chapter  8
19 Pages

Politics of land and citizenship in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh

WithFariba Alamgir

In the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh, land conflicts are at the core of a larger political contestation over territory, ethnic strife and violence. The chapter focuses on land disputes between the hill people (the Chakma community) and the Bengalis (who migrated under a government-initiated settlement program) to examine interrelations between citizenship and property from an ethnic dimension. Examining people’s claim making and practices to engage with the state authorities to secure their property claims sheds light on citizenship claims and constitution “from below”. The chapter reveals that the Chakmas and the Bengalis make competing claims over lands by invoking and underscoring legitimacy to different sets of laws, rules, procedures and institutions. By doing so, people actively engage in defining which property rules are legitimized and in establishing one set of rules and authority structure over the other. The analysis of collective actions and strategies taken by the Chakmas and Bengalis reveals differences in how these two communities experience state practices and encounter state institutions. The chapter argues that ethnic identity plays a significant role in shaping and mediating relations between citizens and the state, particularly in regions which can be characterized as frontier or contested regions.