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Accepted Paper:

Property, Authority and State Formation in a Bengali settlement village in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh  
Fariba Alamgir (University of East Angalia)

Paper short abstract:

Based on ethnographic research focusing on contestations over landed property among the “Bengali settlers” in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region in Bangladesh, the paper reveals actual property practices, dynamic processes of authority and state constitution at the margin.

Paper long abstract:

The Bengali Settlement Programme was implemented as a state-building project and counter-insurgency strategy in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh in 1980s. Bengalis were brought to settle in CHT as loyal citizen of the state during the armed struggle carried out by hill political party for recognition of their land rights and identity. The findings show that although Bengalis received land title from the government, their land titles and property in land are considered not secure. Analysis of land disputes among the Bengalis in a settlement village reveals that property relation within the settler community is contingent on varied forms of rules (statutory and non-statutory), practices and sources of authority (formal and informal). While many land dispute cases are taken to district magistrate court, research shows significant role played by the military authority (at informal military court) and local leaders (at ‘bichar’/ social court) in defining property. It reveals how the leaders’ authority is intricately connected to the army’s approval, their political connection and access to the state institutional actors. It traces, historically, changes and continuities of a militarized land relation in a territory where the state’s control over land is contested. The army exercises informal authority in land control in coalition with the Bengali leaders who were primarily selected by the army authority as a medium to communicate and control the Bengali settler population. The paper highlights the importance of examining military control over land and constitution public authority in property formation in contested spaces.

Panel P18a
Governance at the margins: Understanding public authority in FCVAS I
  Session 1 Tuesday 29 June, 2021, -