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SEHD launches book and organizes photography exhibition in Bandarban

A weeklong photography exhibition and a book launch event took place at Bandarban Shishu Academy.  The exhibition titled “Ambushed by Greed: the Chak Story” housed photographs that focused on Chak tradition, culture, and the environment they live in. Many of the photographs on display also portrayed the plight this small community is going through.

Launch of the book, “The Chaks: Life on the Fringe” published by SEHD was piggybacked with the launch of the exhibition. The book is a detailed survey work and investigation on the community and their plights. It also features articles on the Chak culture and lifestyle.

The book launch and photo exhibition took place at a time when the traditional land of the Chaks has become a subject of greed of land grabbers. Recently, the Chaks of Badurjhiri, a remote village in Naikkhongchhari have been forced to abandon their village in fear of bandits and have taken shelter at Baishiri Chakparas. Around 20 of them joined the event to voice their grievances.

There is not more than 3,000 Chaks in Bangladesh. The rubber and tobacco plantation have already caused eviction of two Chak villages. The Chaks in remote villages depend on jum cultivation and uncultivated vegetation for food. Since the introduction of rubber and tobacco, their common land is becoming a prime target. Rubber and tobacco farming is not only forcing the Chaks to abandon their land but is also destroying the biodiversity.

Holding the program turned out to be a bit difficult as Bandarban district administration and intelligence agencies got nervous when a SEHD team paid a visit to Badurjhiri, the abandoned Chak village and made arrangement for a woman who fled from the village to speak at the program. The administration wanted to shut the program. However, a meeting with the DC and SP eased the situation and SEHD received the permission to go ahead with the event.

Bomang Raja of Bandarban Bomang Circle, U Cha Prue, was the chief guest. Special guests were: Mong Mong Chak, former official at Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board; ZuamLian Amlai, chairperson of the Movement for the Protection of Forest and Land Rights; and Professor Osman Gani, president of Bandarban Press Club. A primary school teacher of Baishiri Chakpara Dhung Cha Aung Chak and Bandarban based young computer teacher Aung Jai Wei Chak also spoke on the event.