bangladesh since its birth in 1971. Hence, your government has a major responsibility to protect these peoples from destruction by the Bangladesh government. You may say, the Bangladesh government has already taken measures to protect our peoples by signing the peace-accord in 1997. But, it is an accord only on paper, never implemented even after ten years have passed. A huge military presence, torture, expansion of Muslim Bengali settlements and severe human rights violations continue with the hand of the Security forces, which should not happen after signing the Accord. It can clearly be said that the Bangladesh government has never had a mind to solve this problem, rather it wants a slow extinction of our peoples by any means.Bangladesh is largely dependent upon foreign aid for its development. Despite receiving huge amounts of aid every year from the donor countries, Bangladesh still remains one of the world(I¡Ç(Bs poorest nations, although its GDP has increased in recent years. What are the reasons behind this? It is because of corruption in every field of the state institutions and lack of sincerity about poverty reduction and unnecessary expansion of the military budget, which is used for ethnic cleansing of all religious and ethnic minorities, maintaining a huge military presence in CHT that makes it one of the world(I¡Ç(Bs most heavily militarized regions, and implementing of population transfer of landless Muslim Bengalis. It is reported that army men are providing cash to the Muslims settlers and instigating them to grab the Jummas' land and settle there against their will. We believe the Japanese government can play a vital role to stop this ethnic cleansing of the Jummas in CHT and help to protect them from extinction in the wake of the de-population policy of Bangladesh governmentYou may say that your government can not interfere with the domestic problems of Bangladesh, but as sufferers and victims of the Bangladesh Government(I¡Ç(Bs ethnic policy, we, the Jumma peoples, also have the right to urge you to stop ODA to Bangladesh, because your ODA indirectly gives Bangladesh the ability to conduct such policy by maintaining huge military presence in the tensed region, although we are not saying that it is being spent directly for ethnic cleansing of the Jummas.Therefore, we would like to urge the Japanese government to intervene regarding CHT matters.Though we the Jummas have many things in common with the Japanese peoples such as color, religion and etc., it is not because of this reason but because Japan is a major donor country, hence part of the life-force of Bangladesh. Why should Japan continue its ODA to a country that conducts such ethnic cleansing of its ethnic and religious minorities, a punishable crime against humanity? We urge you only for our survival; as human beings, we want to live. Please stop all kinds of ODA to the Bangladesh government and apply pressure until it meets the following demands.
1. To order its forces stationed in CHT to stop ethnic cleansing of indigenous Jummas.
2. To stop further non-indigenous Bengali settlement in CHT and stop land grabbing from the Jumma peoples.
3. To return all the grabbed land to the rightful Jumma owners.
4. To immediately return the lands that were grabbed by the settlers with the help of the army in Merung, Rengkajya, Boalkhali, Dighinala, east Gamaridala and Panchari of Khagrachari district during the last two months.
5. To withdraw all army personal from CHT, except those explained in the 1997 Accord.
6. To resettle all the Bengali Muslim settlers who were settled by the government sponsorship programme, outside CHT with means of livelihood.
7. To stop all kind of human rights violations including torture, killing, arbitrary arrest, and falsified cases by the Army against ethnic Jummas.
8. To immediately put to trial and punish Major Qamrul Hassan, zone commander of Dighinala, Khagrachari District, who is responsible for recent land-grabbing and threatening Jumma peoples to vacate their land for the Muslim settlers.
9. To ensure that no future human rights violation on Jummas by the army and the settlers will occur in CHT.
On behalf of Jumma Peoples Network-Japan
Dipti S. Chakma
This Appeal have been suported by the following Organizations and partionalities
1. Jumma Ayumukai
2. Civic-Action -Chiba
3. Jumma Peoples Network-United Kingdom
4. Jumma People movement in USA
5. Mori no tami no Kai
6. CHT Jumma Peoples Network of the Asia Pacific-Australia
7. Ven.Buddharatana Bhikkhu, USA