Parliamentary Caucus urges govt to respect the rights of indigenous peoples and be sensible to them so that they could become a part of the development process of the country

The Parliamentary Caucus on Indigenous Peoples urged the government to respect the indigenous peoples’ rights and be sensible to their rights so that they could also become a part of the development process of the country.

The Caucus also demanded recognition of indigenous peoples as “Adivasi” by changing the constitution, creation of a separate land commission for indigenous peoples of plain land, celebration of 9 August International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples officially, and enactment of an “Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act”.

The demands were raised in a discussion organised by the Parliamentary Caucus on Indigenous Peoples in association of Research and Development Collective (RDC,) Christian Aid and International Labour Organisation marking the International Indigenous Day on 6 August 2015 at 3:00 pm, at Nabab Nawab Ali Chowdhury Senate Bhaban of Dhaka University.

Sanjeeb Drong, general secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum and also technocrat member of the Caucus presented the keynote paper while A K M Mozammel Haque MP and Minister of Liberation War Affairs Ministry of the Government of Bangladesh was present as chief discussant. Presided over by convenor of the Caucus Fazle Hossain Badsha MP, the discussion was spoken by Ushatan Talukder MP, Mrinal Kanti Das MP, poet Kazi Rozi MP, Tipu Sultan MP, Nazmul Haque Prodhan MP, president of Sammilita Sangskritik Jote Golam Kuddus, member of CHT Regional Council and also technocrat member of the Caucus Goutam Kumar Chakma. Prof Mesbah Kamal, coordinator of the Caucus and also teacher of Dhaka University conducted the programme while Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury MP delivered welcome speech in the event.

The speakers urged the government to honor the indigenous peoples and be sensible to the rights of minorities, including indigenous peoples, enabling them to be part of the development of the country. They expressed their concerns that grabbing of indigenous people’s lands and their eviction from homesteads must be stopped with an iron hand and the CHT Accord of 1997 must be implemented fully. The indigenous people are losing their land day by day due to land acquisition by different government and non-government organisations and business firms. The speakers also alleged that rapes and sexual assaults on indigenous women were creating insecurity among the minority people.

They said that around 500 labourers including indigenous peoples of some tea gardens in Habiganj have been living in miserable condition. It was learnt that they were going to be evicted from their land because of a plan to build a special economic zone in their land. They get only Tk 69 daily and Tk 1,600-1,700 monthly, which is inhumane. Necessary steps should be taken to free them from the misery, speakers added. Speakers urged the government to ensure equal rights for the ethnic people in order to build a secular country with the Liberation War spirit.

The discussion was followed by an indigenous cultural programme. This year theme is “Post 2015 Agenda: Ensuring indigenous peoples’ health and well-being.