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Monday, December 13, 2010

“Human Rights Report 2009-2010 on Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh” by Kapaeeng Foundation

“Human Rights Report 2009-2010 on Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh” by Kapaeeng Foundation

Kapaeeng Foundation, a national human rights organisation for indigenous peoples in Bangladesh, with the support of Oxfam-GB published a human rights report titled “Human Rights Report 2009-2010 on Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh” on 10 December 2010”. In order to unveil the report and observance of international human rights, a discussion was organised by the Kapaeeng Foundation at National Planning Academy Auditorium in Dhaka on 11 December 2010.

Presided over by chairperson of Kapaeeng Foundation Mr. Rabindranath Soren, retired Justice Mohammad Golam Rabbani was present in the discussion as chief guest. Member of the National Human Rights Commission Mr. Nirupa Dewan, editor of The Daily Sun Prof. Syed Anowar Hossain, general secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Odhikar Andolon Prof. Mesbah Kamal, editor of the human rights report 2009-2010 Dr. Dalem Chandra Barman and Director for Oxfam Gareth Price-Jones, among others, also spoke at the programme while advisor of Kapaeeng Foundation Mr. Mangal Kumar Chakma presented the summary of the human rights report of 2009-2010. Mr. Saikat Bishwas of Oxfam delivered the welcome speech while vice chairperson of Kapaeeng Foundation Mr. Dipayon Khisa conducted the programme.

“Human Rights Report 2009-2010 on Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh” on 10 December 2010” stated that:

The Indigenous Peoples of Bangladesh are one of the most deprived groups in many aspects of economic, social, cultural and political rights mainly due to their status of ethnic minority. Evidences show that the indigenous people of the country have very limited access to basic human rights including right to basic public services.

I. Introduction

Bangladesh has ratified all major international human rights treaties and conventions. Bangladesh is legally bound to comply with these international human rights treaties. But it does not comply with them so far as the indigenous peoples are concerned. The situation of implementation of the provisions of the aforesaid treaties is far from good.

The National Parliament passed the National Human Rights Commission Act on 9 July 2009. Investigation of human rights violation on indigenous/ Adivasi and ethnic minorities by the army and law enforcement agencies was remained out of jurisdiction of the National Human Rights Commission.

In the general election, 4 indigenous candidates for Member of Parliament (MP) won the election while Awami League also nominated a women MP among from indigenous community from Cox’s Bazaar district. In the third Upazila Parishad election, 15 indigenous candidates were elected as chairman, 15 indigenous women as woman vice-chairperson and 15 indigenous men as vice-chairperson in the 25 Upazila Parishads in the three hill districts of CHT.

II. Identity of Indigenous Peoples

Government perspectives on the identity of indigenous peoples, however, are varied. It prefers the terms “tribe” and “tribal” (“upajati” in Bangla), and is opposed to the use of the words “indigenous” and “adivasi”. The government’s reluctance to recognize indigenous peoples is largely politically motivated and has its roots in Bengali nationalism. The legal situation, on the other hand, is quite pluralistic, and reflects, in its totality, the currency of all the terms preferred by government officials and indigenous peoples combined.

Following the 29 August 2005 High Court verdict that declared the Constitution (Fifth Amendment) Act, 1979 (Act 1 of 1979) ultra vires and illegal, the government of Bangladesh took initiative to amend the constitution. To pursue the government of Bangladesh for constitutional recognition of indigenous peoples, the leaders of indigenous peoples raised their voices for recognition of their rights to existence, identities, culture, participation and consent, self-government, land and territories in the constitution.

On 20 December 2009 in a national roundtable on ‘ILO Convention 169’ and ‘Indigenous Peoples and the Bangladesh Parliament’ organized by ILO and RDC in Dhaka, a parliamentary caucus for indigenous peoples’ causes was formed.

III. Land Rights and Land Dispossession

The lands of the indigenous peoples are still forcibly being taken away basically for establishment of eco-park and national parks, protected and reserved forest, mining, settlement of government-sponsored non-indigenous migrants and establishment of military bases and training centres, and development projects. In Bandarban district alone, around 50,000 acres of land for lease, 118,000 acres of land for protected and reserved forest and 71,711 acres of land for military purposes were grabbed. The indigenous Jumma peoples in CHT are on the verge of total eviction from their ancestral land where they have been living and cultivating Jum from generation to generation.

In plain lands around 2,000 indigenous families in 10 districts in the border regions in the northwest (Rajshahi-Dinajpur) have so far lost their 1,748 acres of ancestral land. On the other, during the 2009-2010, 216 families of indigenous peoples in plain lands have been attacked and their houses have been looted and destroyed by the influential groups of mainstream population with the intention to grab ancestral land of adivasis. In these attacks, 4 indigenous persons have been killed. Besides, 13 indigenous families have been evicted from their ancestral land and homesteads in 2009-10.

IV. Gross Human Rights Issues

State machineries continue to violate the civil and political rights and collective rights of indigenous peoples with impunity and there is no effective mechanism available for redress in addressing these violations. Numerous cases of human rights violations committed by State Forces are contrary to its national laws and its international human rights obligations. Further, the government being a member of the Human Rights Council should make itself more transparent and accountable to its international human rights obligations.

During the period of 2009-2010, at least 7 Jummas including 5 women have been killed by Bengali settlers and security forces in CHT while 7 Jummas have been arrested. Al least 4 massive communal attacks on indigenous villages have been committed by Bengali settlers with the direct support of security forces and administration in CHT in which at least 511 houses of indigenous Jumma peoples have completely been burnt to ashes and 97 Jummas have been injured.

On the other hand, in plain lands of the country, several attacks on indigenous villages have been made by the miscreants and land grabbers of mainstream population with the intention to occupy indigenous people’s land. In these attacks, 8 indigenous persons including 4 women have been killed while 74 houses have been destroyed and looted. Besides, 3 indigenous villagers were arrested in connection with fabricated cases filed by land grabbers.

While the Government publicly supported freedom of religion, attacks on religious and ethnic minorities continued to be a problem during the reporting period. There were reports of discrimination based on religious belief or practice during the period of 2009-2010. State Minister for Home Shamsul Haq Tuku has given a broad hint of deploying special unit of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) in the CHT in view of deteriorating law and order situation.

V. Women and Children Rights

In the third Upazila Parishad election held on 22 January 2010, no indigenous women was elected in the post of the chair. However, in 25 Upazila Parishads under the three hill districts of CHT 15 indigenous women have been elected as the vice-chairs. Among them 10 are Chakma, two Marma, two Tripura and one from Tanchangya community. On the contrary, only one indigenous woman candidate in Madhupur upazila under Gazipur district named Ms. Jostina Noknek won the election for the post of Woman vice-chair.

Indigenous women in the country are victims not only of repression and negligence for centuries, but also of violence like rape, kidnap and murder by the mainstream Bengali people. The main reasons that female victims do not receive effective justice are the general barriers to accessing the justice system, police corruption, mismanagement of evidence, ignorance of the law and a lack of proper medical report (which is also a result of corruption).

During the period of 2009-2010, at least 5 Jumma women have been killed by the security forces and Bengali settlers while 14 indigenous Jumma women have been raped or molested. Besides, two Jumma women have been kidnapped by Bengalis. On the other, 4 indigenous women in plain lands have been killed after brutally raped while more 5 indigenous women raped or molested. Besides, 1 indigenous woman was kidnapped.

On the other hand, Indigenous children are still deprived of education through mother tongue. 16 indigenous children were rescued from a hotel and arrested a man on charges of child trafficking from Bandarban town.

VI. Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Annual Development Programme (ADP) projects can not be categorized as Adivasi Focused as Government has no explicit allocation for indigenous peoples. Even there is no allocation directly for education in mother tongue and empowerment of indigenous women.

Although indigenous peoples are 1.13% of total population of the country, only 0.32% Annual Development Programme (ADP) has been allocated for them in fiscal year 2009-2010. In fiscal year 2009-2010, per capita ADP allocation for overall Bangladesh has been taka 1,996.98; whereas indigenous peoples of CHT received per capita ADP of taka 1652.67 and for indigenous peoples of plain land the amount was taka 83.64 only. In average, per capita ADP allocation for overall Bangladesh has been nearly 3 times higher than the allocation for indigenous peoples. Allocation for plain land’s indigenous peoples increased a little in 2008-09, but decreased for CHT.
With regard to the admission quota for indigenous students, there is no coherent policy and the entire issue is often embroiled with bureaucratic interventions. In some cases, it is totally dependent on the discretion of the authority of the concerned educational institutions. Newly formulated Education Policy has included a few recommendations on indigenous peoples. It mentioned in the aims and objectives of the education of chapter-I that one of the objectives of education is to develop cultures and languages of all small ethnic groups including indigenous peoples of the country.

Eighteen indigenous communities of the country are going to be left out from the next population census. The finalised questionnaire, now being printed for the census, which will be held on 15-19 March 2011, mentions only 27 indigenous communities.

GoB resumed the project to set up a science and technology university in Rangamati district. However, local indigenous people have been opposing setting up university at their area arguing that it would uproot them once again from their ancestral land and create socio-political problem in this region.

VII. An Audit on the Implementation of CHT Accord

Though the then government led by Sheikh Hasina signed the CHT Accord with the PCJSS to resolve the CHT problem through political and peaceful means in 1997, but only a little of the Accord was implemented during her tenure in 1996-2001. This extent was not enough at all to develop the post-Accord situation. The main issues which help introduce self-rule government system in CHT and help resolve the problem through political means were not implemented at all.
So far there have not been any official steps by the government to preserve the characteristics of the “tribal inhabited region” by keeping their life and living undisturbed and attain the overall development thereof as embodied in the Accord.

Full execution of the CHT Regional Council Act has not been carried out as yet. Rules of Business of the CHTRC is kept pending as it still waits for government approval for almost last 12 years. In absence of this provision CHTRC is unable to exercise its authority as mandated in the CHTRC Act to supervise and coordinate the activities of all transferred subjects under the three HDCs, law and order, general administration, development programs, the activities of CHT Development Board, coordination of NGO activities, disaster management and relief operation, traditional and social justice etc and issuing license for heavy industries.

No other subjects, especially the most important land management, general administration and police, have so far been transferred to the three HDCs since the signing of the Accord. Election of the HDCs is yet to be held and a Voter list with only the permanent residents of the CHT, to be certified by the Circle Chiefs, is yet to be prepared for the election of HDCs.

Land Commission is yet to commence its function and its Act is yet to be amended in the light of the Accord. This has not only kept land disputes unresolved but also opened the floodgates of new land disputes to emerge, making things more complicated for smooth resolution. Only few temporary camps out of 543 camps were withdrawn so far. Rest of the temporary camps is yet to be dismantled. Moreover, security operation codenamed ‘Operation Uttaron’ which was resorted to in 2001 to tighten security noose, is still in operation.

9,780 families out of 12,222 families of repatriated Jumma refugees are yet to be reinstated in their lands, homesteads and orchards and 40 villages of the returnees are still under the occupation of the settlers. More than ninety thousand internally displaced families have not yet been rehabilitated. Though grand alliance government reconstituted the CHT Accord Implementation Committee, but since its inception it could not come up with anything concrete to help the implementation process of the Accord.

The implementation of the CHT Accord is crucial for unhindered development of the country. For the peace to thrive and stability to continue in a developing country like Bangladesh, it is the call of the hour to press for all the good will at the disposal of the state to materialise everything that the Accord stands for. For good governance and rule of law to prevail in the CHT, there is no option but to ensure that CHT Accord is honored and is given a fair play.

VIII. Recommendations

The Kapaeeng Foundation study also placed 37-point recommendation to end all sorts of discrimination to indigenous people, protect their rights and develop the indigenous society.

Please find the news link of national dailies for discussion and report launching programme:

Kapaeeng Foundation
(An Human Rights Organization for Indigenous Peoples of Bangladesh)
Shalma Garden, House # 23/25, Road # 4, Block # B, PC Culture Housing, Mohammadpur, Dhaka-1207, Telephone: +880-2-8190801
E-mail: kapaeeng.foundation@gmail.com, kapaeeng.watch@gmail.com

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