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Diverse Land Tenure System and Ethnic Conflict in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh
The Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), located in the southeastern part of Bangladesh, hosts 11 heterogeneous indigenous groups. Over time, the region has routinely been affected by successive intruders (i.e. Mughal, British, Pakistani, and Bengali). Since the mid-1970s, it has witnessed ethnic conflict between the indigenous people and Bengali migrants. The situation intensified in the wake of a state-sponsored transmigration program (1979 onwards), which not only changed the demographic profile of the CHT, but also forcibly displaced many indigenous people from their ancestral lands—who less than two decades earlier had already been displaced by a hydroelectric dam, and thus lost best cultivable lands. Consequently, the indigenous people, already under duress because of land scarcity, faced further survival problems in competition with the settler Bengalis, leading to an ongoing conflict situation. However, in 1997 a treaty was signed to end the two-decades-long bloody conflict. While land is considered as the crux of the conflict, in the peace process, several land commissions have been formed by the government of Bangladesh; however, land dispute remains the major cause of conflict between the indigenous and Bengalis. Given the situation, the indigenous people have employed diverse strategies to manage survival in their own land. This paper is an effort to offer an insight into the diverse land tenure system and its implications in the CHT.