Accepted paper:

Socio-cultural impacts of Bengali resettlement project on the indigenous people in the Chittagong hill tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh


Ranjan Partha (Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh.)

Paper short abstract:

The indigenous people of the CHT in Bangladesh have been struggling for identity recognition. Moreover, the Bengali resettlement project in the region has continued to affect their traditional culture. This paper examines socio-cultural impacts of resettlement on the indigenous people of the CHT.

Paper long abstract:

The CHT is home to indigenous people who are religiously different from dominant Muslim Bengali in Bangladesh. The government of Bangladesh saw the CHT as a major opportunity to resettle landless Bengalis from plain lands. Consequently, about 400,000 Bengalis moved into the region between 1977 and 1987. As a result, the percentage of Bengalis in the CHT rose from 26 percent in 1974 to 48 percent in 1991. Settlers were received lands and cash incentives for resettlements which encouraged them infusing Bengali cultural influences in the region. It has several sociocultural consequences on indigenous people: destruction of agricultural system, change in the names of indigenous localities, attack of religious institutions, and above all their forceful eviction from lands. Resettlement has been associated with increased conflict between Bengalis and indigenous people. Whilst Bengali resettlement project relocated landless Bengalis in the CHT, this paper argues that the project severely obstructed the everyday lives of indigenous people. The implications of Bengali resettlement project on ethnic minorities have not been investigated. This paper concludes with a discussion of potentials in research on anthropological theory on population resettlement, particularly in issues of sociocultural changes. The paper suggests that a unified approach integrating perceptual and negotiating variables with social structure is warranted for a holistic understanding of resettlement. Such a perspective requires analyzing the local people responses in a broad historical, social and cultural context, given the fact that options for resettlement are largely the products of existing social structures.

panel P049
Indigenous people and their culture: struggle for identity and survival?