The Government of Bangladesh’s decision to conduct a land survey in the CHT region has raised concern amongst the indigenous people and human rights and minority rights groups in Bangladesh. This is because land holdings belonging to the ethnic communities have been taken over by settlers from the plains or appropriated illegally, and if the ownership is decided on grounds of present possession, it would legalise illegal holdings and deprive the ethnic community of their communal right to land. The land survey would not therefore resolve the disputes in ownership and would violate the terms of the CHT Peace Accord. Several Human rights organizations and activists have urged the Government to with justice to restor the lands belonging to the original owners.
In a recent study Dr. Abul Barak has highlighted that about 38 percent of Adivasi households in the Chittagong Hill Tracts were forced to relocate at least once in the period from 1977 to 2007. About 22 percent of households were forcefully evicted from their homesteads at least once during this period. The research also shows that in 82 percent of cases, the land grabbers were Bangali. On average, every household in CHT lost at least 115 decimals of land during this period.
The land ownership pattern of CHT region is different from that in the plains. Hence, the land survey guidelines for the plains land cannot be applied to the hills. According to the CHT Peace Accord, the Government was supposed to hand over the responsibility of land demarcation to the District Council members and Circle Chiefs. It is therefore expected that prior to conducting a survey existing land disputes should be settled in conformity with the CHT Peace Accord and the land management system in CHT. Human rights defenders have also urged that the Government incorporate substantial changes in the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2000.