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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Non-implementation may reignite unrest, speakers tell CHT Commission & Bangladesh Indigenous Women's Network discussion

Non-implementation may reignite unrest
Speakers tell CHT Commission, Bangladesh Indigenous Women's Network discussion

Staff Correspondent

The government should ensure the full implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Peace Accord, 1997 before frustration among the indigenous community leads to unrest and instability in the region again, speakers told a discussion yesterday.

“My only urge to the policymakers and government is please implement the CHT accord in its full content and essence before it is too late,” said Prof Mizanur Rahman, chairman, National Human Rights Commission.

The discussion, “Marginalization and Impunity: Violence Against Women and Girls in the Chittagong Hill Tracts”, was organised by International Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission (CHTC) and Bangladesh Indigenous Women's Network (BIWN) in the capital's Chhayanaut Sangskriti Bhaban.

The full implementation is crucial in ensuring security of indigenous women and ending impunity currently enjoyed by perpetrators of violence, the speakers noted.

Chanchana Chakma, general secretary of BIWN, presented excerpts from a CHTC report which showed how from 1976 onwards militarisation and the state's transmigration programmes to settle Bangalees in the three southeast hill districts created tension and led to the two-decade-long armed struggle of indigenous people against the state. The treaty ended the armed struggle but hill women continued to be targeted in clashes between Bangalees and the indigenous community, the report mentioned. The report presented case studies of violence from 2011-2012, showing how the culture of impunity prevailed in the regions starting with the unsolved case of indigenous leader Kalpana Chakma's enforced disappearance in 1996.

KS Mong, member, Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council, stated how women were often abducted, forced to convert and marry Bangalee men to intimidate the indigenous community, who were forced to move away to remote areas for security. Noting that land was the major issue of conflict in CHT, Mong stressed the need for an effective land commission. “If the situation continues to be such, we would either announce and leave the country and take refuge in India or Myanmar or began preparing ourselves for resistance again,” he said.

Besides the treaty's implementation, the CHTC report also recommended establishment of a national commission of inquiry and committee to monitor violence against women in the CHT to end the culture of impunity. Employing mixed police force with more women police and sensitising them also came up from open discussions.

CHTC Co-Chairperson Sultana Kamal, members Khushi Kabir and Sara Hossain, Adviser Meghna Guhathakurta and Bangladesh Mahila Parishad President Ayesha Khanom also spoke.

On Saturday rights activists under the banner Nagorik Shomaj formed a human chain before Bangladesh National Museum demanding immediate election to the three CHT district councils.

“Undemocratic forces are becoming permanently rooted in the hill tracts as no election of the councils had taken place in 22 years,” said Oikya NAP President Pankaj Bhattacharya, adding that CHT people have reasons to feel utterly betrayed.

The activists also criticised the government for mulling over increasing the number of zila parishad members from five to 11. “Increasing the size instead of holding an election clearly means that the government is doing this to politicise the CHT zila parishad with its chosen people,” said Prof Mesbah Kamal of history at Dhaka University.

Khushi Kabir, also coordinator of Nijera Kori; Sanjeeb Drong, secretary of the Bangladesh Forum for Indigenous People; Chanchana Chakma, also president of Hill Women's Federation; and Associate Prof Robaet Ferdous of Dhaka University also spoke.

http://www.thedailystar.net/city/non-implementation-may-reignite-unrest-51794
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Dhaka Tribune, November 24, 2014

‘Double discrimination’ against indigenous women
Abid Azad

According to Kapaeeng Foundation, an organisation working for protection of the rights of indigenous people, 19 cases of sexual violence were reported from January to April this year

Indigenous women and girls face “double discrimination” – first as women, then as indigenous, speakers said at a round-table held in the capital yesterday.

With International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women ahead, they said although the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord was signed by the government 17 years ago, indigenous people, particularly the women, still live under the threat of various criminal acts frequently taking place in the region, while the culture of impunity and settlement of Bengalis have left them extremely vulnerable.

The observation came at a session titled: “Marginalisation and Impunity: Violence against Women and Girls in the Chittagong Hill Tracts,” organised by CHT Commission (CHTC) at the Ramesh Chandra Hall of Chhayanaut Bhaban.

Speakers claimed that the culture of impunity is so prevalent in the CHT areas that victims, despite suffering constant harassment, have lost interest in filing cases at the police station. According to Kapaeeng Foundation, an organisation working for protection of the rights of indigenous people, 19 cases of sexual violence were reported from January to April this year. Of them, two were killed after rape, nine were raped, seven fell victim of attempt to rape and one was abducted.

A total of 227 cases for violence against women in both the hilly areas and plain lands under CHT were filed in between 2007 and 2013. The forms included rape, gang rape, murder after rape, physical assault, attempt to rape, abduction, sexual harassment and human trafficking. Five rape incidents occurred in 2007 and the number rose three times higher last year. Many of these cases are not followed up, said the speakers.

Bangladesh Indigenous Women’s Network General Secretary Chanchana Chakma read out the keynote paper prepared by Dr Bina D’Costa, a peace and conflict specialist from the Australian National University.

The report emphasised that militarisation and transmigration (illegal settlement of Bengalis in the CHT) that started from 1976, generated extreme vulnerability and poverty in the region, grossly affecting the safety of women in CHT. Kalpana Chakma, former organising secretary of Hill Women’s Federation, who was allegedly abducted from her house by a military official and two members of the village defence party in 1996, is still missing.

“Still we do not see any development or any exemplary punishment to the culprits of similar cases,” said KS Mong, a member of CHT regional council. He also claimed that the present government, who signed the Peace Accord, has now lost the courage to implement it.

The paper suggested that the process to bring peace and stability in the CHT must begin with the demilitarisation of the region as stipulated in the 1997 CHT Peace Accord. The paper recommended the recruitment of an ombudsman to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to which NHRC Chairman Dr Mizanur Rahman replied: “I disagree with the recommendation. Until I have the power to investigate, recruiting 10 ombudsmen would bring no benefits. First the government should grant more power to NHRC.”

CHTC Co-chairperson Sultana Kamal, member Khush Kabir and Sara Hossain, Adviser Meghna Guhathakurta, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad president Ayesha Khanam were present at the programme.

http://www.dhakatribune.com/law-rights/2014/nov/24/%E2%80%98double-discrimination%E2%80%99-against-indigenous-women
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The Daily Observer, 24 November 2014

Rights activists for faster implementation of CHT accord
Special Correspondent

Publish Date : 2014-11-24, Publish Time : 00:00, View Count : 3

Rights activists have urged the policy makers to implement the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) accord completely before it is too late. The culture of impunity discourage the indigenous people from raising their voice against the authorities, they observed.

They came up with the observation at a seminar on "violence against women and girls in the CHT" organised by CHT Commission (CHTC) at the Chayanat Bhaban in the capital on Sunday.
The seminar blamed that the militarisation and transmigration programmes have continued to settle illegally the landless Bangalees from the plain-lands in CHT that was initiated in 1976 by General Ziaur Rahman.

The settlement has created extreme vulnerability of and poverty to the adivasis and deeply affected adivasi girls' safety and security in the region. Rights activists who recently visited CHT were attacked in Rangamati, Khagrachari and Bandarban under the very nose of the district administration and law enforcement agencies by the Bangalee settlers.

Not to anybody's surprise, the police were reluctant to register any complain of attacks on the rights groups, while the nonchalant authorities in Dhaka expressed their surprise over the civil administrations attitude in CHT hesitant to help the victims, the speakers told the seminar.

Dr Mizanur Rahman, chairman of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said the commission have probed the incidents of attacks on the rights activists and have sent strong notes to relevant authorities with an advice to take legal action against perpetrators. Unfortunately the authorities have yet to respond to NHRC to this regards, lamented Dr Mizan. "Well I am still expecting a pro-active response from the authority on the attacks on the activists. NHRC have also failed to get any response regarding previous probe reports on murders, arsons and sexual violence's against the indigenous people by perpetrators," he said.

The seminar was presided by Advocate Sultana Kamal, co-chairperson of CHTC, while Ayesha Khanam of Mahila Parishad, Dr Mizanur Rahman, KS Mong, member of Bandarman CHT Regional Council, Khushi Kabir, Nijera Kori, Barrister Sara Hossain, BLAST and Chanchana Chamna, BIWN participated in the discussion, while Dr Meghna Guhathakurta moderated the seminar.

Sara Hossain described how the perpetrators of the attacks on the adivasis have been able to flex their muscles with blessings of political power and civil administrations. Even the local police officers face pressure from political and administrative high-ups not to proceed with the cases against the Bangalee settlers, she said.

A research paper "Marginalisation and Impunity: Violence Against Women and Girls in the CHT" by Bina D'Costa was presented at the seminar. The researcher recommends for sincere political will to bring peace and stability in the CHT must begin with the demilitarisation of the region as determined in 1997 CHT Accord. The research recommends voluntary resettlement of Bangalees who have illegally occupied lands that belong to the adivasis.

A sustainable gender-sensitive and gender-responsive development project combating the poverty and inequality of indigenous communities in the region must be endorsed, it was suggested.
Lastly, all stakeholders must recognise that the end of impunity is fundamental and urgent, and that without adequate, effective and impartial enforcement of relevant laws, violence against adivasi women and girls cannot be mitigated.

http://www.observerbd.com/2014/11/24/56593.php
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Daily Sun, 24 November 2014

Implement CHT peace accord soon
NHRC chairman urges govt

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Chairman Dr. Mizanur Rahman on Sunday urged the government to implement the Chittagong Hill Tracts peace accord as early as possible, else the country will have to suffer, reports UNB.

“My earnest request to the government, please implement the CHT peace accord as early as possible. A stitch in time saves nine…” he said taking part at a roundtable on ‘Marginalization and Impunity: Violence against Women and Girls in the Chittagong Hill Tracts’. The roundtable was arranged jointly by Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Commission and Adivasi Nari Network at Ramesh Chandra Hall of the Chayanaut Bhaban, Dhanmondi in the capital.

Dr Mizanur Rahman said the CHT peace accord would have to be implemented for peace and security of the entire country as well as for the people of the CHT. Expressing concern, he said: “Unless the accord is implemented immediately, political gridlock might break out in the hill tracts.“Chaired by CHT Commission co-chairman Sultana Kamal, the programme was also addressed by commission members and Khusi Kabir and barrister Sara Hossain, commission adviser Meghna Guhathakurta, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad president Ayesha Khanam and CHT regional council member KS Mong.

http://www.daily-sun.com/details_Implement-CHT-peace-accord-soon_1046_1_10_1_4.html
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The Independent, 24 November 2014

‘Violence against women should get extra attention’

Author / Source: STAFF REPORTER

The cases of violence against women in the Chittagong Hill Tract (CHT) areas should get extra attention to end the culture of impunity, observed human rights activists at a roundtable discussion in the city.

Barrister Sara Hossain, executive director of Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) said, “Initially, different women rights organisations come forward for the cases of violence against women, but gradually they back away and the cases sink into oblivion with the course of time.” She added the close ones of the victims and even the victims receive threats constantly from the perpetrators of a crime after a case is filed.

Also, apathy among the law enforcers is one the major impediments too, he noted. That is why, the cases related to violence against women in the hill tracts need to be treated with extra attention, she opined.

While presenting the keynote paper, Chanchana Chakma, general secretary of BIWN (Bangladesh Indigenous Women’s Network) recommended strengthening the existing women right activists’ network, providing technical and financial support to enhance capacity building of the indigenous womenfolk, appointing an ombudsperson at National Human Rights Commission, sensitising the media, medical officials and the mass people regarding the issues, and training up the indigenous women regarding the legal process and ensuring their access to justice.

NHRC chairman Mizanur Rahman said, “The Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord should be implemented before it is too late.”

http://www.theindependentbd.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=238341:violence-against-women-should-get-extra-attention&catid=135:metropolitan-dhaka&Itemid=174

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