Accepted paper:

Dynamics of authority and land governance in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh


Fariba Alamgir (University of Bath)

Paper short abstract:

By analysing land dispute processes,the paper reveals that the authority structure in land control and land relation are fluid and dynamic processes. It highlights the importance of capturing the local dynamics of negotiations over access and authority for effective governance of natural resources.

Paper long abstract:

In the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh, the indigenous hill people's struggle over land is intertwined with their long political struggle. The armed struggle (1973-1998) of the hill ethnic population against the state ended with signing of the CHT Accord. In the post-Accord period, multiple institutions have emerged with overlapping authority in land control. Within the context, this paper examines land conflicts between the hill people (Chakma Community) and Bengali settlers (who migrated under the Bangladesh government initiated settlement program in 1979) in the CHT. Analysis of land dispute processes reveals that competing land claims are based on varied norms (customary and statutory), laws, land documents (formal and informal) and authority sources (formal and informal). The paper shows that the state actors (bureaucratic, judiciary, regional government, traditional institutions, military authorities) and non-state authorities (political parties, leaders, brokers) take part and compete in defining people's rights and access over land. The empirical insights reveal that the authority structure in land governance and land relation are fluid, active and dynamic processes. However, the development policies related to land and forest management in the CHT do not address the local dynamics of access and control over resources. The paper aims to contribute to the discussion on natural resource governance by highlighting the importance of understanding the role of diverse authority sources and concrete practices on the ground, particularly, in places where the state's control over territory and population is contested.

panel I6
Opening up natural resource governance: the roles of non-state and non-traditional actors