Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Sitakundo Model police station Mr. Samiul Alam, Assistant Commissioner (Land) of Sitakunda upazila Mr. Abdulla Al Mamun, Organizing Secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum Mr. Shaktipada Tripura, Organizing Secretary of Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council Mr. Tapos Hore, joint secretary of South Chittagong district branch of Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council Prof. Prodip Kumar Chowdhury, general secretary of Sitakunda branch of Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council Mr. Dipok Chandra Dey, consultant of ILO Ms. Uchacha A Chak and Rabindra Tripura of Tripura Kalyan Samsad were present as special guest.
Mr. Mangal Kumar Chakma, adviser of Kapaeeng Foundation presided over the meeting and Mr. Hiran Mitra Chakma delivered the welcome speech while Ms. Falguni Tripura Flora conducted the session.
Mr. ABM Abul Kashem MP, in his speech, said that, present government is very sincere in establishing the rights of indigenous peoples. No discriminatory act will be conducted with indigenous peoples. Present government is working for ensuring all rights of indigenous peoples including land rights, educational rights and cultural rights. He said that government will take all necessary steps for promoting the rights of indigenous peoples. He also mentioned that local administration will also support the indigenous peoples. He promised to support for promoting the rights of indigenous peoples of the area.
Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Sitakunda Model police station Mr. Samiul Alam assured that he would take necessary measures in providing security of lives and property of local Tripura villagers.
Assistant Commissioner (Land) of Sitakunda upazila Mr. Abdulla Al Mamun said that as per provision of the East Bengali Tenancy Act 1950, no land belonging to indigenous people can be transferred without approval of district Revenue Officer.
Organizing Secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum Mr. Shaktipada Tripura requested ABM Abul Kashem MP and local administration to cancel lease of land given to influential Bengali businessmen violating traditional land rights of indigenous Tripura villagers in Sitakunda.
In his concluding speech, Mangal Kumar Chakma said that soon after independence of the country, the government of Bangladesh ratified ILO Convention No. 107 on Indigenous and Tribal Populations in 1972. By virtue of this Convention, the government recognized traditional land rights of indigenous peoples. However, the government did not take any initiative to protect traditional lands of indigenous peoples. He requested ABM Abul Kashem MP and local administration to protect traditional land rights of indigenous peoples as per ILO Convention No. 107.
It is worth mentioning that there are around 3,000 indigenous Tripura people living in 8 villages under Sitakunda upazila. The lands, where indigenous Tripura community have been living for generations, were given lease to influential Bengali businessmen. The lease holders and their henchmen have been threatening Tripura villagers to evict from their ancestral villages. With the intention to evict them, the gang of lease holders conducted several attacks on indigenous Tripura villagers leaving several houses ransacked and valuables of houses looted.
The community seminar was organised to building capacity of indigenous peoples human rights defenders on human rights documentation, advocacy, lobby and campaign for promotion and protection of indigenous peoples’ human rights. 42 indigenous activists from Sitakunda, Miraswarai and Fatikchari upazilas and Chittagong metropolitan city under Chittagong district, Cox’s Bazaar and Chittagong University belong to Tripura, Chakma, Marma, Thanchangya, Rakhaine and Bawm communities participated in the community seminar.
(A Human Rights Organization for Indigenous Peoples of Bangladesh)