Civic Groups Demand Justice for Indigenous Khasi People

On 29 August 2014, civic groups demanded immediate arrest of the attackers of Indigenous Khasis of Nahar-1 (Aslom) Punji in a press conference at Dhaka Reporters Unity Auditorium in Segunbagicha, Dhaka. The speakers in the press conference organized by Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) also demanded for withdrawal of all the false cases against the victim Khasis, return of 400 acres of forest land belonging to them, and demarcation of the area of the tea estates in the country.

The press conference was organized to address the ongoing harassment, fear and insecurity facing Indigenous Khasi villagers of Alsom (Nahar-1) Punji in Sreemangal upazila of Moulvibazar district for last few months. On 30 May 2014, the Bengali land grabbers, led by the Manager of Nahar Tea Estate, attacked on 79 Khasi families of Nahar Punji-1, a hilltop village of the indigenous Khasi people, with an aim to grab the land belonging to Khasi people. In the attack, 20 Indigenous Khasi people including women were severely injured. However, instead of taking charges against the perpetrators of the attack, police accepted a fabricated case filed by the perpetrators and arrested some of the Khasi villagers over last few months. The arrested Indigenous persons are still under police custody.

In the press conference, eminent writer and researcher Sayed Abul Maksud said, incidents of this kind are taking place in every nook and corner of the country. The Khasis, being a minor Indigenous group, are very vulnerable to such incidents. So, it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure their safety and security. Attempt to eviction and oppression against them are clear violations of human rights and the constitution of the country.

Cultural activist Mamunur Rashid mentioned, land grabbing has turned into natural habit of people these days. If it cannot be stopped immediately, general public will face even more serious problem in the future.

General Secretary of Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council Advocate Rana Dasgupta said, this crisis is not only of the Khasis but also a problem of the whole country. It needs to be resolved immediately.

Sharif Jamil, Joint General Secretary of BAPA presented the keynote of the press conference. General Secretary of BAPA Abdul Matin, General Secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum Mr. Sanjeeb Drong also addressed the press conference.