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>indigenous people in miserable condition

>INDIGENOUS livelihoods are coming under increasing threat from displacement due to illegal land grabbing, declaration of reserve forests and khas land, and development of parks and social forestation there.
Absence of constitutional recognition and any policy for their development, non-implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Treaty and non-functioning of the CHT Land Commission aggravate the crisis further, Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum (BIPF) said at a press conference in Dhaka today.
“The intensity of indigenous people’s land grabbing is increasing day by day. They are living in a very bad condition,” Jyotirindra Bodhipriyo Larma, the BIPF president also known as Santu Larma, said during the conference organised on the occasion of International Day of the World’s Indigenous People.
With the theme “Indigenous People’s Economic and Social Rights’, the day will be observed on Saturday.
By a resolution of
December 23, 1994, the UN General Assembly decided to celebrate the Day on August 9 every year.
The BIPF has chalked out detail programme including discussion, seminar, rally, indigenous fair, film show, photography exhibition and traditional dances to observe the day.
Bangladesh is a member of the UN, the government never observed the Day at the state level or took any step as recommended by the UN or international communities, Santu Larma, also the chief of the CHT Regional Council, said today.
Citing the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, he said the indigenous people have the right to control themselves and cannot be ousted from their lands.
“Not only that the rulers over the years remained indifferent to our demands of autonomy and constitutional recognition, they also did not pay heed to the demands of right to land, implementation of the CHT Treaty, stopping torture and eviction of the indigenous people in the name of creating eco park and social forestation,” Santu Larma said.
Indigenous people have not got their rights on land in Modhupur where the government is implementing social forestation project forcibly, khasis have not got rights on their ancestral land while lands of the indigenous people in north Bengal still remain as khas land, he said.
“Land grabbers in connivance with the administration are ousting indigenous people from their lands,” the BIPF chief said citing the example of burning an indigenous people’s neighbourhood at Uttara Kazipara in Naogaon on November 5 last year.
The BIPF leaders also mentioned the killing of Chalesh Richhil, indigenous leader of Modhupur, in law enforcers’ custody, arrest of those working to ensure indigenous people’s land rights, filing cases against at least 50 and strengthening settler Bangalee rehabilitation programme in the CHT.
“To rehabilitate the outsiders, seven villages of indigenous people in Sajek area of Rangamati were burnt on April 20.”
Talking on status of CHT Treaty implementation, Santu Larma said, “The fundamental aspects of the treaty are yet to be implemented due to lack of motivation of the governments…Now it remains totally stuck.”
On CHT Land Commission, which is to settle land disputes between indigenous communities and settlers in the region, he said the indigenous people suggested 19 amendments to the land commission law after it was enacted in 2001, but the government is yet to amend it.
Besides, the district council and regional council laws are yet to be implemented, he said, adding: “Elections of the district and regional councils of the CHT cannot be held as voter list was not prepared on the basis of the permanent inhabitants.”
The BIPF leaders also demanded separate ministry and land commission for the indigenous people living on plain land, including the indigenous people in any project involving their interest, and reserved seats for indigenous people in UP, upazila, zila and Jatiya Sangsad.
Sanjeeb Drong,
Rabindranath Saren and Chaitali Tripura and Prof Mesbah Kamal of
Dhaka University were also present at the press conference.
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