Low-level armed conflict in the CHT in the 1973-97 period displaced tens of thousands of indigenous persons internally. During the conflict the government relocated landless Bengalis from the plains with the unstated objective of changing the demographic balance in the CHT toward a Bengali majority.
The IDPs in the CHT had limited physical security. Indigenous community leaders maintained that settlers’ violations of indigenous persons’ rights, sometimes with the involvement of security forces, were widespread.
The IDPs in the CHT also lacked sufficient access to courts and legal aid. The CHT Commission, composed of experts from inside and outside the country who sought to promote respect for rights in the CHT, found that a lack of information and lawyers to assist indigenous persons hindered IDP access to justice. The CHT Commission reported that settlers expropriated indigenous land using false titles, intimidation, force, fraud, and manipulation of government eminent-domain claims (see section 6).
The number of IDPs in the CHT remained disputed. In 2000 a government task force estimated the number to be 500,000 but included nonindigenous persons in its estimate. An Amnesty International report published in June estimated 90,000 indigenous IDPs. The prime minister pledged to resolve outstanding land disputes in the CHT to facilitate the return of the IDPs and to close the remaining military camps. No land disputes were resolved during the year.
The indigenous community experienced widespread discrimination and abuses, despite government quotas for indigenous participation from CHT residents in the civil service and higher education as called for in the 1997 Peace Accord.
Indigenous persons from the CHT were unable to participate effectively in decisions affecting their lands due to disagreements regarding the structure and policies of the land commission. Strict security measures prevented some indigenous individuals and activists from combating discrimination.
Indigenous persons also suffered from societal violence. According to Odhikar, clashes between ethnic Bengali settlers and members of the indigenous community, as well as other forms of violence, led to 22 deaths, 18 injuries, and six rapes of indigenous people.
On April 4, a truck driver allegedly raped a 12-year-old indigenous Tripura domestic worker in Keranihat Village, Chittagong District. The Tripura Welfare Association of Bandarban gave the girl shelter for her safety and began preparing a written statement against her attacker to file with the local police.
Extensive societal violence against indigenous individuals occurred on August 3 in six villages in the Taindong area of Matiranga, Kagrachari, after rumors spread that indigenous persons had kidnapped a Bengali motorcyclist. Retaliatory attacks against members of these communities caused more than 2,000 indigenous families to flee across the border to Tripura, India, and resulted in 12 injuries, 34 burned houses, two damaged Buddhist temples, and 259 looted homes. Locals reported the BGB stationed nearby did not take adequate steps to prevent the attacks or to stop them after they began. Authorities ultimately arrested 11 persons in connection with the attacks, including the motorcyclist who faked his own kidnapping, but they were free on bail at year’s end.
Criminal proceedings began against 19 of the 540 individuals arrested in connection with the October 2012 destruction of Buddhist religious sites around Ramu. While the prosecution charged suspects in seven cases, the courts did not convict any individuals or issue any sentences. Local religious leaders stated authorities shielded those affiliated with the AL from criminal prosecution. Suspects identified in the official administrative and judicial inquiries remained free.
Indigenous groups and NGOs reported increased monitoring by civilian and military intelligence agencies. The CHT Commission did not conduct its annual reporting missions in the three hill tracts divisions in 2012 or during the year due to its inability to conduct private meetings with local partners in 2011.
The central government retained authority over land use. The land commission, designed to investigate and return all illegally acquired land, did not resolve any disputes throughout the year, as Bengalis and indigenous persons questioned the structure and impartiality of the commission.
Indigenous communities in areas other than the Hill Tracts reported the loss of land to Bengali Muslims. The government continued construction projects on land traditionally owned by indigenous communities in the Moulvibazar and Modhupur forest areas but did not undertake any new activities. Indigenous communities, local human rights organizations, and churches in those areas claimed the government had not withdrawn thousands of false charges that the Forestry Department had filed against indigenous residents.
The full report on Bangladesh can be downloaded from:
(A Human Rights Organization for Indigenous Peoples of Bangladesh)