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Friday, November 4, 2011

Report on training for traditional leaders of plain land indigenous peoples on ILO Convention No. 107 & 169 and customary rights of indigenous peoples

Report on training for traditional leaders of plain land indigenous peoples on ILO Convention No. 107 & 169 and customary rights of indigenous peoples

On 19-20 October 2011 training for traditional leaders of plain land indigenous communities on ILO Convention No. 107 & 169, Indigenous Peoples’ Issues and Customary Rights was held at Shanti Niketan of Jalchatra area under Madhupur upazila in Tangail district jointly organized by Kapaeeng Foundation, Joyenshahi Adivasi Unnayan Parishad (JAUP), Adivasi Cluster Development Forum (ACDF) and International Labour Organization (ILO). Traditional leaders from different parts of plain lands of grater Mymensingh took part in the training program. Besides, staffs and advisor of KF, representative from ILO, members from JAUP and ACDF were also present in the training program.
Moderated by the vice-chairperson of the Kapaeeng Foundation Mr. Dipayon Khisa, the inaugural session of the training was spoken by president of ACDF and Advisor of Joyenshahi Adivasi Unnayan Parishad Mr. Ajay A Mree, Father Sushanta Gomaj, CSC, Clergy, Jalchatra Khristadeho Dharmapalli, Assistant Conservator of Forest of Madhupur range in Tangail Mr. Rajesh Chakma, Organizing Secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples’ Forum (BIPF) Mr. Shaktipada Tripura, National Coordinator of ILO Mr. Abhilash Tripura. Inaugural session was presided by advisor of KF and professor of department of peace and conflict studies of Dhaka University Dr. Dalem Chandra Barman while welcome speech was delivered by consultant of ILO and assistant general secretary of KF Ms. Lina Jesmin Lushai.
Ms. Lina Jesmin Lushai, consultant of ILO says, “in order to make traditional leadership strengthened, the training on ILO conventions and customary rights of indigenous peoples is arranged. The main problem of this area is land dispute between indigenous people and forest department. The aim of the training program is to search the way how to solve the problems of indigenous communities and how the rights will be ensured through the traditional leadership”.
Mr. Ajay A Mree thanked the organizers of this training program and says, “Indigenous communities have no knowledge about the indigenous peoples’ rights provided by ILO Convention No. 107 & 169. Although these are known by them, their knowledge is not sufficient to exercise the rights. The traditional leadership of indigenous communities is under process to extinction. During 1960-65 the Nokmas (traditional leaders of indigenous Garo people) had a strong communication with the Headmen (traditional leaders of the CHT). Their connections existed till 1973-74. He expressed hope that the program makes an effective contribution to restore their relationship in upcoming days”.
Mr. Rajesh Chakma expressed hope to develop solidarity among indigenous peoples of CHT and plan land. Ms. Maria Chiran thanked the traditional leaders who are working for promotion and protection of the rights of the endangered indigenous peoples.
Mr. Shaktipada Tripura says, “While we talk about rights, we must keep in mind that the rights must be obtained through struggle. Every nation who wants to establish their rights, they can establish their rights only through movement and struggle. The indigenous peoples of Bangladesh should strengthen their movement to ensure their political, social, economic and land rights.”
Mr. Abhilash Tripura, in his presentation, gave an idea on the ongoing activities of ILO for promotion and protection of indigenous peoples’ rights. The Government should regard the laws related to the indigenous peoples and engage the indigenous peoples in promoting and protecting their rights.
Mr. Dalem Chandra Barman, in his presiding speech, thanked all the participants, organizers and resource persons. He also explained the aims and objectives of the training. He says, “We have a distinct culture, tradition, national identity and social structure. We should work together for sake of maintenance of these distinct features.”
In the Session–I, Mr. Abhilash Tripura, National Coordinator of ILO made a presentation about ILO Convention No. 107 & 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples. He says, ‘‘Bangladesh Government has already ratified the ILO Convention No. 107. But the Convention No. 169 is yet to be ratified. According to the convention, government is bound to send reports to ILO authority regarding its status of implementation. ILO convention provided a definition on indigenous and tribal population which applicable to indigenous peoples of Bangladesh. The land ownership and traditional & cultural rights of indigenous peoples have clearly been discussed in this Convention.” In open discussion, Mr. Mukul Daru and Sukhen Chambugong expressed hope to build a platform for all indigenous community to establish their rights.
The session-II was conducted by Ajay A Mree, president of ACDF and Advisor of Joyenshahi Adivasi Unnayan Parishad, where he gave a brief overview on traditional administrative system of plain land indigenous peoples. In this session Mr. Subash Jengcham, an elder member of Garo community, discussed about the social system of Garo community. He said that there are more than 150,000 Garo people living in Bangladesh. All over the world the population is around one million. There are 13 clans exist in Garo community including Abeng, Atong, Chibok, Ruga, Megam etc. Garo people cannot get marry in their own clan. If someone does, he or she will be declared as ‘Madang’, who is unexpected in the society. He also discussed about the process of cultivation, land rights etc.
Mr. Makhan Chandra Dalu, a participant in the program, said, ‘Dalu community live in Lalitabari. In the past time the community owned many things relating to culture, tradition, language etc. But, now-a-days they are losing everything and their language is about to extinct.
A discussion was also made about Banai community by Bishwasor Banai, a participant in the program. He said that the Banai community now became small in number. They are followers of Hindu religion. If any one of the Banai community gets married with the different community, then he is compelled to leave the society. For this reason, population of Banai community is decreasing day by day. On the other hand, many of them leave the country while they face dangerous situation. Around thousand members of Banai community live in Bangladesh. They live in the areas like Kamalakanda, Jinaighati and Dobaura in greater Mymensigh area.
Mr. Matilal Hajong, president of Hajongmata Rashimoni Welfare Parishad and convenor of Mymensigh chapter of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum, said, ‘Hajong people live in Sherpur, Mymensigh, Netrokona and Sunamganj districts. Around twenty thousand Hajong people live in Bangladesh which was one hundred thousand in 1940. Due to political violence in 1950 and 1964, around 200 Hajong families left Bangladesh and took shelter in India.’ He also discussed about traditional social and political structure of Hajong community.
In the Session-III Mr. Shakti Pada Tripura, Organizing Secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples’ Forum (BIPF) gave an overview on traditional structure of administration of CHT and rights of indigenous peoples. Mr. Tripura said, “there are three levels in the traditional administrative system in CHT such as (1) ‘Circle’: headed by King or circle chief; (2) ‘Mouza’:  headed by ‘Headman’ or ‘Mouza Head’ and (3) Village: headed by ‘Karbari’ or village head.” He said, ‘there are three circles in CHT such as Chakma Circle, Mong Circle and Bohmang Circle. He pointed out the challenges for the implementation of the customary rights of indigenous peoples. Distinct features between administrative system of indigenous peoples of plan land and CHT were also explained by him. He said, ‘all indigenous peoples, either from plan l! and or from CHT, should strengthen their struggle for recognition of their rights.’
In Session-VI all participants were divided into three groups to formulate future tragedies to strengthen the traditional leadership of indigenous peoples of plain land. The participants made following recommendations to strengthen the traditional leadership system-
  • Make traditional leadership united and a network in the society;
  • Appoint honest, expressive, impartial and socially accepted persons as the traditional leader who are capable to raise indigenous voices;
  • Ensure equitable rights between male and female and to ensure female participation and representation in traditional institutions;
  • Share the resources equally between male and female;
  • Build up relationship with administration;
  • Increase unity and network in society through organizing meeting and seminars;
  • Create  platform for traditional leaders;
  • Share information regularly in the society;
  • Take initiatives to formulate laws to empower traditional leadership;
  • Building good relationship and communication with several persons and organizations (GOs/NGOs);
  • Making decisions through common consensus within the society;
  • Conduct lobbing and advocacy for the causes of indigenous communities;
 courtest: Kapaeeng Foundation.

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