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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Amnesty International’s Report- Bangladesh: Indigenous Peoples engulfed in Chittagong Hill Tracts land conflict

Bangladesh: Indigenous Peoples engulfed in Chittagong Hill Tracts land conflict

Bangladesh: Indigenous Peoples engulfed in Chittagong Hill Tracts land conflict
The Pahari Indigenous Peoples are still waiting for the Bangladeshi government to restore their traditional lands The Pahari Indigenous Peoples are still waiting for the Bangladeshi government to restore their traditional lands
© Amnesty International
For many Pahari Indigenous people, in particular in rural areas, their traditional lands are linked to not just their livelihood but also their very way of life. It is inconceivable that after 15 years the Land Commission set up to restore Pahari to their lands is not operational.
Andrew Erueti, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights.

The Bangladeshi government’s failure to address rights to traditional lands in the eastern Chittagong Hill Tracts region has left tens of thousands of Pahari Indigenous people landless and trapped in a cycle of violent clashes with Bengali settlers, Amnesty International said in a new report released today.

The report, Pushed to the Edge, documents how the Pahari are still waiting for the government to live up to the terms of an accord signed more than 15 years ago, by restoring their traditional lands to them.
Clashes between the Pahari and Bengali settlers in the region over land use are all too common.

“The current situation, with violent clashes being fuelled by disputes over land, continues to cause immense insecurity and suffering for the Pahari Indigenous People, and the Bangladeshi authorities have to address it immediately,” said Andrew Erueti, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights.
“That the Pahari Indigenous People are being denied their traditional lands, or adequate compensation for land taken away from them, is a clear violation of international human rights law.”

The Chittagong Hill Tracts region in southeastern Bangladesh has long seen internal armed conflict following Pahari demands for greater autonomy and protection of traditional lands.

A 1997 peace accord included a series of reforms to restore Pahari traditional lands to them, but these have only at best been partially fulfilled despite repeated promises by the current Bangladeshi government.
“The government has still time to fulfill its promises before the general elections in 2014”, said Erueti.

The conflict had a devastating effect on the Pahari and still today it is estimated that more than 90,000 Pahari families remain internally displaced.

A Land Commission – set up under the Peace Accord to settle land ownership claims after the conflict – has yet to make a single ruling on a land dispute.

Thousands of Bengali settlers who have moved to the Chittagong Hill Tracts during and after the conflict have gradually occupied and encroached on traditional Pahari land, giving rise to renewed violent clashes. During the conflict, the settlers – mostly landless families from the plains districts – were encouraged to move to the Chittagong Hill Tracts with offers of land as part of a counter insurgency strategy.

Pahari tend to suffer disproportionately in the clashes, which have over recent years left hundreds of Pahari families homeless as their houses have been burned down in mob violence triggered by land disputes.
In February 2011, for example, a mob of some 200 Bengali settlers burned at least 23 Pahari homes in the Longadu after a Bengali settler accused the Pahari community of murdering his brother. Nobody has been held accountable for the attacks on the village.

The authorities have remained ineffectual throughout, failing to protect the Paharis’ right to security and their rights to traditional lands – as well as their livelihoods and way of life, which is inextricably linked to those lands.

Pahari women are especially negatively affected, as one Pahari woman told Amnesty International:
“We are now left with no land to do jum (farming) and grow crops, or forest to go to for collecting fuel wood, and fruit. Life has become very hard as we have [the] army at very close proximity and I feel very insecure even walking short distances. Our home has become an insecure unsafe place to live in. I’m now constantly worried about getting food for my family and security of my children.”

“For many Pahari Indigenous people, in particular in rural areas, their traditional lands are linked to not just their livelihood but also their very way of life. It is inconceivable that after 15 years the Land Commission set up to restore Pahari to their lands is not operational,” said Erueti.

Despite the 1997 peace accord promising to remove all temporary army camps from the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the region still remains Bangladesh’s most militarized with a substantial army presence. Many Pahari view the army as providing support for Bengali settlers’ continued occupation of Pahari land.

“This violence is likely to continue as long as these serious land disputes remain unresolved. It is also indicative of the Bangladeshi authorities’ failure to adequately protect Pahari people at risk, despite the huge security presence in the region,” said Erueti.

Amnesty International calls on the government of Bangladesh to respect its obligations under international human rights law, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the ILO Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples No.107, and take concrete steps to return the Paharis’ traditional lands to them, with the effective participation of Pahari women and men in the process.

Amnesty International is also calling on political parties in the lead up to next year’s general elections to include the restoration of Pahari right to their traditional land in their election manifesto.

courtesy: Amnesty International

Army arrests and tortures 6 in Kudukchari of Rangamati

On June 11, 2013, SIX Jumma villagers, including two women, were detained and tortured by army in Kudukchari under Rangamati district.

The two women and another man were released subsequently, but the other three Jummas were detained in Kudukchari camp.

According to sources, on that day, at 2pm, a group of army men led by Lt. Col. Khaled Hossain from Kudukchari camp raided two Jumma villages, Kudukchari Purbo Para and Hazachari Pochchim Para, and made the arrests.

The arrested Jummas had been identified as Rajendra Chakma, 35, son of Goyasur Chakma, Swapna Barua, 30, wife of Rajendra Lal Chakma, Gyana Probha Chakma (Jita-ma) wife of Udoy Shankar Chakma, Pavel Chakma, 20, son of Shukra Kumar Chakma Arjun Kumar Chakma, 32, son of Bangallya Chakma and Kala Banshi Chakma, 19, son of Padma Ranjan Chakma.

Of them, Arjun Chakma of Shukorchari village and Kala Banshi Chakma of Hatimara came to Kudukchari Purbo Para to visit their relatives.

The soldiers conducted the raid acting upon a complaint by a Bengali settler that he was manhandled by local Jumma youths in Kudukchari.

The army took the arrested Jumma villagers to the camp and tortured.

UPDF, a political party of indigenous Jumma peoples, has condemned the arrest and torture of the innocent Jumma villagers and demanded the release of those still being detained in the army camp.

A Jumma villager said the allegation of any Bengali being roughed up is completely false.

Priyo Lal Chakma, a Democratic Youth Forum leader also denied the allegation, saying it (the allegation) was a false pretext to harass and intimidate Jumma villagers.

courtesy: chtnews.com

10 innocent Jumma villagers tortured by Army personnel in Rangamati

On 30 May 2013 at about 11:30 am, at least 10 innocent Jumma villagers of Basonta Para Lichu Bagan area under Rangamati Sadar upazila of Rangamati Hill District were inhumanly tortured by Army personnel of nearby Subhalong Army Camp of Subhalong union of Barkal upazila. Even the villagers were severely wounded as a result of beating by the Army as per the local sources.

It is learnt that at that time the Army personnel, reaching the village of Basonta Para Lichu Bagan area, ordered the villagers to gather at a place. Whenever the villagers gathered at a place as per the order of the Army, the Army began asking about a person named Kalpati Chakma alleging him as a terrorist. The villagers became feared at such behavior of the Army and tried to tell the Army that there was no person named `Kalpati’ rather than a person named `Kalobadhi Chakma’. Nevertheless, the Army personnel began beating the villagers indiscriminately one after another, where at least 10 persons among the villagers were wounded.

Later, the Army personnel went to and ransacked the house of Kalobadhi Chakma. Kalobadhi Chakma was not house at that time.

The 9 out of10 wounded villagers were as follows:
(1)   Laxmi Kumar Chakma (27), son of late Fuleswar Chakma, village- Indra Moni Para;
(2)   Mr. Ananda Chakma (36), son of late Pattar Chandra Chakma, village- do;
(3)   Mr. Shanti Bikash Chakma (28), son of late Subal Chandra Chakma, village- do;
(4)   Mr. Kanak Baran Chakma (25), son of For a Chakma, village- do;
(5)   Mr. Surjya Chakma (28), son of late Pagla Chakma, village- do;
(6)   Mr. Robi Chandra Chakma (36), son of late Monu Ram Chakma, village- do;
(7)   Mr. Bana Kumar Chakma (30), son of late Pattar Muni Chakma, village- Jarul Chari;
(8)   Mr. Satya Jyoti Chakma (36), son of Batya Chakma, village- Changra Chari;
(9)   Mr. Anil Chakma (30), son of Dafadar Chakma, village- Kandya Mukh Para.

It is worth mentioning that de facto military rule named “Operation Dabanal” (Operation Wild-fire), which was imposed on the CHT during the period of insurgency, was replaced with “Operation Uttoran (Operation Upliftment) on 1 September 2001 in the post-Accord period. Military interference with and dominance over the civil administration, law and order, construction and repairing of roads, tribal affairs, forest resources etc. are still continuing on one hand, and on the other, the military search operations, harassment, threat and intimidation and repression in CHT are also continuing due to prevailing ‘Operation Uttoron’.

(Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti)
Kalyanpur, Rangamati-4500, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh
Tel+Fax: +880-351-61248
E-mail: pcjss.org@gmail.com, pcjss@hotmail.com
Website: pcjss-cht.org, ipdpcjss.wordpress.com

The authorities failed to settle Indigenous Peoples’ claims to land: Amnesty International

Amnesty International, in its annual human reports of 2012, claimed that the Bangladesh authorities failed to settle Indigenous Peoples’ claims to land. Following is the excerpt of the report:

Indigenous Peoples’ rights

As in previous years, the authorities failed to settle Indigenous Peoples’ claims to land that had been seized from them during the internal armed conflict (1975-1997), or recently occupied by increasing numbers of Bengali settlers. Tension between the two communities and the failure of the security forces to protect local Indigenous people against attacks by Bengali settlers led to several clashes and injuries on both sides.

  • At least 20 people were injured in a clash between Indigenous people and Bengali settlers in Rangamati on 22 September. Local people said security forces came to the scene but failed to stop the violence.

Army desecrates Buddhist temple, steals Buddha statue in Ramgarh

On May 22nd, 2013, Bangladesh army ransacked a newly built Buddhist temple and had stolen a statue of the Lord Buddha in a village in Ramgarh Upazila under Khagrachari district.

According to villagers, a group of army personnel from Sindukchari zone raided Mraila Karbari Para under Patachara Union at 3pm, Wednesday on 22nd May.

“The soldiers entered the Belubon Buddhist temple with their boots on, ransacked the temple and threw the monk’s robes and other belongings out onto the ground”, a villager who wished to remain unanimous for security reasons told chtnews.com.

The army has also taken away a small Buddha statue from the temple, he added.

The temple is taken care of by Ugyo Bhante from Pagal Para Buddhist temple.

After the temple incident, when the army wanted to visit the home of the Mraila Karbari, the chief of the village, the womenfolk of the village stood firmly in their way.

The army men claimed that the land on which the Jumma villagers had built the temple and their houses belonged to one Anwar, an engineer.

The women brushed aside the claim, saying: “This is our land. Our forefathers lived here. Because of repressive political situation we had to leave this place many years ago. As the situation is now slowly coming back to normal, we have rebuilt our houses to live here peacefully and permanently.”

Before leaving, the army men warned the villagers not to build houses on the said land, otherwise “we would file cases against you.”

According to the villagers, two Bengali settlers, Kalam and Saddam, from Pagla Para village accompanied the army during the action.

Anwar has been trying to capture the said land by bribing the army and the local civil administration, sources say.

source: chtnews.com