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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Government trying to turn CHT into a Muslim region: says Shantu Larma

Govt trying to turn CHT into a Muslim region: Shantu

Bangladesh Adivasi Forum President Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, popularly known as Shantu Larma, on Wednesday said the government is working to turn the Chittagong Hill Tracks into a Muslim-dominated region.

“The present government is pampering the ultra-nationalism and communalism instead of harbouring good culture,” he said.

He was addressing a seminar, titled ‘Importance of effective Land Commission in enforcing land and rights of the indigenous people’, at the city’s LGED Bhaban.

Chairman of National Human Rights Commission Prof Dr Mizanur Rahman attended the seminar as the chief guest while former caretaker government adviser Adv Sultana Kamal as special guest.

Addressing the seminar, Shantu Larma said a problem has been created recently over ‘Adivasi’, a word which has been dropped from the constitution. “Dropping the word, now the constitution says all citizens of Bangladesh will be recognised as Bangalees.”

“If Sheikh Hasina is called Chakma, will she accept the identity? There are 54 indigenous groups in the country and they must be recognised in the constitution,” Larma told the seminar.

About the Land Commission, Larma said, “Present Land Commissioner Justice Khademul Islam deems himself as a ‘great scholar’ and his actions manifest as if he is presiding over court sessions. Necessary laws for settling land disputes in the CHT should be formulated in consultation with the CHT regional and district councils.”

He demanded formation of a strong land commission for the CHT and another separate land commission for the country’s plain land indigenous people. “Land, forest and hill are the life for the indigenous people,” he said, adding that no people can live without land.

NHRC Chairman Mizanur Rahman said full implementation of the CHT peace treaty is a must at this present context to solve the problems in the hilly region. The indigenous people are the citizens of the country and they both in hilly and plain lands are gradually becoming marginalised, he said.

Dr Rahman has emphasised immediate resolution of land disputes of the indigenous people to put an end to all of their problems. “The organic tea we take is produced with the labour and blood of the indigenous people,” he said.

Information Commissioner Prof Dr Sadeka Halim, columnist Syed Abul Muksod and women leader Khushi Kabir spoke as panel discussants at the seminar.

Bangladesh Adivasi Forum general secretary Sanjeeb Drong and Information and publicity secretary of CHT regional council Mongal Kumer Chakma presented two keynote papers at the seminar.

--------------- courtesy: Priyo ------------------------------

Bangladesh indigenous groups demand constitutional recognition


The ethnic leaders burst into protest, after the government recently said Bangladesh "does not have any indigenous people."

Amidst angry debate, the indigenous communities in Bangladesh are demanding constitutional recognition of the 45 different ethnic communities that have been living on the land for centuries.

clearpxl The ethnic leaders burst into protest, after the government recently said Bangladesh "does not have any indigenous people." Instead, government officials argued that the Bangla-speaking majoritarian, mostly Sunni Muslims are indigenous people.

The observance of the international day of Indigenous People on Tuesday turned into anger and frustration. Ethnic leaders were joined by scores of civil society and rights groups at a rally at the language martyrs square in the capital Dhaka. Despite rain, hundreds in distinctive traditional attires with musical instruments joined the rally.

The 300,000 indigenous people were compelled to adopt “Bangalee” national identity and dubbed as small national minorities, when amendments to the constitution was made last month, explained ethnic leader Barrister Devashis Roy.

Jotindra Bodipriyo Larma also spoke at the rally, after leading a 20 year bush-war against the authority for political and cultural autonomy. Guerillas under his command surrendered after signing a treaty in 1997.

Larma warned the government to rethink of their decision to delete their identity or else they will have to adopt a path of confrontation. The 70-year-old leader fears that the denial of the existence as ethnic minorities will eventually erupt into racial tension, as it happened in many countries.

After 14 years, Larma lamented that the peace accord has not been implemented, which would jeopardize the peace resolution.

Dr. Mizanur Rahman, chief of National Human Rights Commission at a seminar day before said it is a self contradiction of the ruling party. He argued that if the ethnic minorities are believed to have taken refuge for persecution and economic migrants, then the peace treaty signed with the indigenous armed militants who have pledged allegiance to the state constitution would be disillusioned.


No discrimination

Leaders of minority communities urge govt

Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, president of Bangladesh Indigenous People's Forum, yesterday urged the government to establish a society without discrimination by upholding rights of all communities including the indigenous people.

"If I impose 'Chakma' as the nationality of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, will she agree?" Larma asked speaking at a seminar titled "Importance of Effective Land Commission in Enforcing Land and Human Rights of Indigenous People".

Leaders of the indigenous communities at the seminar demanded constitutional recognition as "indigenous" people and an effective land commission to establish their land rights.

They alleged the existing land commission has failed to resolve land disputes even 13 years after the signing of Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord.

The speakers also said settler Bangalees are still occupying indigenous people's land with the patronage of local administration.

The Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD) and Bangladesh Indigenous People's Forum jointly organised the seminar at LGED-RDEC auditorium in Agargaon marking the International Day of the World's Indigenous People observed on August 9.

Santu Larma alleged that the government is not making the CHT Land Commission effective in order to make the hills a region with absolute Muslim majority. The government should ensure active participation of Jumma people in the land dispute solution process, he said.

He also demanded constitutional recognition to 54 indigenous communities living in Bangladesh.
Mangal Kumar Chakma, information and publicity secretary of Parbatya Chattagram Ancholik Parishad, and Sanjeev Drong, general secretary of Bangladesh Forum for the Indigenous People, presented the keynote papers.

In his paper, Mangal Chakma said 75,686 acres of hill land in Bandarban has been acquired for military purpose, while the Department of Forest declared about 2.18 lakh acres of land as reserve forest breaching the CHT accord.

"Disregarding the inherited rights of the indigenous people, about 40,000 acres of land in Bandarban has been given to settler Bangalees for rubber cultivation," he added.

Speaking as the chief guest, Prof Mizanur Rahman, chairman of National Human Rights Commission, said the government should implement the peace accord to solve the problems of the CHT people.

The seminar was also addressed, among others, by former adviser to a caretaker government Sultana Kamal, columnist Sayed Abul Maksud, noted rights activist Khushi Kabir, and Information Commissioner Prof Sadeka Halim.

---------- source: The Daily Star ---------------

Recognise indigenous people

Speakers urge govt

Bichitra Tirthi, an indigenous UP member from Chapainawabganj, speaks at their reception programme on Bangladesh Shishu Academy premises in the city yesterday. Manusher Jonno Foundation and Jatiya Adivasi Parishad organised the event.Photo: STAR
The government and the state can be termed communal if different indigenous communities are not recognised constitutionally, said noted economist Prof Abul Barkat, criticising the government's stance on indigenous issue.

Supporting the remark, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Chairman Prof Mizanur Rahman said the state itself and its ruling class are grabbing the land of indigenous people due to absence of proper documents instead of protecting their rights to land.

They made the remarks at a reception programme for union parishad (UP) representatives who have been elected in the recent UP polls from indigenous communities across the country.

A total of 151 elected UP chairmen and members from indigenous communities, both of CHT and plain lands, were given the reception.

Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) and Jatiya Adivasi Parishad jointly organised the event at the city's Shishu Academy.

Blaming the government for publishing false information on the number of indigenous people, Prof Barkat said as per the government statistics there are 17 lakh indigenous people in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) in 2009-2010, while the real number is 25 lakh.

Terming this statistics a "demographic engineering", he said it was done in the CHT over the last three decades since 1976 through settlement of Bangalees and force acquisition of indigenous peoples' land.

Over 91 percent of the total population in CHT were indigenous in 1951, which is now 46 percent. It happened due to "demographic engineering" started from the tenure of late president Ziaur Rahman, he said.

The government has signed almost all the United Nations (UN) documents related to the rights of under-privileged communities. But its performance is contradictory, he said, adding, "It's noting but a betrayal to the people."

About the constitutional recognition, he called upon the government saying, " If you (the government) do not want to recognise them (indigenous people), please say this clearly."

NHRC Chairman Mizanur Rahman said that terming indigenous people "tribal" or “ethnic minorities” [by the government] is a "wrong decision" and added that the NHRC will act as a barrier to implement such wrong decision.

The commission in its five-year plan gives emphasis on the issue of indigenous peoples and their rights, he said.

Speaking as the chief guest, Hasanul Haq Inu, chairman of parliamentary standing committee on post and telecommunications, said on behalf of the parliamentary caucus on indigenous people, he will formulate a draft of "indigenous peoples rights act" and submit it to the government.

He also stressed the need for establishing a National Indigenous Commission to upheld values, cultures, norms, customs and traditions of the indigenous people.

Inu suggested appointing one or two members at every union parishad in areas populated by indigenous communities to specially look after their issues.

Presiding over the function, Manusher Jonno Foundation Executive Director Shaheen Anam, urged the government and peoples' representatives to remain alert about the security of the indigenous women, as the incident of indigenous women repression increases alarmingly.

The speakers demeaned making the CHT land commission effective and establishing a separate land commission for the indigenous people in plain lands.

Sushasaner Jonno Nagorik (Sujan) Secretary Badiul Alam Majumder, Jatiya Adivasi Parishad President Anil Marandi, General Secretary Rabindranath Soren also spoke.

The government on July 26 this year said the tribal people living in CHT are “ethnic minorities” and they should not be called “indigenous” in the region.

Foreign Minister Dipu Moni briefed foreign diplomats and UN agencies in Dhaka on the issue. Read more at http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=195963


courtesy: The Daily Star

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