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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

CHT troubled by land rows: Land Commission inactive, couldn't resolve a single case since its inception

CHT troubled by land rows

Land Commission inactive, couldn't resolve a single case since its inception

The government is sitting on thousands of complaints about land ownerships in the hills as the Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Dispute Resolution Commission has remained inactive since its inception 10 years ago.

The commission was unable to resolve a single dispute in the region.

Land disputes in CHT have become acute as the government neglected the land rights of indigenous people, and conducted sponsored demographic engineering by settling Bangalees in the hills over the past decades, said observers.

Meanwhile, land disputes resulted in eight clashes between indigenous hill people and Bangalee settlers in different parts of the region claiming 14 lives only in the last two and a half years, according to news reports.

Traditional community land ownership of the indigenous hill people in CHT declined to 28.76 percent from 76.21 between 1978 and 2009, says a study.

Over the same period, possession of land by government agencies increased to 25.77 percent from 5.22 percent, found a study on CHT land conducted by Chairman of Dhaka University Economics Department Dr Abul Barakat.

The forest department announced 2,18,000 acres of land as reserved, all of which used to be regarded as community land of the indigenous people.

Only in Bandarban the government allocated 1,605 plots consisting 40,077 acres of land to Bangalees for commercial rubber plantations.

Many of these pieces of land used to be owned by indigenous hill people based on traditional verbal agreements. Now they find themselves ousted from their land that they had owned for generations.

The five-member land commission, an outcome of the CHT Peace Accord 1997, sat only once, before the government suspended its activities for an indefinite period last December.

The suspension came as the indigenous communities demanded the commission to work in line with the provisions of the peace treaty, and identify ownerships of land before conducting any land survey.

Before the suspension, people filed 5,000 applications with it regarding their disputed pieces of land. "But the number of land disputes in CHT is even higher," said Abdul Hamid, secretary of the commission.

A huge number of applications might have been submitted to the commission if its activities had not been suspended, he said.

Representatives of the indigenous hill people oppose a few provisions of the Land Commission Act-2001. They say that some of its provisions contradict the CHT Peace Accord. They have been protesting the commission's activities and demanding removal of its chairman.

"Indigenous hill people have lost faith in the commission chairman due to his controversial activities. So far, he did everything unilaterally, ignoring all commission members including me," said Raja Devasish Roy, Chakma circle chief.

The government appointed Justice Khademul Islam Chowdhury as the commission chairman on July 19, 2009. On March 14 last year, the commission office was set up in Khagrachhari.

Rather than holding discussions with the members to find ways to improve operations of the commission, Justice Khademul called several administrative meetings without bothering to include its members, sources among the indigenous population claimed.

The debate between the commission and the leaders of the indigenous hill people started when Justice Khademul proposed to carry out a land survey in CHT.

It has to be done by the government through the land ministry after resolving all land disputes, not before it, the leaders said.

"If the land survey is carried out before solving the disputes, then it will be very difficult to identify the real ownership of any piece of land," said PCJSS leader Sajib Chakma.

Under the traditional land ownership system of the indigenous communities, they used to possess land based on verbal agreements without any written document, which used to be respected.

Over the decades the government did not recognise the traditional land ownership system in CHT.

Now most of the indigenous people lost their land due to document forgery by Bangalee settlers, and 62 percent indigenous people of CHT are passing their days in extreme poverty, the study conducted by Dr Barakat says.

Justice Khademul however said, "Whatever decisions I have made in the commission, those were made according to the law, and maintaining quorum."

The government has yet to make any move to bring an end to this deadlock.

State Minister for CHT Affairs Dipangkar Talukder told The Daily Star, "You will know if the government makes any move."


courtesy: The Daily Star

New settlement! New settlers into CHT!

On 28 August 2011, in the morning time, suddenly some houses have come in sight, extremely adjacent to (in the east) the Rangamati Brigade office. These are nothing but new settlement! Within a night, at least 3-4 houses have been erected by new settler families that are quite unknown to the locals of nearby Tatu Roy Adam area (Public health area) of Rangamati municipality. 

It is learnt that on 27 August 2011 at night some unknown Bengali outsiders constructed the houses overnight. Next morning, when some local Jumma residents of Tatu Roy Adam area opposed the settlers, then they replied that they got permission from the army. 

But, there is a matter of strange that while once some local Jumma people previously wanted to construct houses, they were opposed showing the reason that the place is nearby Brigade office. 

However, 4-5 houses have already been constructed and it looks construction still going on. (Please, see the photos)

photo courtesy: PCJSS. 

Constitution hasn't ensured rights of non-Bengali people: says General Ibrahim

Constitution hasn't ensured rights of non-Bengali people: says General Ibrahim

Leaders of Mukta Chinta, a forum of free-thinking people, on Sunday said that Bangladesh might fall into a trap if the government recognised the non-Bengali minorities as 'indigenous.'

Bangladesh's sovereignty may be hampered if the non-Bengali people of the country are recognised as 'indigenous' as the government will need to ensure their rights according to the International Labour Organisation convention, the leaders said.

The ILO Convention 169 entitles autonomy, priority rights on particular land, cross boundary interactions with the same community and free consent of the people on issues related to the livelihood of the people of the area to 'indigenous people.'

The leaders were speaking at a discussion on 'National and international conspiracy: perspective CHT' organised by Mukta Chinta at the Dhaka Reporter's Unity in the city.

Speaking on the occasion, the Bangladesh Kalyan Party chairman, Syed Mohammad Ibrahim, said that the constitution of Bangladesh had never ensured the rights of the non-Bengali peoples (national minorities) in a 'sufficient way.'

Ibrahim, a former brigade commander of the Bangladesh Army in Chittagong Hill Tracts, said that even the 15th amendment to the constitution imposes Bengali identity on non-Bengali people.

He brushed aside the allegation that unrest in CHT had begun after 'politically settlement' the Bengalis in the region.

National minority leaders have for long been saying that the Bengali settlers had grabbed their land which gradually led to the unrest in the CHT.

The Biplabi Workers Party general secretary, Saiful Haque, said that the unrest in CHT was a political issue and it could not be resolved by force or military intervention.

'Militarisation would only make the situation worse,' he added.

The problem began in 1972 when the non-Bengali people were denied their distinct identity in the constitution, he said.

Saiful also said that the CHT accord of 1997 'unfortunately' was yet to be implemented.

courtesy: New Age

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Repression is for lands: Conference on indigenous people

Repression is for lands

Conference on indigenous people calls for effective land commission in the hills

A demographic engineering was done in the Chittagong Hill Tracts over three decades since 1978, through settlement of Bangalees and forced acquisition of indigenous people's land, economist Abul Barakat said yesterday.

As a result, the traditional community land ownership of the hills people declined to 28.76 percent from 76.21 in between 1978 and 2009.

Over the same period, possession of land by the government agencies has increased to 25.77 percent from 5.22 percent, said Barakat citing his recent studies.

He was speaking at a two-day conference on land, forest and culture of indigenous people. The Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum organised the meet ahead of the International Day for Indigenous People.

The inaugural session of the conference, supported by Oxfam GB Bangladesh, was held at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in the capital.

Speakers at the conference urged the government to establish an effective and comprehensive indigenous land reform commission to resolve the long-standing land disputes and end "repression and deprivation" of the indigenous people.

In a paper presented at the conference, Barakat, chairman of the economics department at Dhaka University, said since 1964 over two lakh acres of land has been forcibly taken from 10 indigenous communities living on the plains.

Small communities living in Sylhet and the northern regions including Patro, Santal, Pahan, Mahato, Oraon, Rakhain, Garo, Hajong, Khasi and Dalu faced extreme poverty and many of them fled the country being vulnerable due to such land dispossession, he added.

He said the current cumulative market value of the land of those 10 plain-land indigenous people lost could be up to $900 million.

Prof Barakat prepared the paper on the basis of his three studies conducted between 2008 and 2010 for Human Development Research Centre.

He showed in his studies that dispossession of land has left around 62 percent Adivasi families in "absolute poverty" and 32 percent below "hardcore poverty line".

On the other hand, the figures for the majority Bangalee community are about 39 percent and 17 percent respectively, he added.

The poor and easygoing smaller communities could not hold their ancestral land as the vested interest groups grabbed their land with political backing since the government has never formally recognised their land ownership, he explained.

Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal President and lawmaker Hasanul Haq Inu demanded formulation of "indigenous rights act" to protect rights of the indigenous people and establishment of a "national indigenous commission" to uphold their values, cultures, norms, customs and traditions.

Subsequently, at a technical session, Chakma Circle Chief Raja Devasish Roy demanded establishment of specialised land tribunals at district level.

His other demands include amendment of the East Bengal State Acquisition and Tenancy Act, 1950; directives to the deputy commissioners to consult the indigenous organisations or representatives before transferring land to non-indigenous people; and removal of Justice Khademul Islam as chairman of the CHT Land Commission.

Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum's General Secretary Sanjeeb Drong, CHT Regional Council member Gautam Kumar Chakma and Oxfam GB Bangladesh's programme manager MB Akhter, among others, were present at the conference.

The second technical session styled "Forestry policy: The need for a paradigm shift" was held in the afternoon. Executive Director of Bangladesh Environment Lawyers Association Rizwana Hassan presented the keynote paper in the session.


courtesy: The daily star

Friday, August 26, 2011

Let's all live in harmony

Let's all live in harmony


The indigenous communities are demanding to implement the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord in full, signed in the previous tenure of Awami League government in 1997. It is palpable that the government's failure is the main reason behind the misunderstanding among factions of indigenous people. Why is the government now creating a debate unnecessarily over “tribal or indigenous”? We have heard that according to the ILO convention 169, there are no major differences between them in terms of providing facilities.

All of us should respect their cultures, values, norms, customs and traditions. We see in the media reports that they, especially the indigenous women, become victim of many kinds of violence every now and then. The government should take action against the criminals and look into their accusation against the Bangalee settlers who grabbed their (indigenous people's) lands by evicting them from their ancestral land and homesteads. It is essential that the Bangalee settlers and indigenous people live in harmony and show proper respect to each other. However, we urge the government to implement the full peace accord soon to ensure political, economic and social rights of indigenous people.


courtesy: The daily Star

8 years of Mahalchari communal attack

On this day: in 2003, Bengali settlers and Bangladesh military launched a horrendous communal attack on the indigenous Jumma people of Mahalchari Upazila under Khagrachari Hill District of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Region. As a result, more than 350 indigenous Jumma households of 14 villages under five Moujas had been looted and burnt to ashes.

Moreover, more than 100 Jumma houses including four Buddhist temples, one UNICEF run primary school, a good number of shops and statues of Lord Buddha had been destroyed, ransacked and looted. Valuables worth over Taka 30 millions had been destroyed.

Two Jumma people including one eight-month-old child had been murdered by Bengali settlers and military. Ten Jumma women had been raped.

When the indigenous people went to register cases against the Bengali settlers at the Mahalchari police station, police refused to register them. Ultimately, after the Khagrachari court gave a court order, police filed two cases against the Bengali settlers. The Officer in Charge of Mahalchari Thana himself filed a case on behalf of the settlers accusing some 4,000 indigenous people of attacking the settlers.

Following is a documentary based on interviews of the victims of attack in Mahalchari: 

Amnesty international report on the incident: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA13/003/2004/en/4136499d-d5fa-11dd-bb24-1fb85fe8fa05/asa130032004en.html

Following is the report from Hill Watch Human Rights Forum:

Mayhem at Mahalchari-Internet Edition

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

[CHT Commission Press Statement] Clarification about the 'Study on the status of the implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord of 1997'

Press statement by the CHT Commission regarding comments made on the 'Study on the status of the implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord of 1997' which was submitted by Lars-Anders Baer, the former member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) and member of the CHT Commission.

" 'Study on the status of the implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord of 1997" report submitted by Lars-Anders Baer can be viewed here: http://chtnewsupdate.blogspot.com/2011/05/study-on-status-of-implementation-of.html

Statement by Bangladesh delegation on the study of the Implementation Status of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord can be viewed here: http://chtnewsupdate.blogspot.com/2011/05/statement-by-bangladesh-delegation-on.html


CHTCommission Clarification August 2011

24 August, 2011

Press Statement

The CHT Commission would like to clarify some of the allegations that were made by His Excellency Abul Kalam Abdul Momen, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations in New York in a statement on Agenda item 14(h) of the 2011 Substantive Session of Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), on 29 July 2011. These allegations were then reflected in some media reports afterwards.

His allegations focused on the ‘Study on the status of implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord of 1997’ which was submitted by Lars-Anders Baer who is a former member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). The Permanent Forum in its ninth session in 2009 appointed Mr. Baer, who was then a member, as Special Rapporteur to undertake this study.

The allegations brought by the Ambassador at the ECOSOC were that the study was “conducted in a manner that raised questions of transparency, ethics, impartiality and objectivity relating to its conduct and contents” and that the Special Rapporteur conducting the study “chose not to disclose his identity, mandate and objective” during his meetings with government authorities and other stakeholders which “was a clear violation of established norms and practices”. The Ambassador also stated that Special Rapporteur Lars-Anders was a member of “a partisan CHT-based NGO of Bangladesh holding membership of the PFII and simultaneously serving as a Special Rapporteur”.

Mr. Lars-Anders Baer, who is also a member of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission, conducted the investigation for this study when he came to visit Bangladesh in September 2010. During his stay he held meetings with the Law Minister, the Honourable Mr. Shafique Ahmed, the Foreign Minister, the Honourable Dr. Dipu Moni MP, the Land Minister, the Honourable Mr. Rezaul Karim and the Minister for CHT Affairs, the Honourable Mr. Dipankar Talukder MP. At these meetings he clearly stated to all the ministers that he was conducting a study for the United Nations Permanent Forum regarding the status of the implementation of the CHT Accord. The CHT Commission’s records confirm that Mr. Baer informed the Foreign Minister about the study he was conducting as a Special Rapporteur. At the meetings with various stakeholders in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Mr. Baer clearly stated he was here to conduct the study for the UN Permanent Forum.

Prior to coming to Bangladesh in September 2010, Mr. Baer had a meeting with the head of the Bangladesh delegation in April 2010 during the ninth session of the Permanent Forum. At this meeting he asked Dr. Abul Kalam Abdul Momen, the head of the UN mission in Bangladesh, whether he had any objections against pursuing a study concerning the CHT Accord. He had none.

After finalizing the ‘Study on the status of implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord of 1997’, it was sent to the Bangladesh UN mission in Geneva on 19 January, 2011 before presenting it at the tenth session of the Permanent Forum in May, 2011.

Here are excerpts from the letter to the Bangladesh Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva:

In May 2010 I was appointed Special Rapporteur by the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to undertake a study on the status of implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord of 1997. Following my appointment I was in Bangladesh in September where I had the honor of meeting, among others, the Foreign Minister and the State Minister, Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs, who both stated their full support for the study.

The study has now been completed and I am forwarding it to you for your kind perusal. Your comments and input are most welcome and I will, as far as possible, try to include your views in the presentation of the study during the 10th session of the Permanent Forum to take place in May 2011 in New York. I would also be at your disposal for a meeting in Geneva to discuss the study.

However, Special Rapporteur Mr. Lars-Anders never received any objection or query from any Bangladeshi authority during this time.

The objections were first raised by Mr. Iqbal Ahmed, the First Secretary of the Bangladesh mission to the UN, at the tenth session of the Permanent Forum on 25 May 2011. The Foreign Minister’s objections came three days before the ECOSOC session which took place on 29 July, 2011.

The CHT Commission also objects to the terming of the CHT Commission as “a partisan CHT-based NGO of Bangladesh” by His Excellency Abul Kalam Abdul Momen. The CHT Commission is a non-partisan international human rights body whose members are highly respected for their work to uphold human rights laws nationally and internationally. It was established to facilitate the implementation of the 1997 CHT Accord and bring peace to the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Its mandate is:

To promote respect for human rights, democracy, and restoration of civil and political rights, participatory development and land rights in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh, including examination of the implementation of the CHT Peace Accord of 1997.

The CHT Commission appreciates the ECOSOC’s decision on the report, in which the Council took note both of the report and the importance of the Permanent Forum continuing to adhere to its mandate and take into account the concerns not only of United Nations Member States, but also of indigenous peoples and all other stakeholders.

On behalf of the CHT Commission

Eric Avebury                            Sultana Kamal                                     Elsa Stamatopoulou
Co-chair of the                        Co-chair of the                        Co-chair of the
CHT Commission                                 CHT Commission                    CHT Commission 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Alienation of the Lands of Indigenous Peoples in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh

The book "*Alienation of the Lands of Indigenous
Peoples in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh*" written by *Shapan
Adnan* and *Ranajit Dastidar* is now available to be downloaded from CHT
Commission's website. The link for the book is given below:


This is a book about the ways in which the lands of the indigenous peoples
(IP) or Pahari groups of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh have
been relentlessly taken over by multiple agencies and groups from outside.
It is not an academic volume but a general one meant for a popular
readership, including all those who are concerned to do something about
these problems. However, the study is based on rigorous research, including
fieldwork among both Pahari and Bengali groups in the CHT, undertaken during
2010-11. It was conducted under the auspices of the Chittagong Hill Tracts
Commission (CHTC), which seeks to contribute to the just resolution of the
conflicts in the CHT in order to ensure the safety of the indigenous peoples
and their lands.

Historically, the indigenous peoples had constituted the overwhelming
majority of the population of the CHT. Bengalis accounted for less than 2%
of the population in 1872. However, from the late 1970s, counter-insurgency
operations resulted in the forced eviction of around one lakh Paharis from
their lands and homesteads. During 1979-85, more than three lakh Bengali
settlers were brought in from the plains of Bangladesh and placed on Pahari
lands by the government, forcibly changing the demographic composition and
land distribution of the CHT. This influx of migrants and land grabbing
further intensified the ethnic conflict between the Paharis and the Bengalis
during the 1980s and 1990a. It was formally ended in 1997 by the CHT Accord
between the Government of Bangladesh and the Parbatya Chattagram Jana
Samhati Samiti (PCJSS), the party leading the Pahari resistance.

Even though 13 years have gone by, many of the critical clauses of this
peace agreement have yet to be implemented by the government. Moreover, the
influx of Bengalis from outside and the grabbing of Pahari lands have
continued unabated with little restriction by the authorities. Lands have
been forcibly acquired by not only government agencies but also Bengali
powerholders and private commercial interests with connections to the major
political parties and agencies of the state. The failure of all the
governments in power since the 1997 Accord to take effective measures
against continuing in-migration of Bengalis and the eviction of Paharis from
their lands threatens to undermine the social and political stability of the
CHT. It also raises the prospects of renewed ethnic and political conflict
in the region.

This book focuses on the multiple and complex mechanisms that have been used
to grab Pahari lands in the CHT, inclusive of state power, illegal violence,
and fraudulent manipulation of land records. Furthermore, not only the lands
of the IP, but also those of ordinary Bengali settlers, have been grabbed by
powerful interest groups, inclusive of private corporations, with
connections to political parties, the civil administration and security
forces. Such takeover of the lands of poor Bengali settlers by powerful
Bengali interest groups also reflects a growing trend in intra-ethnic and
classed-based land conflicts in the CHT. The use of legal and illegal means,
including violence and fraud, to establish rubber, timber and horticulture
plantations, as well as undertake commercial speculation in real estate,
corresponds to the process of 'primitive accumulation' feeding into
predatory forms of capitalism as well as the notion of 'accumulation by
dispossession' under neoliberal globalization.

The concluding section of the book puts forward a wide range of policy
measures aimed at (i) limiting the mechanisms and factors facilitating land
alienation, as well as (ii) reducing inter-ethnic tension and conflict in
the CHT. These policy recommendations are addressed to all concerned,
including the government, the indigenous peoples of the CHT, progressive
sections of mainstream Bengali society, donor agencies, the media, public
interest organizations, pro-people NGOs, advocacy groups and activists at
home and abroad.

The contents of the book are organized into four thematic chapters, as

Chapter 1 introduces the study and describes how the research was designed,
as well as the conditions under which fieldwork was undertaken.

Chapter 2 provides a critical review of the implementation of the CHT Accord
up to 2010, specifying the significant clauses that have not yet been
implemented by the government in a substantive manner. It also takes note of
parallel demographic, economic and social changes in the CHT taking place
independently, which might be irreversible and could make the CHT Accord
increasingly irrelevant.

Chapter 3 provides detailed analysis of the multiple and complex mechanisms
of land alienation at work in the CHT. The roles of the various public and
private agencies involved in land grabbing are analyzed with empirical
evidence, inclusive of pertinent case studies wherever adequate data are
available. The analysis takes account of significant shifts in the
mechanisms of land alienation from the 1970s to 2010, explaining the nature
of changes before and after the Accord.

Chapter 4 provides policy analysis concerned with the prevention of further
alienation of the lands of the IP of the CHT as well as the restitution of
their already occupied areas. It puts forward specific policy
recommendations on many critical issues, including the resolution of land
conflicts, role of the controversial Land Commission, the full
implementation of the CHT Accord, as well as a proposal for independent
research and monitoring of critical trends in the CHT.

*Author Profiles*

*Shapan Adnan* was educated at the Universities of Cambridge and Sussex. He
has been a member of the teaching faculty of the National University of
Singapore and the Universities of Dhaka and Chittagong, and has held
visiting research positions at the University of Oxford. His research
activities have been broadly in the fields of political economy and
political sociology, much of it based on ethnographic fieldwork. He has
published on a wide variety of topics including: agrarian structure and
capitalist development; structures of domination and resistance; alienation
of lands of the peasantry and indigenous peoples; causes of ethnic
conflict; determinants of fertility and migration; socio-economic and
environmental impacts of development interventions; and critiques of flood
control and water management. Contact email: amsa127@gmail.com

*Ranajit Dastidar* has studied economics at the University of Chittagong and
obtained a PhD in political economy from the National University of
Singapore (NUS). Besides work experience in commercial banking and NGO
programmes, he has been involved in many socio-economic research projects
and evaluation studies. His research interests include: impacts of
technological innovation and the nature and extent of capitalist development
among traditional fishing communities; forms of marginalization of
indigenous peoples; and changes in the social organization of production of
rural communities. Contact email: rana.dastidar@gmail.com

*The Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission* is independent and fully committed
to an approach of constructive engagement with all stakeholders in
Bangladesh. Its mandate is as follows: -

To promote respect for human rights, democracy, and restoration of civil and
political rights, participatory development and land rights in the
Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh, including examination of the
implementation of the CHT Peace Accord of 1997. The CHT Commission will
build on the work undertaken by the original CHT Commission between 1990 and


Hana Shams Ahmed
Coordinator, CHT Commission

Monday, August 22, 2011

Indian Independence and the Chakmas: The forgotten story and the sorry state of affairs

Indian Independence and the Chakma: The forgotten story and the sorry state of affairs.
By Paritosh Chakma

 This following article has been extracted from Indian Chakma community magazine "Sojaak"


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bangladesh indigenous issue: Boishakhi TV-Iive talk show on world indigenous day 2011

Boishakhi TV- interview with Muktashri Chakma Sathi (Staff correspondent- New Age) and Gani Adam (Senior reporter- Desh TV) on occasion of International Indigenous Day 2011.

The term ‘Adivasi’ ("indigenous") to be removed from all the governmental documents

The decision at inter-ministerial meeting
The term ‘Adivasi’ ("indigenous") to be removed from all the governmental documents
It is reported that the Government of Bangladesh has decided to erase the term ‘indigenous’ from all the laws, policies, documents and publications of Bangladesh Government. Even this term will be rubbed out from all the textbooks and curriculums. The term ‘Adivasi’ (indigenous peoples) will be replaced by the term ‘Khudro Nritattik Jonogosthi’ (ethnic minorities) according to the 15th amendment of the Constitution of Bangladesh.
The decision was taken at inter-ministry meeting held on last 21 July 2011 where representatives from Prime Minister’s office, Foreign Ministry, Ministry for CHT Affairs, Military Headquarters and Intelligence Departments were present in the meeting.
It is learnt that the proposal of replacement of the term ‘Adivasi’ would be submitted to the Cabinet. When the approval from the Cabinet would be received, the term ‘ethnic minorities’ would be installed erasing the term ‘indigenous peoples’ from all the papers of ministries and institutions of the government. In addition, there was a decision in the meeting that instead of accepting any foreign-funded NGO projects titling ‘development of indigenous peoples’ such projects can be accepted under the title of ‘development of ethnic minorities’ through the Ministry for CHT Affairs, Economic Relation Division and Bureau of NGOs.
In the meeting, the Foreign Ministry opined that all the people living in Bangladesh territory are indigenous. As the tribes (upajati) and the ethnic minorities living in Chittagong Hill Tracts who have come to this region during 17th Century, they are ‘migrants’. And because, the British people did not settle down in Indian subcontinent parallel to America or Australia, there is no option of mentioning any particular group of population separately as ‘Adivasi’. Also, the word ‘Adivasi’ has not been used in CHT Peace Accord. Rather, the term ‘upajati’ (sub-nation) has been used in the Accord. So, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs opined that the phrase ‘Khudro Nritattik Jonogosthi’ should be used instead in the light of 15th amendment.
On last 4 August 2011, the Foreign Ministry, in a letter, asked ERD to report urgently on whether there is any ongoing project titled ‘development of indigenous peoples’ in Chittagong Hill Tracts. Scrutinizing all the documents of all the ongoing foreign-funded projects, ERD informed that though there are different going on projects of  Asian Development Bank, Japan Government, Norway and the UN organizations -UNDP and UNICEF, there is no such project titled ‘development of indigenous peoples’. 
It was also learnt that the government had taken unbending stance as the inhabitants of CHT were recognized as ‘indigenous peoples’ in the report of UNPFII. Because, if the inhabitants of that area get the recognition as indigenous peoples, they will get various safeguards by various international laws which will go against the interest of Bangladesh. In such circumstances, Foreign Minister Dr. Dipu Moni informed the stance of the government about indigenous peoples’ issues. Now, this matter will be submitted at the Cabinet meeting. When it will be approved at the Cabinet, government will issued gazette notification. No individual or institution will be able to mention the inhabitants of CHT as ‘Adivasi’ after that. They will have to be mentioned as ‘Khudro Nritattik Jonogosthi’ (ethnic minorities).

courtesy: Kapaeeng Foundation

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Little headway in move to settle CHT land disputes

Little headway in move to settle CHT land disputes

Abdullah Juberee

Initiatives for settlement of land disputes in Chittagong Hill Tracts have made little headway as the government is still ‘working’ on the proposals for amendment to the Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001.

The move for resolution of the land disputes was halted amid widespread protests by the hill people against the ‘controversial’ act.

In the face of protests by the hill people, the national committee on implementation of Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord at its third meeting on December 26, 2010 in Khagrachari resolved that all activities of the commission would remain suspended until the act was amended.

After seven months, the ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts affairs prepared draft proposals for amendment to the act and sent it to the land ministry.

A meeting between the land ministry and representatives of Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council on Thursday agreed to the draft proposals and decided to send it to the national committee on implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord for further scrutiny.

After scrutiny the committee will send the draft to the cabinet for approval before it is placed in parliament for passage.

The minister for land, Rezaul Karim Hira, told New Age termed ‘fruitful’ Thursday’s meeting with the hill people’s representatives and hoped the stalemate would be over soon.

‘We held the discussion in a cordial atmosphere and they [hill people’s representatives] agreed to the draft amendment proposals. We agreed to send it to the national committee for further scrutiny,’ he said.

KS Mong, a member on the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council, said a draft amendment proposal was placed before them and they did not oppose it. ‘We have decided to send it to the national committee [on implementation of the CHT accord] for scrutiny,’ he said.      
‘I think it is a step forward towards a settlement of the issue,’ he added.

Sources in the government saw the outcome of Thursday’s meeting as a positive sign against the backdrop of growing bitterness between the hill leaders and the government over the issue of giving the national minorities ‘indigenous’ status.   

All activities on the land commission stopped after the December 26 meeting of the national committee on implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord, said officials at the land ministry.
National minority leaders in the hill districts are demanding amendments to the 2001 act as regards the land commission as, they say, many sections of the act are against the 1997 CHT agreement.

Protests brewed against the incumbent land commission chairman, retired Supreme Court judge Khademul Islam, after he pressed for carrying out a cadastral survey before settling the land disputes. His move was initially endorsed by the government.

The government on October 10, 2010 accepted the demand of national minority groups for settling the land related disputes in the CHT before conducting a survey.

An inter-ministry meeting on the CHT land survey and dispute settlement held in Rangamati also decided to expedite implementation of the 1997 CHT accord in cooperation with the representatives of regional and district councils.

Hill people became frustrated after the commission chair had called for hearing applications, mostly submitted by Bengali settlers, on December 27, 2010.

Just a day before the hearing, the CHT agreement implementation committee decided to suspend the commission’s activities.

courtesy: New Age

 মানিকছড়িতে এক আদিবাসীকে জবাই গ্রেপ্তার ১

মানিকছড়িতে এক আদিবাসীকে জবাই গ্রেপ্তার ১

খাগড়াছড়ির মানিকছড়ি উপজেলায় থুই প্রু মারমা (৪২) নামের এক আদিবাসীকে জবাই করে হত্যা করা হয়েছে। গতকাল শুক্রবার সকালে মানিকছড়ি ইউনিয়নের ওয়াকছড়ি গ্রাম থেকে তাঁর লাশ উদ্ধার করা হয়েছে। তাঁর পরিবারের দাবি, জমি নিয়ে বিরোধের জের ধরে তাঁকে হত্যা করা হয়েছে। এ ঘটনার সঙ্গে জড়িত থাকার অভিযোগে পুলিশ থুই প্রু মারমার ভাগনে ক্যপ্রু মারমা ওরফে আবু তাহেরকে গ্রেপ্তার করেছে।

থুই প্রু মারমার স্ত্রী ফুলুমা মারমা ও প্রতিবেশীদের সঙ্গে কথা বলে জানা গেছে, থুই প্রু মারমাকে বৃহস্পতিবার দিবাগত রাত দুইটার দিকে মুখোশ পরা সাত-আটজন সন্ত্রাসী বাড়ির দরজা ভেঙে অপহরণ করে নিয়ে যায়। এ সময় বাধা দিতে গেলে সন্ত্রাসীরা তাঁর পরিবারের সদস্যদের মারধর করে। গতকাল সকালে থুই প্রু মারমার পরিবারের সদস্যরাসহ গ্রামের লোকজন খোঁজাখুঁজির একপর্যায়ে ওয়াকছড়ি সরকারি প্রাথমিক বিদ্যালয়সংলগ্ন ধানখেতের আইলের ওপর তাঁর জবাই করা লাশ দেখতে পায়। পরে গ্রামের লোকজন পুলিশকে খবর দেয়। পুলিশ গিয়ে লাশটি উদ্ধার করে।

ফুলুমা মারমা জানান, অপহরণের সময় সন্ত্রাসীদের কথাবার্তায় তিনি একজনকে চিনতে পারেন। তাঁর দেওয়া তথ্যের ভিত্তিতে পুলিশ থুই প্রু মারমার ভাগনে ক্যপ্রু মারমাকে গ্রেপ্তার করে। গ্রেপ্তার হওয়া ওই ব্যক্তির বাবা মুসলিম ও মা মারমা সম্প্রদায়ের। আগে থেকেই তাঁদের সঙ্গে জমিজমা নিয়ে বিরোধ ছিল।

মানিকছড়ি থানার ভারপ্রাপ্ত কর্মকর্তা (ওসি) মো. নাসিম উদ্দিন জানান, থুই প্রু মারমাকে জবাই করে হত্যা করা হয়েছে।

courtesy: Prothom-alo

Friday, August 19, 2011

ঔপনিবেশিক খোঁয়াড়ি ও আদিবাসী প্রসঙ্গ - তারেক আহমেদ

তারেক আহমেদ

ঔপনিবেশিক খোঁয়াড়ি ও আদিবাসী প্রসঙ্গ

tareq-fসংবিধানের বহুল আলোচিত পঞ্চদশ সংশোধনী সংসদে পাস হয়েছে অনেকদিন হলো। কিন্তু এ নিয়ে বিতর্কের শেষ এখনো হয় নি। পররাষ্ট্রমন্ত্রী দীপু মনি আর রাজা দেবাশীষ রায়ের পাল্টাপাল্টি বক্তব্য থেকে আমরা সেটা পরিষ্কার বুঝতে পারছি।

অনেকেই আশা করেছিলেন, বৃহত্তর ঐক্য স্থাপনের লক্ষ্যে ক্ষমতাসীন মহাজোট সরকার সংবিধান সংশোধনে তাড়াহুড়ো করবে না। বাস্তবে তারা সেটাই করেছেন কিন্তু শেষ পর্যন্ত ঘটনা উল্টো পথেই গেল। নানা ধরনের বিতর্কিত ধারা ও গোজামিল রেখে এমনকি নিজেদের জোটভুক্ত বাম রাজনৈতিক দলগুলোর কথাও পাত্তা না দিয়ে আওয়ামী লীগ যেন এককভাবেই পাস করলো পঞ্চদশ সংশোধনী। শেষের দিকে অনেকটা তড়িঘড়ি করায় মহাজোট সমর্থক দল বা মতের মানুষ কিম্বা এর বাইরেও যারা কোন না কোনভাবে তাদের চিন্তা ধারন করেন, তারাও প্রবলভাবে হতাশ ও ক্ষুব্ধ হয়েছেন।

অন্যদিকে বি.এন.পিসহ সমমনা দলগুলো জানিয়েছে, সংবিধানে তত্ত্বাবধায়ক সরকার ব্যবস্থা না থাকায় তারা মহাজোট সরকারের সাথে আর আলাপে আগ্রহী হয়নি। আন্দোলনই তাদের দাবী আদায়ের পথ এখন। উল্লেখ্য, সংবিধান সংশোধনে মোট ৫৫ দফা প্রস্তাব পেশ করা হলেও আমাদের রাজনীতি, সংবিধান, আদালত আর গোটা দেশের মানুষের চিন্তাই যেন এখন তত্ত্বাবধায়ক সরকার ইস্যুতে আটকে গেছে। পরিহাসের বিষয় হলো, মাত্র দেড় দশক আগে এই তত্ত্বাবধায়ক সরকার নিয়ে দেশে চরম অচলাবস্থা তৈরি হয়েছিল। তখন সেই আন্দোলনে নেতৃত্ব দিয়েছিল আজকের ক্ষমতাসীন আওয়ামী লীগ। আর সরকার ছিল বি.এ.পির। আজ ক্ষমতায় আওয়ামী লীগের নেতৃত্বে মহাজোট সরকার। আর বি.এন.পি বসেছে বিরোধী আসনে।

আমাদের রাজনীতিবিদ ও আইন প্রণেতারা এমন এক সময়ে এই আপাতঃ নিরর্থক বিষয়ে কুতর্কে মেতেছেন — যখন দেশের মানুষ দ্রব্যমূল্য বৃদ্ধি ও মূল্যস্ফীতির উর্ধ্বমুখী চাপে নাভিশ্বাস ফেলছে। পুলিশ নামের রাষ্ট্রীয় বাহিনী যাকে খুশি তাকে মারবো কায়দায় মানুষ খুন করে চলেছে একের পর এক। যানজটে অসহায় নগর জীবন। 

টেন্ডারবাজি, নদী – খাল-বিল দখল হয়ে দাড়িয়েছে ক্ষমতাবানদের রুটিনওয়ার্ক। লোডশেডিং আর জ্বালানী সংকটে মানুষের দৈনন্দিন জীবন দুর্বিষহ। ব্যবসা বানিজ্যও প্রায় স্থবির।

এখানে উল্লেখ না করলেও চলে, ’৭২ সনে প্রণয়নের পর আমাদের সংবিধানের এত ব্যাপক সংশোধনের উদ্যোগ আর নেয়া হয় নি। যদিও নানা সময়ে ঘটে যাওয়া নানা পরিবর্তনে এর মৌলিক চরিত্র অনেকটাই পাল্টে গেছে। 

এক্ষেত্রে সংবিধানের ৪র্থ, ৫ম বা ৮ম সংশোধনীর কথা তো বহুবার আলোচিত হয়েছে। তবে, সংবিধান সংশোধনের একটি প্রস্তাব কিন্তু গত ৩৯ বছর ধরেই ঝুলে আছে। তা হলো, আদিবাসীদের সাংবিধানিক স্বীকৃতি প্রদান। এই দাবীটি বাহাত্তরেই তোলা হয়েছিল। ’৭০ এর নির্বাচনে পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম থেকে নির্বাচিত স্বতন্ত্র গণপরিষদ সদস্য মানবেন্দ্র নারায়ন লারমা আদিবাসীদের একমাত্র প্রতিনিধি হিসেবে সেদিন গণপরিষদে জোর গলায় বাঙালি ভিন্ন অন্য জাতিসত্বার মানুষদের স্বীকৃতির এই দাবী তুলেছিলেন। কিন্তু ’বাঙালী জাতীয়তাবাদী’দের প্রবল চাপে আর হুঙ্কারে সেদিন গণপরিষদে তার কণ্ঠ চাপা পড়ে গিয়েছিল। একাধিকবার ওয়াক আউট করেও কুল হয়নি। পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রামসহ দেশের অন্যান্য অংশে বসবাসরত আদিবাসীদেরও সেদিন বাঙালী পরিচয় মিলেছিল সংবিধানের বদৌলতে।

তার ফলও মিললো হাতে নাতে। ’৭৩-এর নির্বাচনের আগে বঙ্গবন্ধু রাঙামাটি সফরে গেলেন। পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রামের আদিবাসীদের তিনি আহবান জানালেন, তোমরা বাঙালি হয়ে যাও। একথা বলার সময় তিনি ভুলে গেলেন জিন্নাহ সাহেবের কথা। পাকিস্থানের জাতির জনক যে কায়েদে আজম ’৪৮ সনে ঢাকায় এসে বলেছিলেন একই কথা –Urdu and Urdu shall be, will be the state language of Pakistan। ২৫ বছর পর নিজ দেশের প্রান্তসীমায় বসবাসকারী ভিন্ন ভাষাভাষী কিছু মানুষ যারা বাংলাদেশেরই বাসিন্দা, মুক্তিযুদ্ধে যারা রেখেছে অবদান, করেছে যুদ্ধ সেদিন বঙ্গবন্ধু এসব বিবেচনায় না এনেই তিনি বলে ফেলেছিলেন — তোমরা বাঙালি হয়ে যাও। যদিও তার বক্তব্যের যথার্থতা নিয়ে, মহাজোট সমর্থক বুদ্ধিজীবিদের কারো কারো মনে সংশয় আছে। কেউ কেউ এমনও মনে করেন, তিনি সরল মনেই কথাটি বলেছিলেন।

ইতিহাস বড়ই নিষ্ঠুর। তার এই ’সরল’ উক্তির কারণে পরবর্তী দু’দশকেরও বেশি সময় পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রামের আদিবাসীদের রীতিমতো জেরবার হতে হয়েছে। ভিটেমাটি হারিয়ে, হত্যা, গুম, জখম, ধর্ষণ, লুটপাট, দেশত্যাগ, গণঅপহরন — হেন প্রকার নির্যাতন নেই যা মুজিব পরবর্তী দুই সামরিক শাসক জিয়া ও এরশাদ তাদের ওপর চাপিয়ে দেয় নি। গোটা পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রামের আদিবাসীদেরই এই সন্ত্রাসের মুখোমুখি হতে হয়েছে। কী অপরাধ তাদের ? তারা নিজেদের পরিচয় চেয়েছিলেন, দেশের সংবিধানে তাদের জাতিগত অধিকার চেয়েছিলেন। তাদের বলা হোল, তোমরা বিচ্ছিন্নতাবাদী। তোমরা ভারতের দালাল। কি পরিহাস, উপনিবেশিক পাকিস্থান রাষ্ট্রে যারা বাঙালিদের অধিকার নিয়ে কথা বলতো– পাকিস্তানি শাসকগোষ্ঠী তাদেরও ভারতের দালাল বলতো।

তাদের দাবিয়ে রাখবার জন্য ’ডিভাইড এন্ড রুল’ পলিসি প্রয়োগ করা হলো যা ঔপনিবেশিক বৃটিশ শাসকরা একসময় এদেশে প্রয়োগ করেছিল। দেশের অন্য জেলাগুলো থেকে বিশেষতঃ নদীভাঙা হতদরিদ্র মানুষ আর ভূমিহীনদের রীতিমতো প্রলোভন দিয়ে পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রামে নিয়ে যাওয়া হলো। রাষ্ট্র, সেনাবাহিনী, সিভিল আমলাতন্ত্র, রাজনীতিবিদ — সকলের মিলিত ষড়যন্ত্রে সম্ভব হলো এই ব্যাপক মানব স্থানান্তর। ’৪৭এর দেশভাগের পর সাম্প্রতিক সময়ে এত ব্যাপক সংখ্যক মানুষের স্থানান্তর আর দেখা যায় নি। ব্যাপারটা নিরবে ঘটেছে। দেশের অন্যান্য এলাকার কয়েক লক্ষ বাঙালি তাদের ঠাই খুঁজে পেল পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রামে। ফলশ্রুতিতে পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রামের চাকমা, মারমা, ত্রিপুরা, তঞ্চঙ্গ্যাসহ অন্য আদিবাসীরাও ব্যাপক হারে দেশত্যাগে বাধ্য হলো। তাদের আশ্রয় হলো পার্শ্ববর্তী ভারতের ত্রিপুরা, অরুনাচল, মিজোরাম প্রদেশে। বাকি যারা রইলেন, তাদের অবস্থা হলো — নিজ দেশে পরবাসীর মতো। রাষ্ট্র তার এই নাগরিকদের রীতিমতো দ্বিতীয় শ্রেণীর নাগরিকে পরিণত করলো এভাবে। আর গোটা পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রামে স্থানান্তরিত বাঙালি ও আদিবাসী — এই দুই জনগোষ্ঠীকে পরস্পরের মুখোমুখি দাড় করিয়ে দিল। বিভক্তির এই খেলাটি পাকিস্থানের ঔপনিবেশিক শাসকরাও খেলেছিলেন। তখন তাদের তুরুপের তাস হিসেবে ব্যবহৃত হয়েছিল, ভারতের বিহার থেকে আগত মুসলিম বিহারীরা। যে হতভাগ্য জনগোষ্ঠী নিজের জন্মভূমি ছেড়ে কেবল মুসলিম একটি রাষ্ট্র লাভের আশায় পাকিস্থানে এসেছিল।

ক্ষমতাসীন মহাজোট সরকার ও তার সমর্থক কিছু বুদ্ধিজীবির ভাব দেখে মনে হচ্ছে, আদিবাসীরা কেবল পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রামেই বসবাস করেন। সংবিধান সংশোধনের মাধ্যমে আদিবাসীদের তাতে আদিবাসী হিসেবে অন্তর্ভুক্তির দাবি উঠলে বিভিন্ন গণমাধ্যমে খবর প্রকাশিত হয়,আদিবাসীদের স্বীকৃতি দেয়ার বিরুদ্ধে নাকি গোয়েন্দা রিপোর্টও সরকারের কাছে দেয়া হয়েছে। তাতে বলা হয়েছে, আদিবাসীদের স্বীকৃতি দিলে, পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রামে অনেক অঘটন ঘটে যাবে। এমন কি পূর্ব তিমুরের অবস্থাও তৈরি হতে পারে সেখানে। তাদের অধিকারের স্বীকৃতি দিলে নাকি পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রামে খ্রীস্টান রাষ্ট্রও তৈরি হতে পারে।

কিন্তু , বাংলাদেশের আদিবাসীদের সম্পর্কে যারা খানিকটা খবরও রাখেন, তারা জানেন — শুধু পার্বত্য এলাকায় নয়, সারা বাংলাদেশেই নানা জাতের এই মানুষেরা ছড়িয়ে ছিটিয়ে আছেন। এমনকি, বলা হয়ে থাকে, সংখ্যার দিক থেকে তো বটেই, জাতিগত বৈচিত্র্যের দিক থেকেও উত্তরবঙ্গে সর্বাধিক সংখ্যক আদিবাসী বসবাস করেন। বৃহত্তর সিলেট অঞ্চল বা ময়মনসিংহের নানা এলাকায়ও তাদের সংখ্যা খুব একটা কম নয়। পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম নিয়ে তবে এত উদ্বেগ কেন ? কারণ একটিই, পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রামের আদিবাসীরা রাজনৈতিকভাবে অনেক সচেতন এবং সংগঠিত। নিজেদের অধিকার আদায়ের লক্ষ্যে তারা দীর্ঘকাল ধরেই আন্দোলন চালিয়ে আসছে। উত্তরবঙ্গসহ দেশের অন্য এলাকার আদিবাসীরা সংগঠিতভাবে তাদের অধিকারের কথাটি অত জোরালোভাবে বলতে পারছেন না।

দেশের অন্য এলাকার আদিবাসী মানুষগুলোও যে খুব ভাল আছেন — এমনটা বলা যাবে না। বছর ৬/৭ আগে পেশাগত একটি কাজে উত্তরবঙ্গের আদিবাসী অধ্যুষিত জেলাগুলোয় দীর্ঘ সময় থাকবার সুযোগ হয়েছিল। তখন উত্তরবঙ্গের রাজোয়াড়, পাহান, কুর্মী, লহড়া, মালো, মুড়ীয়াড়ী বা ভূইমালী নামের আদিবাসী জনগোষ্ঠীর মানুষজনকে কাছ থেকে দেখার সুযোগ হয়েছিল। অপেক্ষাকৃত কম জনসংখ্যার এই নানা জাতির মানুষগুলোর অবস্থা এতটাই করুন যে, নিজেদের আত্মপরিচয়টুকুও ধরে রাখতে পারছে না তারা। একদিকে দারিদ্র আর অন্যদিকে মূলধারার বাঙালিদের ক্রমাগত নিপীড়ন, ভূমি থেকে উচ্ছেদ, নারী অপহরন, লুটপাট, আগুন দেয়ার মতো ঘটনা উত্তরবঙ্গের আদিবাসীদের প্রায়শই মোকাবেলা করতে হচ্ছে। এক্ষেত্রে নিরুপায় হয়ে অনেকে ধর্মান্তরিতও হচ্ছে। কারন আর কিছুই নয়– নিরাপত্তা। আর্থিক ও সামাজিক — দুরকম নিরাপত্তার আশায়ই আদিবাসীদের অনেকে ধর্মান্তরিত হচ্ছেন। এই প্রবণতা শুধু উত্তরবঙ্গ নয় — দেশের অন্য আদিবাসী অধ্যুষিত এলাকায়ও দেখা গেছে। 

অন্যদিকে, রাষ্ট্র এই মানুষগুলোকে কোন অধিকার দেয়া তো দূরে থাক–যতরকমভাবে সম্ভব তাদের বঞ্চিত করছে।
মধুপুর বা সিলেটে যারা বসবাস করেন সেই গারো, হাজং, কোচ, খাসিয়া বা মনিপুরীরাও খুব ভালো অবস্থায় নেই। পীরেন স্লান আর চলেশ রিছিলের হত্যাকাণ্ডের কথা নিশ্চয়ই এখনও ভুলে যান নি অনেকে। তাদের হত্যাকাণ্ডের পর তো ক’বছর কেটে গেল– এই হত্যার কোন বিচার কি হয়েছে ? উল্টো বন বিভাগের উদ্যোগে ইকোপার্ক করবার জন্য ভূমি অধিগ্রহণের কারণে ভবিষ্যতেও যে আর কোন পীরেন স্লান নিহত হবে না — সেই গ্যারান্টিই বা কে দেবে । গোটা মধুপর এলাকার শালবন অঞ্চলকেই ইকো পার্কের নামে দেয়াল দিয়ে ঘিরে ফেলবার চেষ্টা কয়েক বছর ধরেই চলছে। এক সময়কার গভীর শালবন এখন অনেকটাই ফাকা ফাকা। বন কেটে আনারস আর কলার বাগান করা হয়েছে। একাজে স্থানীয় আদিবাসীদেরও জড়িত করা হয়েছে। এখানেও মূল কর্তৃত্ব কিন্তু বাঙালিদের হাতেই। ইকোপার্ক বিষয়ে সরকারের দাবী, অনেক পর্যটক আকৃষ্ট হবে তাতে। আর দেশ বিদেশ থেকে পর্যটকরা এখানে এসে বন যেমন দেখবেন, তেমনি বনের মানুষ হিসেবে আদিবাসীদেরও প্রদর্শন করা হবে তাদের কাছে। তাদের জীবন তাই দেয়াল দিয়ে ঘিরে ফেলা হচ্ছে। বন্ধ গেট থাকবে সেখানে। তালা খোলা হলে তারা লোকালয়ে আসবে আবার সন্ধ্যা হলেই তাদের সেই দেয়াল ঘেরা বনে ফিরিয়ে নেয়া হবে।

কাজেই,এদেশেও যে আদিবাসীরা অনেকটা এই নয়া উপনিবেশের শিকার– তা আর বিস্তৃত না বললেও চলে। আমাদের রাষ্ট্র আর প্রতিপালক শাসকগোষ্ঠী এখন সংবিধানে তাদের নতুন নামকরণ করেছে। এখন আদিবাসীদের আদিবাসী বলা যাবে না। তারা পরিচিত হবেন—-উপজাতি, ক্ষুদ্র জাতি সত্বা আর ক্ষুদ্র নৃত্বাত্বিক গোষ্ঠী বা ক্ষুদ্র নৃগোষ্ঠী হিসেবে। সংবিধানের পঞ্চদশ সংশোধনীতে এই বিশেষ গোষ্ঠীর মানুষদের সংস্কৃতি সংরক্ষণ ও উন্নয়নের দায়িত্ব সরকারকে দেয়া হয়েছে। অনেকটা পরিবেশ ও বন্যপ্রাণী যেভাবে সংরক্ষন করা হয়–সেভাবেই যেন এইসব ক্ষুদ্র নৃতাত্ত্বিক মানুষদের সংরক্ষণ করা হবে। কারণ এই একই কায়দায় তাদের সংরক্ষণ করছে মার্কিন যুক্তরাষ্ট্র,অস্ট্রেলিয়া ইত্যাদি দেশ। মাঝে মাঝে বিশেষ দিনে আর আয়োজনে বিশেষ অতিথি এল, তাকে আমাদের ’ট্রাইবাল’ সংস্কৃতির খানিকটা দেখাবো। এখন যেমন শিল্পকলা একাডেমীসহ নানা জাতীয় প্রতিষ্ঠান তাদের প্রদর্শন করে থাকে।

আমাদের মাননীয় মন্ত্রীরা এর সপক্ষে যুক্তিও তুলে ধরেছেন। তারা বলছেন, আই.এল.ও কনভেনশনে যেমন তাদের বিজিত দেশের বাসিন্দা বলা হয়েছে –বাংলাদেশের এই বিশেষ মানুষগুলো তো সেরকম নন। তারা কোন ঔপনিবেশিক আক্রমণের শিকার তো হন নি। তাদের দেশ তো কেউ দখল করে নেয়নি। এমনকি, কারা আদিতে এসেছেন–এ ধরনের কুতর্কও তোলার চেষ্টা করছেন কেউ কেউ। উদ্দেশ্যটি পরিস্কার, সংবিধানে তাদের যে নতুন পরিচয় নির্ধারণ করা হয়েছে তা যুক্তি দিয়ে প্রতিষ্ঠিত করবার চেষ্টা করা। যাতে বোঝা যায়, দেশের এসব ভিন্ন ভিন্ন ভাষা ও সংস্কৃতির মানুষগুলো এদেশে বিশেষ ধরনের নাগরিক।

এখন তাদের পরিচয়ও নতুন করে নির্ধারণ করা হয়েছে। তাদের বাঙালি পরিচয়টি আগে থেকেই ছিল। এবারের সংবিধান সংশোধণীতেও তারা নিজ নিজ জাতির মানুষ হিসেবে স্বীকৃতি পেল না। বাংলাদেশ নামের এই রাষ্ট্রে চার দশক আগেও আদিবাসীদের অবস্থান যা ছিল, আজও তা রয়ে গেল। বরং সংবিধানে তাদের বিশেষ নামে অভিহিত করে আমরা বাঙালি হিসেবে যে নব্য উপনিবেশিক একটি পরিচয় তাদের জন্য নির্ধারণ করে দিলাম, সেটি এখন প্রমাণিত। এই পরিচয় নির্মানের রাজনীতি এখন গোটা দুনিয়া জুড়েই চলছে। মার্কিনীরা দুনিয়ার সব দেশেই মুসলিম নামধারী কোন মানুষ পেলে তাকে সন্ত্রাসী আখ্যা দিচ্ছে। গোটা পশ্চিম দুনিয়ায় মুসলমান মানেই সন্ত্রাসী। বিশেষ একটি ধর্মীয় সম্প্রদায়ের মানুষের এই বিশেষ পরিচয় যে নব্য উপনিবেশিক ধারণারই বিস্তার ঘটায় — তা বোধ হয় বিস্তৃত না বললেও চলে। সংবিধানের পঞ্চদশ সংশোধনীর মাধ্যমে দেশের আদিবাসীদের কেবল সংখ্যার বিচারে উপজাতি, ক্ষুদ্র নৃগোষ্ঠী ইত্যাদি নামে আখ্যা দিয়ে বাংলাদেশও রাষ্ট্র হিসেবে সেই নব্য উপনিবেশিক রাষ্ট্র হিসেবে আবির্ভূত হলো।

courtesy: bdnews24

আদিবাসী বাঙালি-আদিবাসী জাতীয়তাবাদ বিতর্ক


বাঙালি-আদিবাসী জাতীয়তাবাদ বিতর্ক

মহিউদ্দিন আহমদ | তারিখ: ১৯-০৮-২০১১

মানবেন্দ্র লারমা: আমরা করুণার পাত্র হিসেবে আসিনি। আমরা এসেছি মানুষ হিসেবে। তাই মানুষ হিসেবে বাঁচার অধিকার আমাদের আছে।

মিসেস সাজেদা চৌধুরী: বৈধতার প্রশ্ন, জনাব স্পিকার, মানবেন্দ্র নারায়ণ লারমা বলতে চেয়েছেন যে এই সংবিধানে তাঁদের উপজাতি হিসেবে স্বীকৃতি দেওয়া হয়নি। আমি বলব, তাঁরাও আজকে স্বাধীন। সাড়ে সাত কোটি বাঙালির সঙ্গে তাঁদেরও একটা জাতি হিসেবে স্বীকৃতি দেওয়া হয়েছে।
একটি উপজাতি হিসেবে স্বীকৃতি পাওয়ার চেয়ে একটি জাতি হিসেবে স্বীকৃতি পাওয়া কি অধিক মর্যাদাজনক নয়?

মানবেন্দ্র লারমা: আমি একজন মানুষ, যেখানে জন্মগ্রহণ করেছি, যে জন্মভূমিতে আজন্ম লালিত-পালিত হয়েছি, সেই জন্মভূমির জন্য আমার যে কথা বলার রয়েছে, সে কথা যদি প্রকাশ করতে না পারি, যদি এই সংবিধানে তার কোনো ব্যবস্থাই দেখতে না পাই, তাহলে আমাকে বলতে হবে যে বঞ্চিত মানুষের জন্য সংবিধানে কিছুই রাখা হয়নি।

আবদুর রাজ্জাক ভূঁইয়া: মাননীয় স্পিকার, আমি প্রস্তাব করছি যে সংবিধান বিলের ৬ অনুচ্ছেদের পরিবর্তে নিম্নোক্ত অনুচ্ছেদটি সন্নিবেশ করা হোক।
‘বাংলাদেশের নাগরিকত্ব আইনের দ্বারা নির্ধারিত ও নিয়ন্ত্রিত হইবে, বাংলাদেশের নাগরিকরা বাঙালি বলিয়া পরিচিত হইবেন।’

মানবেন্দ্র লারমা: আবদুর রাজ্জাক ভূঁইয়ার প্রস্তাবে আমার একটু আপত্তি আছে। বাংলাদেশের কোটি কোটি জনগণের সঙ্গে আমরা ওতপ্রোতভাবে জড়িত। কিন্তু আমি একজন চাকমা। আমার বাপ, দাদা চৌদ্দ পুরুষ—কেউ বলে নাই, আমি বাঙালি। আমি জানি না, এই সংবিধানে আমাদের কেন বাঙালি বলে পরিচিত করতে চায়।

স্পিকার: আপনি কি বাঙালি হতে চান না?

মানবেন্দ্র লারমা: মাননীয় স্পিকার, আমাদিগকে বাঙালি জাতি বলে কখনো বলা হয় না। আমরা কোনো দিনই নিজেদের বাঙালি মনে করি না। আজ যদি এই স্বাধীন সার্বভৌম বাংলাদেশের সংবিধানের জন্য এই সংশোধনী পাস হয়ে যায়, তাহলে আমাদের এই চাকমা জাতির অস্তিত্ব লোপ পেয়ে যাবে। আমরা বাংলাদেশের নাগরিক। আমরা আমাদের বাংলাদেশি বলে মনে করি এবং বিশ্বাস করি। কিন্তু বাঙালি বলে নয়।

আবদুল লতিফ সিদ্দিকী: মাননীয় স্পিকার, মাননীয় সদস্য আমাদের জাতীয়তাবাদের মূল ভিত্তির প্রতি, আমাদের জাতীয় সার্বভৌমত্বের প্রতি অবৈধ ভাষায় বক্তৃতা করেন।... ৩০ লাখ শহীদের আত্মাহুতির বদলে যে জাতীয়তাবাদ প্রতিষ্ঠা হয়েছে, তারই প্রতি ষড়যন্ত্রমূলক এ বক্তব্য।

এগুলো নাটকের সংলাপ নয়। ১৯৭২ সালের ২৫ ও ৩১ অক্টোবর বাংলাদেশ গণপরিষদে খসড়া সংবিধানের ওপর সদস্যদের আলোচনা ও বিতর্কের একটি অংশ এখানে উদ্ধৃত করা হলো (সূত্র: জুম পাহাড়ের জীবন গণউন্নয়ন গ্রন্থাগার, ঢাকা)।

খসড়া সংবিধানে আবদুর রাজ্জাক ভূঁইয়ার সংশোধনীটি ২৫ অক্টোবরেই পাস হয়ে যায়। চূড়ান্ত সংবিধান গণপরিষদে উত্থাপিত হয় ৪ নভেম্বর। আমরা সবাই আনুষ্ঠানিকভাবে হয়ে যাই বাঙালি। সেই থেকে সমস্যার শুরু। সম্প্রতি জাতীয় সংসদে পাস হয়ে যাওয়া পঞ্চদশ সংশোধনী এই বিতর্ককে আবার উসকে দিয়েছে। ৪০ বছরে অবস্থানের এবং দৃষ্টিভঙ্গির পরিবর্তন হয়নি কোনো পক্ষের।
আন্তর্জাতিক পরিমণ্ডলে যারা ‘ইনডিজিনাস পিপল’ হিসেবে মোটামুটি স্বীকৃত, তাদের বাংলায় ভাষান্তর করা হয়েছে ‘আদিবাসী’ নামে। এই শব্দটি নিয়ে চলছে শব্দযুদ্ধ। ‘আদিবাসী’ শব্দটিকে আদিবাসিন্দা হিসেবে বোঝার কারণে বিপত্তি ঘটেছে। বিষয়টি এখানে কে কবে থেকে বাস করছেন, সেটা নয়। বাঙালিও এ দেশে হাজার হাজার বছর ধরে বসবাস করছে। বাঙালি যদি নিজেদের আদিবাসী হিসেবে পরিচয় দিতে চায়, তাহলে অন্য নৃ-গোষ্ঠীর সদস্যদের তাতে আপত্তি থাকার কথা নয়; যেমন অন্যদের বেলায় বাঙালিরও আপত্তি থাকা অনুচিত। আর এক অর্থে কেউই আদিবাসিন্দা নয়। অনেক অনেক বছর আগে এ দেশের একটা বিশাল অংশ ছিল সাগর। তারপর এখানে বদ্বীপ জেগে উঠেছে, অন্য জায়গা থেকে মানুষ এসে বসতি গড়েছে। বিভিন্ন নৃ-গোষ্ঠীর সংমিশ্রণ হয়েছে। তাই কোনো বাঙালির নাক বোঁচা, কারও বা খাড়া; কেউ লম্বা, কেউ বেঁটে, কেউ ফরসা, কেউ তামাটে, কেউবা ঘোর কৃষ্ণবর্ণের; কারও চুল শজারুর কাঁটার মতো, কারও বা কোঁকড়ানো। তার পরেও সবার মধ্যে আমরা মিল খোঁজার চেষ্টা করি; ভাষার, ধর্মের কিংবা অঞ্চলের। নদীতে জেগে ওঠা এক টুকরো জমি নিয়ে যখন দুই জেলা বা দুই গ্রামের মানুষ একে অপরের বুকে বল্লম ঢুকিয়ে দেয়, তখন জাতীয়তাবাদ গ্রাম কিংবা জেলায় অবতরণ করে। আবার যখন একজন বাঙালি ইউরোপের কোনো শহরে কোনো এক সাহেবের ঠ্যাঙানির শিকার হয়, তখন একজন তামিল কিংবা বালুচ তার সঙ্গে সংহতি প্রকাশ করে বলে, আমরা সবাই দক্ষিণ এশীয়। আইডেন্টিটি পলিটিকস আমরা নিজেরাই নির্মাণ করি আমাদের সুবিধা অনুযায়ী। এখানে সামাজিক সম্পর্ক, আবেগ, ঘৃণা এবং নিজেকে গোষ্ঠীগতভাবে প্রকাশ করাটা অনেকাংশে স্থান-কালভেদে নির্ধারিত হয়।

১৯৪৭ থেকে ১৯৭১ সাল পর্যন্ত আমাদের ‘মুসলমান’ পরিচয়কে মুখ্য হিসেবে দেখানোর প্রয়াস পেয়েছিল পাকিস্তানি এস্টাবলিশমেন্ট। আমরা ‘বাঙালি’ পরিচয়কে সামনে নিয়ে এসেছিলাম। আমাদের যুক্তি ছিল, বাঙালি হয়েও মুসলমান থাকা যায়। বিপক্ষে যুক্তি ছিল, ওটা বেদাত। ফলে পাকিস্তান ভেঙে গেল। জোরজবরদস্তি না থাকলে ইতিহাস অন্য রকম হতো।

১৯৪৭ সালে মেজরিটি শভিনজমের কারণে ভারত ভেঙে গিয়েছিল। পৃথিবীর অনেক দেশেই এ রকম ঘটছে। সাম্প্রতিকতম দৃষ্টান্ত হলো দক্ষিণ সুদান। আমার দৃঢ়বিশ্বাস, মিলিটারি না থাকলে অনেক দেশ ভেঙে টুকরো টুকরো হয়ে যাবে। তার পরেও আমরা জাতীয়তাবাদ, জাতি-রাষ্ট্র এসব ধারণা ও তত্ত্ব মনোজগতে অবিরাম তৈরি করে চলেছি।

‘আদিবাসী’ বিতর্কে ফিরে আসা যাক। মানুষ নিজেকে কীভাবে পরিচয় দিতে চায় এবং এটা কে নির্ধারণ করবে? বাঙালি তার মুখ্য পরিচয়ের প্রশ্নে পাকিস্তানের চাপিয়ে দেওয়া আইডেন্টিটি মেনে নেয়নি। এখন যদি সংখ্যাধিক্যের জোরে বাঙালি অন্যের ওপর এ রকম কিছু একটা চাপিয়ে দেয়, সেটা হবে দ্বিচারিতা। অন্যদিকে, সব সময় সমাধানের জন্য জাতিসংঘের দলিল উদ্ধৃত করাও ঠিক নয়। জাতিসংঘ নিজেও ধোয়া তুলসীপাতা নয়। জাতিসংঘের অনুমোদন নিয়েই কোরিয়া দ্বিখণ্ডিত হয়েছে, আফগানিস্তানে আগ্রাসন চলেছে। গণতন্ত্রের নামে লিবিয়ায় আক্রমণ চলছে, কিন্তু মিয়ানমারে নয়। জাতিসংঘে যদি সোভিয়েত ইউনিয়ন ভেটো না দিত, তাহলে বাংলাদেশ আজও পাকিস্তানের উপনিবেশ থাকত কিংবা যুদ্ধ চলত বছরের পর বছর। সেখানে খুব কম দেশই একাত্তরে আমাদের সমর্থন দিয়েছিল।

সাংবিধানিকভাবে বাংলাদেশ সেক্যুলার রাষ্ট্র হলেও এখানে ধর্মীয় এবং নৃতাত্ত্বিক সংখ্যালঘুরা বাস্তবিক অর্থেই সংখ্যালঘু। সংখ্যাগরিষ্ঠ বাঙালি মুসলমান অন্যদের সংখ্যালঘু হিসেবেই বিবেচনা করে। তাই সংখ্যালঘু অধ্যুষিত অঞ্চলে ইকোপার্ক হয়, ‘মূলধারার’ মানুষের এলাকায় বিমানবন্দর হয় না।

অন্য নৃ-গোষ্ঠীগুলোর ব্যাপারে বাঙালির সমষ্টিগত দৃষ্টিভঙ্গির অভিন্ন প্রতিফলন আমরা দেখতে পাই প্রায় সব রাজনৈতিক দলের মধ্যে।

আমরা আবেগতাড়িত হয়ে অনেক সময় অনেক কিছু বলি বা করি। কিন্তু সাধারণ মানুষের অবস্থার কোনো ইতিবাচক পরিবর্তন হয় না। এ কথা বাঙালিদের জন্য যেমন প্রযোজ্য, তেমনি প্রযোজ্য অন্যান্য নৃ-গোষ্ঠীর সদস্যদের জন্যও। জাতিসত্তা ও সাংবিধানিক নিশ্চয়তা থাকলেই সবাই সমানভাবে উন্নয়নের ভাগীদার হন না। দুধের সরটা খেয়ে ফেলে একটা এলিট শ্রেণী। বাংলাদেশ বাঙালির রাষ্ট্র হলেও সব বাঙালি এই রাষ্ট্রের মালিক নয়। অন্যান্য নৃ-গোষ্ঠীর সদস্যরা যেমন জাতিগতভাবে প্রান্তসীমায়, অধিকাংশ বাঙালিও শ্রেণীগতভাবে প্রান্তিক। এই রাষ্ট্র তো সবার নয়। কিন্তু এর মাঝে কথা বলার, কাজ করার, বিকশিত হওয়ার জন্য যে গণতান্ত্রিক স্পেস দরকার, সেই লড়াইয়ে বাঙালি-অবাঙালি সব নৃ-গোষ্ঠীর মানুষকেই এক কাতারে জমায়েত হতে হবে।

মহিউদ্দিন আহমদ: লেখক ও গবেষক।

courtesy: prothom-alo

Behind AL’s flip flop on the Adibashis

Behind AL’s flip flop on the Adibashis


On 26 July, 2011 Foreign Minister Dipu Moni met separately with journalists and diplomats to persuade the UN Economic and Social Council not to adopt the recommendations placed by the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII).

Earlier during the 10th session of the Permanent Forum in May 2011 Mr Iqbal Ahmed, the First Secretary of the Bangladesh mission to the UN, on behalf of the Bangladesh Government claimed that there were no Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh and then made objections to two paragraphs in the report prepared by Special Rapporteur Lars Anders Baer, both on the conduct of the Peacekeeping Forces.

This constitutes a major flip flop for the Awami League, which made the following commitment in its 2008 election manifesto:
Terrorism, discriminatory treatment and human rights violations against religious and ethnic minorities and indigenous people must come to an end permanently. Security of their life, wealth and honor will be guaranteed. Their entitlement to equal opportunity in all spheres of state and social life will be ensured. Special measures will be taken to secure their original ownership on land, water bodies, and their age-old rights on forest areas. In addition, a land commission will be formed. All laws and other arrangements discriminatory to minorities, indigenous people and ethnic groups will be repealed. Special privileges will be made available in educational institutions for religious minorities and indigenous people. Such special privileges will also apply for their employment…  (Clause 18 of AL’s manifesto).
So, why this turnaround?

The real reason

The big game is the UN Peacekeeping Operations (PKO). During the UNPFII session in May, a resolution was passed that if Bangladeshi soldiers are shown to violate human rights in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, they can’t be sent to UN PKO.

This made the government panic as PKO is huge revenue source and going to be more in future.  The government’s response was to say that ’UNPFII is for indigenous peoples issues, and since CHT people are not indigenous, we reject UNPFII’s authority to talk about CHT’.

It’s actually a very smart strategy, borrowed from the China playbook. If you deny the existence of the indigenous peoples at government level, then you can legally undercut UNPFII resolution and you can gum up the works on procedural matters long enough to run out the clock until it becomes too late — let’s say PKO takes another 10,000 Deshi soldiers somewhere in the meantime, it will be very hard and embarrassing for UN to recall them.

So the next step after UNPFII is that the resolution has gone to its parent body ECOSOC in Geneva.  The government has been furiously lobbying ECOSOC to strike out the resolutions about CHT and PKO from all resolutions.

The Foreign Minister’s meetings are part of that campaign.


People always under-estimate Bangladesh government. When they want something they are willing to fight hard and play dirty. The Yunus saga shows that. Look at all the international forces that were arrayed for him.  The government still won.

And as Bangladesh gets closer and closer to human rights-indifferent business partners like China, this trend will deepen.

courtesy: http://jrahman.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/behind-als-flip-flop-on-the-adibashis/

Bangladesh Indigenous Issue: interview of Mesbah Kamal


By citizenship, by nationality  August 2011

Mesbah Kamal, secretary-general of the National Coalition for Indigenous People and a professor of history at the University of Dhaka, tells Saad Hammadi how state policy in Bangladesh refuses to recognise the country’s longstanding plurality. Newly proposed constitutional amendments, he warns, leave no grey area for the Adivasis of Bangladesh. 
Photo: Sworup Nhasiju
What does history say about the ethnic minorities of Bangladesh?

Present-day Bangladesh is part of what was once undivided Bengal. We have found traces of human tools that date back to 17,000 years ago, in this part of the world. On the contrary, the charyapada, [a manuscript of Bengali poetry and literature] a symbol of Bengali identity, is only about a thousand years old; the Bangla language is about a thousand years old. So, who lived in these areas before that? This is clearly a country with multiple identities and nationalities. Some years ago I was involved in a survey of undivided Bengal, by which I mean including West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, Assam and the rest of the Indian Northeast. We found that there are 166 nationalities other than Bengalis in these places, and at least 75 of those exist in present-day Bangladesh.

The Special Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Amendments claimed to protect the language and culture of ethnic minorities and acknowledge their contribution in the 1971 War of Liberation in the latest amendment passed on June 30. Why has the government decided that these groups will be referred to only as ‘small ethnic groups’, rather than ‘indigenous’?

The 15th Amendment to the Constitution of Bangladesh says that people of this country will be ‘Bangladeshi’ by citizenship and ‘Bengali’ by nationality. Who has the audacity to change the nationality of, for instance, Santu Larma, the chairman of the Chittagong Hills Tracts [CHT] Regional Council; or Sanjib Drong, the general-secretary of the Adivasi Forum; or Dipankar Talukdar, the state minister for CHT affairs? This decision reflects the committee members’ utter incompetence, and it is unfortunate that these politicians have not learned much from the bloodshed that this country has undergone.

The National Coalition for Indigenous People had face-to-face talks with the Constitution-Drafting Committee. The committee members said that they agreed on the rights of Adivasis but they said they wanted to find ‘suitable’ terminology. If tomorrow President Barack Obama comes and says ‘From today you will be called “the big ethnic group” and you cannot call yourselves Bengalis,’ that would clearly not be acceptable. Just as Obama cannot make such impositions on Bengalis, Sheikh Hasina or Khaleda Zia cannot do so to the Adivasis. They want to be identified in their own nomenclature, and they want to have a collective identity that they can call their own. Under the United Nations, the international community has already proposed such terminology: indigenous people.

Bangladesh is a country of many nationalities, where communities such as the Garo, Chakma and Marma have blossomed – all of these are citizens of Bangladesh. I simply do not understand why if Jyoti Basu could have been a Bengali by nationality and an Indian citizen, what is the problem in Sheikh Hasina or Khaleda Zia recognising Santu Larma to be a Chakma, even as he remains a citizen of Bangladesh?

How would you explain this attitude?

Some have said that the defence quarters have warned that accepting Adivasi communities in this way could create long-term secessionist problems. But in fact, the controversy is in the non-recognition of plurality as a matter of state policy. Our state still has a hangover from the British colonial period, and from the colonial mentality of the Pakistan era when communal policies coloured the administrative culture. The same approach continues today. Those of us who fought communalism on the issue of language are turning communal ourselves – against minority – language groups. The drafting committee has utterly failed to take these matters into account.

This is worrisome for multiple reasons. The minorities have trusted the Awami League since the time of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, but the Awami League has betrayed them and is moving towards the policies of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). This rightward shift is a dangerous signal in the politics of Bangladesh, and could lead to a significant increase in migration and a refugee crisis.

How would you evaluate the political will of the parties in enforcing the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Peace Accord?

Unfortunately, the political parties have failed to take up the issue of the CHT Accord, only coming back to it due to public pressure. The CHT issue is complicated, given that it is closely linked to the state’s material interests – to land resources, in which all political parties have a stake. In this area, Bengali nationalism intertwines with Islamist fundamentalism. As a result, the progressive Bengali nationalism of the 1950s and 1960s is now being abandoned for aggressive Bengali ultra-nationalism. This is dangerous. One of the limitations of the Peace Accord is that there was no inbuilt system for its implementation. The entire Accord should be made a part of the Constitution, which would guarantee that it would not be affected with changes in government. This recommendation was forwarded to the constitutional amendment committee, however, without a result.

~ Saad Hammadi is a staff writer with the New Age daily in Dhaka.


courtesy: Himal

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ethnic communities demand identity as indigenous people

Ethnic communities demand identity as indigenous people

Jatiya Adivasi Parishad brings out a procession in Rajshahi city yesterday marking International Day of the World's Indigenous people. The day was observed across the globe on August 8. Photo: STAR
Ethnic communities yesterday staged a demonstration in Rajshahi city demanding their recognition as indigenous people.

They also urged the government to review the 15th amendment to the constitution and ensure their official recognition.

Around 200 people belonging to ethnic groups assembled in the city's Alupatti intersection, marking the International Day of the World's Indigenous People.

They took out a procession from there and paraded the streets in the city.

Addressing a rally in front of the Public Library, the speakers urged the government to ensure ethnic people's right to land as well as political, economic and social rights.

District chapter president of Jatiya Adivasi Parishad Bimal Chandra Razoar chaired the rally that was addressed, among others, by Workers' Party Bangladesh Rajshahi city unit secretary Liakat Ali Liku and Communist Party Bangladesh city unit president Abul Kalam Azad.

Jatiya Adibashi Pariashd central committee president Anil Marandy said the ruling Awami League (AL), in its election manifesto, declared to ensure rights of indigenous people to land, water bodies and forests, but now the ruling party has forgotten its election pledges.


courtesy: The Daily Star

RTV debate on Bangladesh indigenous issue: Chakma Raja Devasish Roy Vs General Ibrahim

Re-membering Kalpana Chakma

Re-membering Kalpana Chakma

Re-membering our solidarity for gender equality, justice and peace
by Kabita Chakma

KALPANA Chakma is a well-known name of a forcefully disappeared political and human rights activist of Bangladesh. Her forceful disappearance is not only known in Bangladesh, but widely known in South Asia and many other parts of the world where human rights activists continue to keep their vigil alive for gender equality, justice and peace.

At the time of her kidnapping, Kalpana was the organising secretary of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Hill Women’s Federation (shortly known as the HWF), a BA student at Baghaichari Kachalong College, and she was young, in her early 20s. She was kidnapped, allegedly by a group of civil clothed military and Village Defence Party men led by Lt Ferdous Khan from her home in New Lallyaghona, a remote village in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, in the early hours of June 12, 1996, on a day of national elections in Bangladesh. She has not been heard from since. No one responsible for the abduction has been yet brought to justice. This year, June 12 was the 15th anniversary of Kalpana Chakma Abduction Day.

After long 14 years, in September 2010, the abduction of Kalpana is ordered for re-investigation by the chief judicial magistrate of the Rangamati district court as her brother Kalindi Kumar Chakma rejected the final police report filed with the court at the end of August 2010. The lawyer conducting the case on behalf on the plaintiff explained to the Suprobhat Bangladesh, a Bengali daily published from Chittagong, that, because the final report on the abduction of Kalpana Chakma was inaccurate and the investigation was not carried out in an appropriate manner, they made an appeal for a re-investigation. In September 1996, three months after Kalpana's abduction, and under national and international pressure, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina set up a three-member enquiry commission, including Justice Abdul Jalil (chairperson), Shakhawat Hossain, deputy commissioner of Chittagong and Professor Anupam Sen of Chittagong University.

This essay, ‘Re-membering Kalpana’ is not simply to remember Kalpana, but to ‘re-member’, to ‘put together’, the journey of Kalpana and her fellow travellers, the indigenous and Bengali citizens of Bangladesh, particularly indigenous and non-indigenous women, to fight injustice, gender violence in the CHT. The CHT alarmingly remains a site of gross human rights violations as Lars-Anders Baer, the UN special rapporteur, highlights in his April 2011 report that there are ‘arbitrary arrests, torture, extra-judicial killings, harassment of rights activists and sexual harassment.’

Kalpana can be re-membered on her own right, as a brave and vocal activist, and through today’s many major issues which confront us, our consciousness, our humanity, our sense of justice, and inspire us to extend ourselves beyond Bangladesh, to make us active globally for equality and justice, for the greater good of all human beings. This essay, however, will deal with only two out of many issues through which Kalpana can be re-membered today: the coalition of indigenous and non-indigenous human rights activists; and the demand for women’s rights as equal rights in Bangladesh.

The CHT still remains a militarised, colonised land within de-colonised Bangladesh. The CHT is not a war zone. The CHT Accord was signed in 1997 ending over two decades of war, demobilising the Shanti Bahini, the guerrilla wing of the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti, and stipulating de-militarisation of the CHT. But, the United Nations’ April 2011 report, mentioned earlier, states that one-third of the military of Bangladesh is stationed in the CHT, which is only 10 per cent of the land of the country. The government’s justification of six cantonments or barracks in the three districts of the CHT, however, is excessive in comparison to 14 cantonments in the rest of the 61 districts of Bangladesh. Or, to put it in another way, having six cantonments in the CHT, which comprises only 10 per cent of the land of Bangladesh, in comparison to 14 cantonments for the rest 90 per cent of the land is highly disproportional.

Kalpana's struggle for establishing peace and justice in the CHT was put to an end before the signing of the CHT Accord. She was kidnapped a year and half before the accord, during the heavy military insurgency in the CHT. It should first be pointed out that very few were working publicly in political and human rights field at that period, because of the grave difficulties of the situation. The situation was partly portrayed by the CHT Commission, which made a conservative estimate in 1991 that there was one security force for every 10 people in the CHT. In the early 1990s, effective and seasoned women human rights activists were rare in Bangladesh and even rarer in the highly militarised context of the CHT. Under these circumstance, Kalpana’s activism in the public sphere for peace and justice—with little or no support, and knowing what the consequences may be—in itself does her great credit. It is unusual to find that someone so young can be such an active, effective and mature leader. 

As a Year Twelve (HSC) student she was involved in organising the first National Conference of the Hill Women’s Federation. She also organised the first celebration of International Women’s Day in her village. Kalpana was instrumental in bringing the message of human rights, indigenous people’s rights and women’s rights to women in small villages who had never encountered these liberating possibilities. Kalpana’s thoughts and aspiration contained in her diary and published with the title ‘Kalpana Chakma’s Diary’, is no more limited to remote Lallyaghona, or the CHT. Her writings inform us of injustices in the hills of Bangladesh and inspire us, all indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, to act against those injustices, and they will continue to inspire many more generations in Bangladesh and beyond.

In the 1980s, the mainstream women’s movement in Bangladesh took a robust and vibrant form adding new dimensions to the country’s many decades’ tradition of women’s rights movement, which was formally established by women’s organisations from the late 1940s, primarily focusing on women’s welfare, education, skills, income generation and childcare. In the 1980s, an exponential growth of non-governmental organisations in the country, except in the CHT where the government did not permit NGO activities, witnessed the birth of new women’s organisations with new direction to work for gender equality. These organisations aimed to protest against gender-based discrimination and continue to work to bring an end to discriminatory practices against women in economic, political and social sectors, including violence against women, dowry, acid throwing, sexual harassment, rape, trafficking of women, unequal wages, work place exploitation, access to credit and unequal political and social rights. In the CHT, the Hill Women’s Federation, a voluntary organisation, remained active since its formation on March 8, 1988 by a group of women studying at Chittagong University as a sole organisation until the late 1990s. By 1990s, a limited number of individual Jumma women writers, poets, activists and researchers were writing articles, poems, reports and research-based theses to campaign against institutionalised gender violence in the CHT, and some of them were actively participating and addressing many international fora and conferences, including the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Population, and the First Asian Indigenous Women Conference in 1993.

The 1980s mainstream women’s collective new movement in Bangladesh, however, was non-inclusive of the concern of the Hill Women’s Federation against the state’s institutionalised discrimination of the CHT indigenous women. CHT women’s movement against state repression remained alien to the mainstream women’s movement in Bangladesh for about one and half decades. In a way, Kalpana’s abduction in 1996 and the campaign against her abduction remained central to the coalition of indigenous and non-indigenous women’s movement in Bangladesh.

In the years prior to Kalpana’s kidnapping, solidarity was developing between mainstream women’s organisations, constituted largely by middle-class Bengali women, and the indigenous CHT women activists. In March 1994, the Hill Women’s Federation, with their slogan ‘Autonomy for Peace’, joined the rally of the national women’s movement to celebrate International Women’s Day. As an outcome of this cooperation, the Hill Women’s Federation joined the National Preparatory Committee Towards Beijing, a coalition of national NGOs, preparing a status report on women in Bangladesh for the 4th UN Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995.

The long absence of a collective recognition of CHT women’s struggle by the mainstream women’s new movement generated in the 1980s, however, can be traced in the outcome of the status report on women for the Beijing conference. Many long months had been put into working with the national NGO committee, and during that, the Hill Women’s Federation had emphasised that the military oppression against the CHT indigenous Jumma women must be highlighted in the status report. However, the report later failed to project the federation’s primary concern of sexual oppression of indigenous CHT women by the military, the point was entirely written out of the final set of issues that were presented at Beijing. This occurred despite the fact that the Hill Women’s Federation’s leaflet in 1995 Beijing conference had reported that ‘[o]ver 94% of the all alleged cases of rape of Jumma women between 1991 and 1993 in the CHT were by “security forces”.’ Of these rape allegations, over 40 per cent of the victims were children.

While countless abductions and other repression against indigenous women went unnoticed, Kalpana’s case, a high-profile activist’s abduction, led by a ranked military officer, came to be the irrefutable evidence of military atrocities against the indigenous women of the CHT. Fifteen years on, her abductors roam free, like all other perpetrators against gross human rights violation in the CHT, as stark evidence of the culture of impunity that prevails. Early this year, the issue was reiterated to the UN special rapporteur on violence against women that, ‘[t]he biggest concern in rape and other violence against women in the CHT now is the lack of access to justice and absolute impunity that perpetrators enjoy’ (Hana Shams Ahmed, ‘Multiple forms of discrimination experienced by indigenous women from Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) within nationalist framework’, a paper presented at APWLD, SRVAW Consultation, Kuala Lumpur, January 11-12, 2011).

The abduction of Kalpana, however, broke the amnesia of many mainstream human rights activists of Bangladesh regarding the CHT situation. There was, and has been, support and solidarity from many mainstream human rights activists and their organisations, and a rise in increasing solidarity for CHT indigenous women’s cause from the mainstream women rights organisations.

In the period immediately after Kalpana’s abduction, strong cooperation developed between mainstream Bengali women particularly represented by ‘Shommilita Nari Shomaj’ (literally meaning Collective Women’s Society) and indigenous women of the CHT in their protests against the lack of action over the abduction. ‘Shommilita Nari Shomaj’ was formed in August 1995 to protest state violence against women following an incident where a 13-year-old Bengali girl, Yasmin, was raped and then killed by three policemen in the northern district of Dinajpur. It was a coalition of mainstream Bengali women’s organisations including human rights organisations, development-oriented organisations, women activists from the Left, trade unions, lawyers, academics and students. Women belonging to the Hill Women’s Federation joined in to protest on the streets of Dhaka. In the wake of the campaign, NGOs and civil society organisations from 37 countries asked the Bangladesh government to rescue Kalpana Chakma immediately and conduct an inquiry into the incident. In many ways, Kalpana brought us together: indigenous and non-indigenous women in Bangladesh, Jumma indigenous women of CHT with other women of the world, and men who are indigenous, non-indigenous, Bengali, and non-Bengali.

In the second decade of the 21st century, the women’s movement of Bangladesh shows ample possibilities to be inclusive of indigenous women's issues. The December 2010 report of the Citizens’ Initiatives on CEDAW-Bangladesh (CiC-BD) evidences such a possibility. However narrow and conservative, it is noteworthy that a coalition of NGOs in its report on an international convention has included the situation of CHT women. Regarding the Nari Nirjaton Special Tribunal (Women Repression Special Tribunal) under III.1.3.4 Institutional mechanisms established between 2004 and 2009 to protect women’s rights, the report states, ‘… Recently three tribunals have been set up in the three Councils of Rangamati, Khagrachari and Bandarban in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. This has provided access of women in the CHT to judicial processes in cases of violence’ (p 23), while regarding Patterns and Trends under II.11.5 Situation Analysis, the report says of women and children of religious and ethnic minority groups: ‘Gang violence is used by the majority/dominant elite to intimidate women and children of religious and ethnic minority groups. … Cases of custodial violence by law enforcement and security forces have been frequently reported, particularly in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (p 50).

Many women’s rights organisations in CHT now have well-established links with Durbar Network, a network of women’s rights organisations, which operates in all districts of Bangladesh. Through the Durbar Network, instances of reported violence against women in the CHT is campaigned and protested at the same time of the day throughout the country, generating awareness and resistance against gender violence.

Recently, a coalition of left women’s organisations, trade unions and left-inclined activists got together to form an open platform named, ‘Shomo Odhikar Amader Nunotomo Daabi (SAND)’, meaning ‘Equal rights is our minimum demand.’ At their recently held rally in Dhaka, on May 24 this year, they put forth the demand for a new Women Policy. SAND’s formation is in response to the National Women Development Policy 2011 which they deem unsatisfactory as it does not include women’s equal inheritance rights, a long-standing campaign of women’s rights movement in Bangladesh.

SAND’s campaign adds a new adaptive challenge in the women’s movement of Bangladesh. An earlier rally, supporting the National Women Development Policy 2011 on April 28, organised by the Samajik Pratirodh Committee, a platform of 67 women, development, and human rights organisations, and NGOs, called upon the government to take immediate measures for the full implementation of the policy. Samajik Pratirodh Committee acknowledges that the National Women Development Policy 2011 does not include equal inheritance, but argues that it is worthy of full support as it contains programmes aimed at improving women’s socio-economic condition: measures for reducing women's poverty, for enhancing women’s economic and political empowerment—food security, health and nutrition, education and training, employment—improving the status of the girl child, resisting violence against women, in addition to undertaking special measures for indigenous women, and women who are handicapped (Rahnuma Ahmed, ‘A Postscript’, New Age, May 23, 2011).

CHT women too have demanded equal inheritance rights within their traditional patriarchal indigenous societies. Recently, a delegation of Chakma women, who have the support of their indigenous sisters of the CHT, submitted a memorandum on February 8, 2011 to the Chakma Raja claiming recognition of equal inheritance rights for Chakma women at a summit of the hill women in Rangamati. Meanwhile, women belonging to other indigenous groups, including Tripura, Tanchangya, Lushai, etc, of the CHT are also discussing the issue of formally claiming equal inheritance rights for themselves.
SAND’s demands, it is important to note, incorporates the demands of indigenous peoples, both indigenous men and women in Bangladesh. Among its inclusive list of demands is: ‘constitutional recognition of adivasis (indigenous people); the inclusion of adivasi notions of property in the Constitution. Further, an end to the militarisation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the inclusion of measures which will ensure the safety and security of jumma women.’

Re-membering Kalpana today is also imagining a better future. Re-membering Kalpana is striving for a better world which allows us all to be equal citizens irrespective of our race, colour, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, and by adopting affirmative actions towards those who have been repressed and neglected for decades by the state’s wrong and ill policies. Regarding a better world, Canadian writer, poet and environmental activist Margaret Atwood reminds us that ‘…it is by the better world we can imagine that we judge the world we have’, and she cautions us, ‘[i]f we cease to judge this world, we may find ourselves, very quickly, in one which is infinitely worse.’

In the action of ‘re-membering’, ‘putting-together’ today, our abducted friend and fellow traveller, Kalpana re-members our collective struggle for establishing our just rights. Kalpana re-members our collective resistance against injustice. Kalpana re-members our solidarity for equality, justice and peace. And, Kalpana, indeed, re-members a potential future of a conscious, all-inclusive women’s rights movement from the second decade in the 21st century Bangladesh.
Kabita Chakma is the coordinator of the CHT Jumma Peoples Network of the Asia Pacific and the Human Rights Coordinator of the CHT Indigenous Jumma Association Australia.


courtesy: New Age