Kapaeeng Foundation http://kapaeeng.org A Human Rights Organisation for Indigenous Peoples of Bangladesh Wed, 04 Oct 2017 07:08:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 National Inception Workshop of ‘Indigenous Navigator’ project organised successfully in Bangladesh http://kapaeeng.org/national-inception-workshop-of-indigenous-navigator-project-organisedsuccessfullyin-bangladesh/ http://kapaeeng.org/national-inception-workshop-of-indigenous-navigator-project-organisedsuccessfullyin-bangladesh/#respond Mon, 21 Aug 2017 09:18:20 +0000 http://kapaeeng.org/?p=1909 The national inception workshop of the project ‘Improving indigenous and tribal peoples’ access to justice and development through community-based monitoring’ (popularly known as ‘Indigenous Navigator’) was held in Dhaka from July 26-27, 2017.The project is supported by European Union (EU) and jointly implementing by International Labor Organization (ILO) and Kapaeeng Foundation in Bangladesh. Around forty participants from different indigenous groups and regions attended the two-day long workshop.

The project aims to consolidate the Indigenous Navigator framework and related tools and to scale-up capacity building for indigenous and tribal peoples’ communities and networks to use the framework to undertake community-based monitoring. Critically, the project seeks to make available data on indigenous and tribal peoples’ rights and development that is gathered by communities themselves, with the aim to facilitate enhanced engagement and dialogue between them and key national and international actors, and their involvement in national and international processes regarding indigenous and tribal peoples’ rights and development.

The inaugural ceremony of the two-day National Inception Workshop was held on July 26, 2017 at YWCA, Dhaka. Mr. ManikLalBanik, Honorable Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs was present as the chief guest at the inauguralsession while Dr. Debapriya Bhattacharya, convener of the Citizen’s Platform for SDG Bangladesh and the honorable Fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Mr. SanjeebDrong, General Secretaryof Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples’ Forum (BIPF) spoke as distinguished guests.Mr. Alexius Chicham, National Project Coordinator of International Labor Organization (ILO) delivered welcome speech and presented project brief to the audience, and Mr. PallabChakma, Executive Director of Kapaeeng Foundation presided over the session.

Mr. ManikLalBanik,said-Indigenous Navigator project is new endeavor for indigenous peoples of Bangladesh. After the CHT Peace Treaty, recent amendment of theCHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act of 2001 is an indicator of government’s well-intention to full-fill the treaty. For the development of indigenous people, the government had included the issues of indigenous socio-economic and cultural development in the 7th Five Year Plan (FYP)and now implementing accordingly. Also, he said that specific and accurate information is not always available for development plan of the indigenous people concerns. Government information and statistics department has different limitations but they are trying to overcome all those limitations.This new project of Kapaeeng Foundation and ILO woulddefinitely add values in terms of collecting data and information on indigenous peoples which will be very helpful in the development of indigenous people at the local, regional and national levels, he further added. Mr. Banik assured, Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs would provide all possible supports for the proper implementation of the project.

Dr. Debapriya Bhattacharya, convener of the Citizen’s Platform for SDG Bangladesh and the honorable Fellow of the CPD said,SDGs targets have special significance in order to include the voices of the marginalized and their struggle with the main development program. Indigenous peoples would have chance tobenefitfromthe indigenous navigator initiatives if indigenous peoplestruly involved themselves with the main-stream development-flow of the country.He also said that after collecting the specific data and information on indigenous peoples through this project, they can be included in the various policies adopted by the government at local, regional and national levels. The combinations of data collection through this project and the government mechanisms through Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics    could contribute a lot for the development of indigenous peoples in the SDGs implementation phase. However, he requested the indigenous community people not to consider this project as ordinary project only, rather to think beyond a development project. So that community will own the project and get benefit even after phase out of the project.

Mr. SanjeebDrong, General Secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples’ Forum (BIPF) said- the government of Bangladesh does not have accurate statistics of how many indigenous peoples have lost their land in last 10 years. The number of indigenous peoples migrated in the last 10 years is also unknown to both the government and indigenous peoples. Therefore, considering this data gaps, indigenous Navigator’s project would beuseful for both the indigenous peoples and the government for the development initiatives of indigenous peoplesfollowing the national policies.

Mr. Alexius Chicham, representative of ILOillustrated thatthrough this project, the indigenous peoples wouldget more opportunity to engage themselves to protect their rights. The project would help indigenous peoples to create comparable information through community monitoring on SDGs implementation.Community people would be able to enrich their knowledge through the collected information and this might influence the governmentto formulatenecessarypolicies for the development of most disadvantage groups of the country.

In his concluding remarks Mr. PallabChakma, executive director of Kapaeeng Foundationrequested all participants to engage effectively in the project activities and help community to reach out voices to the policy makers through this Indigenous Navigator project. As this project will closely monitor different UN instruments, including United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), it will find out different gaps of indigenous peoples’ development and engagement in the national development process. He further added, for ensuring ‘Leave no one behind’ in the SDGs implementation processes indigenous peoples should be engaged. Different data gap analysis through this project would greatly help to engage indigenous peoples in this regards.

He also gave emphasis on- monitoring the implementation of SDGs including follow-up and review at the national, regional and global level. Moreover, he sharedhis experiences onVoluntary National Review (VNR) of Bangladesh in High Level Political Forum (HLPF) in UNas well as work experience with the Citizen Platform to monitor implementation of SDGs.

As part of the workshop the participants were engaged in different technical sessions and group work to explore their roles and responsibilities as part of the indigenous navigator project.Ms. Joyce Godio from Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) attended the workshop and conducted technical sessions on Indigenous Navigator. The objective of the workshop was to understand the components of the Navigator Initiative, to oriented the participants about indigenous Navigator Framework and tools and relevant international processes and mechanisms including UN and ILO supervisory mechanism and the SDGs follow-up and review as well as to map community developments needs and develop country strategies and action plans.

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Engage indigenous peoples in the process of implementation and review of achieving the SDGs http://kapaeeng.org/engage-indigenous-peoples-in-the-process-of-implementation-and-review-of-achieving-the-sdgs/ http://kapaeeng.org/engage-indigenous-peoples-in-the-process-of-implementation-and-review-of-achieving-the-sdgs/#respond Mon, 07 Aug 2017 07:45:47 +0000 http://kapaeeng.org/?p=1905 Discussion meeting urges the government

The Government of Bangladesh should engage indigenous peoples including indigenous women across the country in implementing and reviewing the progress of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Unlike the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the visibility of indigenous peoples in implementation of SDGs should be ensured to make its agenda “Leave No One Behind” meaningful. The speakers made this urges to the Government in a discussion meeting titled “Sustainable Development Agenda and Indigenous Women’s Rights in Bangladesh”, jointly organised by Bangladesh Indigenous Women’s Women Network (BIWN), Kapaeeng Foundation (KF) and Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum (BIPF) held at the Daily Star Center in Dhaka on 6 August 2017.

Presided over by Member-Secretary of BIWN Ms. Chanchana Chakma, Mr. Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, President of BIWN and Chairman of Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council was present as the Chief Guest in the discussion meeting. Dr. Devapriya Bhattacharya, Convener, Citizen’s Platform for SDG, Bangladesh; Ms. Khushi Kabir, Coordinator of Nijera Kori; Rani Yan Yan, Rani of Chakma Circle and Barrister Sara Hossain, Honorary Executive Director of Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST); Mr. Sanjeeb Drong, General Secretary of BIPF and Mr. Pallab Chakma, Executive Director of KF also addressed the discussion meeting. Falguni Tripura, Coordinator of BIWN presented the Keynote Paper of the discussion meeting.

Mr. Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma said, indigenous women are neglected in the society and fall victim of abuse and torture, often more than the majority Bengali women because of their ethnic identity. This happens due to the negligence of the Government. Not only indigenous women, but Bengali women too are unsafe in the country. The root cause behind this is the prevalence of discrimination in every stage of the society.  In order to have this situation changed, the governance in the country has to be reformed, putting a pro-people, democratic government in place. In this regard values in the society need to be reformed first, which will come as a result of an unified movement.

CPD Fellow Dr. Debapriya Bhattacharya mentioned that political promises of the Government in the international forums should be visible in realizing human rights and equality for all in the country. He also stated that SDGs cannot be achievedg by leaving farthest of the farthest behind. The per capita income of the indigenous peoples is very low. In addition, lack of health facilities, violence against indigenous women, communal aggression and national negligence are some of the main reasons of the vulnerability of indigenous women. He further said that indigenous women are mainly left behind the society due to structural negligence. Bangladesh government should change its attitude towards indigenous peoples including women in all respect. Disaggregated data should be produced and national census on indigenous peoples should be carried out to get a clearer picture of the issues of indigenous peoples.

Khushi Kabir said, Bangladesh government does not recognize indigenous peoples as indigenous peoples and due to this reason, the situation of human rights of indigenous women is being aggravated day by day. Indigenous women have to raise their voices and stand together against violence and persecution being faced by them. She also urged the government to not to carry out development activities by leaving behind indigenous peoples. Justice and impartial investigation has always been denied in indigenous in indigenous inhabited regions such as the case of Longadu communal and arson attack in Rangamati, she added.

Barrister Sara Hossain opined that the government as well as civil society and NGOs have responsibilities in relation to achieving the SDGs. Although many initiatives have been undertaken by the government so far to stop violence against indigenous women, but it seems that the violence against women are increasing day by day. She stated that, development of indigenous women has not been articulated in the 7th Five Year Plan of Bangladesh government a. Though there is Women and Children Repression Prevention Act in place, it is not being enforced properly.

Rani Yan Yan said, indigenous women are one of the most disadvantaged sections in Bangladesh. Indigenous women are vulnerable because of their indigenous identity as well as sex. Though the main target of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to ‘Leave No One Behind’, Bangladesh Government has been neglecting indigenous peoples by not engaging indigenous peoples including indigenous women in the process of implementation of the SDGs. The complete absence engaging indigenous women in the process of developing Voluntary National Review (VNR) report is a vivid reflection of that. Bangladesh government should come forward to minimize violence against indigenous women and increase participation and decision-making role of indigenous women. Government should also ensure data disaggregation based on sex and ethnicity.

In the keynote paper, Falguni Tripura said that there is no data disaggregation on indigenous peoples, which is essential for formulation of plan of actions and monitoring the of progress of indigenous peoples. The 2030 Agenda calls for States to increase availability of high-quality, timely and reliable data disaggregated based on income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics. But Bangladesh Government has not taken any initiative in this regard. Even while preparing the Voluntary National Review report for the High Level Political Forum held in July 2017 in New York, the government did not consult with the indigenous peoples.

Falguni added that Bangladesh is committed to leading by example in the case of SDGs, as it did in the case of the MDGs. Bangladesh looks at Agenda-2030 with much interest and wants to sustain the momentum of the MDGs, build on their successes, and transform Bangladesh, for the better. Indigenous peoples share this dream of other Bangladeshis. Unlike in the case of the MDGs, indigenous peoples in Bangladesh look forward to being a full part of the SDG journey, so that all Bangladeshis can truly transform Bangladesh and bring peace and prosperity for all. Indigenous peoples wish to ensure that they are not left behind.

She also mentioned that despite the 2030 Agenda is grounded on the principles of human rights, human dignity, non-discrimination, equality and participation that are essential for indigenous peoples’ access to all of their rights, the government has been expressing a discriminatory attitude towards indigenous peoples by excluding them in all aspects of implementation of the SDGs. The top-down approach of development, for example, is still being followed in the CHT, despite the establishment of the CHT Regional Council and three Hill District Councils to decide on their own development needs by themselves. As a result, the trend of self-determined development, as per the CHT Accord, is yet to be ensured in the CHT. This top-down approach is severely jeopardising the characteristic of tribal-inhabited region of CHT, which is recognised and guaranteed by the CHT Accord. So, development initiatives being carried out in the CHT could be meaningless if the people concerned do not have rights to self-governance and decision, and if these developments lead to adverse impacts upon the culture and livelihood of Jumma people.

Ms. Falguni Tripura put forward 10 recommendations, which include, to ensure indigenous women’s participation in the 7th Five Year Plan of the government; to organize awareness building programs relating SDGs 2030 for indigenous and women organizations; to take proper initiative to stop violence against indigenous women and children; to take special measures to reduce maternal and child mortality of indigenous peoples; to implement the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord 1997 fully and declare a time-bound road map for implementing the CHT Accord; to ensure reserved seats for indigenous women in the parliament and at all levels of local government bodies.

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Implement UPR recommendations by May 2018 http://kapaeeng.org/implement-upr-recommendations-by-may-2018/ http://kapaeeng.org/implement-upr-recommendations-by-may-2018/#respond Sun, 16 Jul 2017 16:36:51 +0000 http://kapaeeng.org/?p=1896 Discussion in Dhaka urges government

The discussants urged the government to implement the UPR recommendations related to indigenous peoples by May 2018. The discussion meeting titled “Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh” was organized by the Coalition of Indigenous Peoples Organizations on UPR at the Daily Star Centre in Dhaka.

The discussion meeting was presided over by Mr. Rabindranath Soren, President of Jatiya Adivasi Parishad and Chairperson of Kapaeeng Foundation while the keynote was delivered by Bablu Chakma, Secretariat Coordinator, Indigenous UPR Coalition. Banchita Chakma, Member of National Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh; Sanjeeb Drong, General Secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum; Mahbubul Hoque, Executive Director of Bangladesh Centre for Human Rights and Development and Advocate Md. Tajul Islam, Advisor of Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), among others, also addressed the discussion.

The speakers told that the government received a number of recommendations related to indigenous peoples during the first and second cycle review of Bangladesh held in 2009 and 2013 respectively. The recommendations were on different issues affecting indigenous peoples in Bangladesh such as ratification of ILO Convention No. 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, full implementation of the CHT Accord, protection of indigenous peoples and religious minorities, and addressing violence against indigenous women and girls. However, the progress in regards to implementation of the recommendation received by the government over past few years have been very poor. Moreover, recent large-scale attacks on indigenous peoples in Longadu and Gaibandha, allegedly with support from the state forces, demonstrates rather an unfriendly role of the government towards the rights of indigenous peoples.

The speakers urged the government to implement the UPR recommendations fully before the next review of Bangladesh to be held in May 2018. Otherwise, a bad image of the government will be created before the international community in the next UPR review. They also urged the indigenous rights defenders and civil society rights advocates not to give up and get tired in raising their voices for indigenous peoples.

During the open discussion, indigenous rights defenders coming from different regions of the country, including Sylhet, North Bengal, Madhupur and the CHT, and members of mainstream civil society organizations shared their views on the situations of indigenous peoples in light of UPR recommendations. They mentioned that the on-ground situation of indigenous peoples of the regionhave not improved much or in some cases worsened despite the UPR recommendations received by the government. They urged the Indigenous UPR Coalition to incorporate the burning issues affecting indigenous peoples in the country in the upcoming UPR stakeholder report of the Coalition.

With regard to implement the the recommendations received by the government and to address the issues affecting indigenous peoples in the country the discussion meeting put forward following demands to the government:

  • Implement the CHT Accord 1997 fully declaring a time-bound roadmap for implementation.
  • Ratify the ILO Convention No. 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples.
  • Form an independent land commission and set up a separate ministry for plains indigenous peoples.
  • End violence against indigenous women and children and make legal aid services available to the victims of violence.
  • Enact indigenous peoples rights act to protect and promote the rights of indigenous peoples.
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Intervention of Bablu Chakma on agenda item 4 of 16th session of the UNPFii http://kapaeeng.org/intervention-of-bablu-chakma-on-agenda-item-4-of-16th-session-of-the-unpfii/ http://kapaeeng.org/intervention-of-bablu-chakma-on-agenda-item-4-of-16th-session-of-the-unpfii/#respond Wed, 03 May 2017 05:40:30 +0000 http://kapaeeng.org/?p=1873 The 16th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
The UN Headquarters, New York, 24 April-5 May 2017

Agenda Item- 4: Implementation of the six mandated areas of the Permanent Forum with reference to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

By Bablu Chakma (email: [email protected]), Kapaeeng Foundation (email: [email protected])


Thank you Madam/Mr. Chair.

My name is Bablu Chakma and I am representing Kapaeeng Foundation. I wish to express my gratitude to Voluntary Fund for allowing me to participate in this session of the Forum.

Like indigenous peoples of all over the globe, one of the major problems for indigenous peoples in Bangladesh is land grabbing by influential people from the mainstream population. It has been acknowledged by the government of Bangladesh in its 7th Five Year Plan (2016-2020). This development plan also acknowledged that the government policies to protect the land of ethnic people have not been adequate.

Hence, most of human rights violations upon indigenous peoples in Bangladesh take place centering around land. Land grabbing continues to be a major issue of concern for indigenous peoples. In 2016, over 15,430 acres of lands belonging to indigenous peoples were under process of acquisition, mostly for the establishment of special economic zones, tourist spots and reserve forests. In the same year, land grabbing in the plains resulted in the eviction of 1,216 families from their homesteads and left 1,035 families under threat of eviction both in the CHT and in the plains. The government is yet to form a separate Land Commission for plains indigenous peoples despite its assurance in its election manifesto.

One of the core issues of the CHT Accord of 1997 signed between Jumma peoples and Government of Bangladesh is resolution of land disputes through a Land Commission headed by retired Justice in accordance with the laws, customs and practices in force in the CHT. The Land Commission could not start its functions for resolution of land disputes for last 17 years due to pending amendment of contradictory provisions in the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001.

Recently, the government has taken a bold initiative through amendment of the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act in 2016. However, the Land Commission is facing enormous challenges in terms of its budget, office space, human resources and necessary expedite to settle land disputes. The Rules of Business of the Commission has not been final as of today. It would be difficult for the Commission to start processing cases relating to land disputes as well as adjudicating them without the Rules of Business.

It is worthy to mention that the rehabilitation of Bengali settlers outside the CHT is a must for sustainable resolution of the land disputes in CHT. In this regards, a strategic plan should be taken to relocate the Bengali settlers who were settled down in CHT in 1979 and onwards by the then governments.

Given this backdrop, I would like urge the Forum to encourage Bangladesh Government:

  • For proper resolution of land disputes to ensure-
    1. Immediate adoption of Rules of Business of the Commission;
    2. Allocation of adequate fund for smooth functioning of the Commission;
    3. Appointment of adequate manpower of the Commission; and
    4. Setting up two sub-office of the Commission in Rangamati and Bandarban district;
  • To form a separate Land Commission for restitution of dispossessed lands of indigenous peoples in the plains.

Published on 1 May 2017

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Land grabbing dropped Rakhaine population to 5 percent in Coastal region in Bangladesh http://kapaeeng.org/land-grabbing-dropped-rakhaine-population-to-5-percent-in-coastal-region-in-bangladesh/ http://kapaeeng.org/land-grabbing-dropped-rakhaine-population-to-5-percent-in-coastal-region-in-bangladesh/#respond Fri, 31 Mar 2017 11:18:51 +0000 http://kapaeeng.org/?p=1860 reveals fact-finding mission of eminent citizen

The population of the Rakhaine people of two southern coastal districts – Patuakhali and Borguna – have gone down to as low as five percent over past few decades as a result of rampant land grabbing and persecution. This deplorable picture was revealed in a press conference organized on 29 March 2017 at Dhaka Reporters Unity in Dhaka following a fact-finding mission conducted by a team of eminent citizens of the country with the support of Caritas, Kapaeeng Foundation, Institute of Environment and Development (IED) and Association for Land Reforms and Development (ALRD).

As a follow up to the fact-finding mission made in August 2015, a 13-member civil society team led by veteran politician Pankaj Bhattacharya conducted a fresh fact-finding mission in several villages of Taltoli upazila (sub-district) of Borguna district and Kalapara upazila under Patuakhali district from17-19 March 2017. The fact-finding mission was aimed at revealing the current on-ground situation of human rights of the Rakhaine people of this part of the country.

The findings of the mission reveal a very gruesome and alarming state of the Rakhaine people as a result of rampant land grabbing. Land grabbing and associated violence, persecution and intimidation of different forms forced them to leave the country and migrate in the neighbouring states of Myanmar. The study shows that more than 50,000 Rakhaine people used to live in 237 villages of Borguna and Patuakhali districts until few decades ago. However, the citizen’s committee found that as a result of continued land grabbing, suppression and persecution, the Rakhaines were continuously forced to migrate to Myanmar – which resulted in significant reduction of their population. Referring to a Caritas survey, fact-finding mission report mentioned that only 2,561 Rakhaine people were living in 43 villages in 2014. This implies that the Rakhaine population has reduced to as low as five percent.

The findings-sharing press conference was moderated by Dhaka University teacher Robaet Ferdous while it was chaired by Oikya NAP president and leader of the fact-finding team Pankaj Bhattacharya. The fact-finding mission report was delivered by Numan Ahmed Khan, Executive Director of IED. Eminent researcher and columnist Syed Abul Maksud, Executive Director of ALRD Shamsul Huda, General Secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum (BIPF) Sanjeeb Drong, Chairperson of Kapaeeng Foundation and President of the Jatiya Adivasi Parishad Rabindranath Soren and Information and Publicity Secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum Dipayana Khisa, among others, were present in the press conference.

While addressing the press conference, eminent researcher and columnist Syed Abul Maksud said, if we fail to take proper and urgent actions, a part of Rakhaine civilization and the culture of Buddhist communities will be abolished from the country. He also mentioned the main cause of extinction of Rakhaine community is due to widespread population in-migration of the mainstream population in their territories. He also demanded to set-up a separate Land Commission to protect and restore the lands of the Rakhaine indigenous community of the area.

Oikya NAP president Pankaj Bhattacharya said, we must protect our indigenous peoples to preserve the country’s unique diversity. He also demanded strict enforcement of Section 97 of the State Acquisition and Tenancy Act 1950 for ending grabbing of the land of Rakhaine people. He also opined that the nation should seek apology from the indigenous peoples for the brutality carried on them for decades.

Executive Director of ALRD Shamsul Huda said, the State Acquisition and Tenancy Act1950 is supposed to work as a safeguard for the pains indigenous peoples, however, its success rate in protecting their rights is close to zero. He also stated that due to the rampant corruption of the government officials too, the Rakhaine people are losing their ancestral lands. He demanded for proper enforcement of State Acquisition and Tenancy Act 1950 for the plains indigenous peoples in order for protecting them from the eviction.

The civil society members urged the government to take immediate action to protect the Rakhaines of Borguna and Patuakhali districts. In this regard, they issued a list of recommendation in the press conference. The recommendations include:

  • To form an independent land commission for plains indigenous peoples to recover and return their lands and to set up a special tribunal at district level.
  • To enforce Section 97 of State Acquisition and Tenancy Act 1950 in order for protecting them from the eviction of the plains indigenous peoples.
  • return their grabbed ponds, burial grounds and temples and punish those who are involved in grabbing land of indigenous Rakhaine people.
  • To ensure individual and collective land rights of Rakhaine people as per ILO’s Indigenous and Tribal Population Convention (No. 107) which was ratified by Bangladesh.
  • To restitute Rakhaine name of their villages and places which were made distorted and to stop acquisition of reserved land including historical and spiritual site of Rakhaine people.
  • To organise public hearing with Rakhaine people regularly with an aim to stop land alienation of Rakhaine people and form a special cell at the Deputy Commissioner’s office in the indigenous-inhabited districts to address and resolve their problems.
  • To provide security of lives and properties of Rakhaine people and to take proper measures for stopping out-migration of Rakhaine people.
  • To name a university hall, road, bridge or installation or Kuakata Cultural Institute in the name of U Swe Rakhaine who was language movement activist in 1952.

The other members of fact-finding mission were Associate Professor Robaet Ferdous, teacher of Mass Communication and Journalism Department of Dhaka University; Numan Ahmed Khan, Executive Director of IED; Mangal Kumar Chakma, information and publicity secretary of PCJSS; Rajib Noor, reporter of the daily Samakal; Pavel Partha, researcher and diversity activist; Tanvir Ahmed, reporter of the daily Bhorer Kagoj; Emran Hossain Emon, reporter of the daily New Age; Sona Rani Chakma, vice president of Parbatya Chattagram Mahila Samiti; Rowshan Masuda, human rights defender; Dipayon Khisa, information and publicity secretary of BIPF; Lata Ahmed, film maker et al.

Published on 31 March 2017.

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Discussion on Government Pledges and Situation of Indigenous Women and Girls held in Dhaka http://kapaeeng.org/discussion-on-government-pledges-and-situation-of-indigenous-women-and-girls-held-in-dhaka/ http://kapaeeng.org/discussion-on-government-pledges-and-situation-of-indigenous-women-and-girls-held-in-dhaka/#respond Wed, 22 Mar 2017 11:10:03 +0000 http://kapaeeng.org/?p=1857 KF Report: On 20 March 2017, Kapaeeng Foundation (KF) and Bangladesh Indigenous Women’s Network (BIWN) jointly organized a discussion meeting titled “Government Pledges and Situation of Indigenous Women and Girls” at the Daily Star Center, Dhaka.

Kazi Reazul Haque, Chairman of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Bangladesh was present as the chief guest in the discussion meeting. Noted politician Shirin Akhter, Member of Parliament; Farida Yasmin, Deputy Commissioner of Head of Victim Support Center of Dhaka Metropolitan Police; Advocate Rakhi Das Purkayastha, Joint General Secretary, Bangladesh Mohila Parishad; Halima Begum of Department of Women Affairs;

Pallab Chakma, Executive Director of Kapaeeng Foundation also addressed the discussion meeting. The event was moderated by Dr Sadeka Halim, former Information Commissioner and professor of Dhaka University while Sulekha Mrong, Indigenous Women Leader and Member of Bangladesh Indigenous Women’s Network (BIWN) chaired the event. Falguni Tripura, Secretariat Coordinator of BIWN delivered the keynote paper.

Kazi Reazul Haque said, Bangladesh Government does not tolerate any crime and it has already ratified many international conventions in order to develop the human rights situation of the country. The Government and National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh have been shocked to notice the incident of the Santal people at Gobindaganj in Gaibandha district. But it should also to be remembered that the Government as a whole is not responsible, but local political leaders with the support of local administration is responsible for this crime that had been carried out against the indigenous Santal people, he added.

Kazi Reazul also said that, indigenous peoples of Bangladesh significantly contributed during the liberation war side by side majority Bengali people. Hence, the land and other rights of indigenous people have to be protected. The High Court of Bangladesh has proved that human rights situation of the country is still not beyond control by giving the judgment against the attacks on Santal people in Gaibandha.

Shirin Akhter MP said, we have to find the factors behind the violence against women while changing the perspectives towards indigenous peoples. She also addressed that all type of violence against women should be monitored directly by the state itself. There are many laws to prevent violence against women, but when it comes to implementation, the process becomes very lengthy. The government should put considerable emphasis on the matter.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Farida Yasmin said, violence against women has been increasing day by day. Because of the loopholes in the initiatives and investigations, the perpetrators are escaping away and justice is being denied. All law enforcing agencies, Department of Women and Children Affairs and the Judiciary Department should come forward to play a great role in reducing violence against women along with the Govt.

Mohila Parishad leader Rakhi Das Purkayastha said, the livelihood of indigenous women is more challenging than their majority counterparts. When it comes to implementation of any laws, the women the indigenous women always lag behind. In this regard, the government has to take more actions make them aware so to reduce injustice and violence against indigenous women, she added. She also mentioned that the government should fulfill its promises regarding combating violence against women in the country.

Women Affairs Department representative Halima Begum stated that, there are many activities which are being conducted by the Government to stop violence against women, but most women in the country do not know about the processes in this regard. She also emphasized on gathering all the information and evidences regarding any violations against women because half the cases do not see any success due to the lack of right information and supporting evidences.

Prof. Dr. Sadeka Halim said, there are no initiatives to keep the record of the violence of the women. She recommended the NHRC to build a database to preserve the violations records concerning women and demanded to take actions to reduce violence against women.

Romila Kisku, a Santal woman from Gobindaganj, alleged that the Santals in her village were still being harassed by members of the administration.

In her keynote paper, BIWN Coordinator Falguni Tripura outlined the current state of human rights and pledges the government made through different UN treaties. She also shared an analysis of current state of indigenous women in Bangladesh. In the span of three years, human rights abuse on Adivasi women has doubled and the victims do not get justice from the police, court and civil administration. Falguni has said it may look that the number of crime inflicted upon Adivasi women and child are only 53 incidents, but the ratio in relations to national average is 5.7 percent, whereas the national population of indigenous peoples is only 1.8 percent. Indigenous women and girl victims do not get cooperation from the police, hospital doctors and local administration, which hinders from getting justice for the crime they suffered. Despite constitutional obligation of having reserved seats in national parliament and local government, indigenous women were not represented in Jatiya Sangsad and Local Government Councils, lamented Falguni Tripura of BIWN. The government needs to take stern actions against the perpetrators of the crimes to establish the rights of indigenous women and girls after determining the causes behind such violence, she demanded. Finally, concerning protection of indigenous women and girls from violence, Ms. Falguni Tripura recommended followings:

  • Establish the human rights of indigenous women.
  • Take immediate and proper actions to reduce violence against indigenous women and girls.
  • Ensure punishment of the alleged perpetrators of violence against indigenous women and girls.
  • Ensure commensurate compensation and rehabilitation of the victim.
  • Ensure proper medical and legal aid support for the victims.
  • Ensure effective and meaningful consultations with indigenous women prior to formulating policies concerning the development of women and keep a separate chapter for the indigenous women in the National Women Development Policy.
  • Implement the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord 1997 fully and declare a time bound road map for implementation of the Accord.
  • Establish a separate land commission for the plains indigenous peoples.
  • Ensure education and health services for indigenous women.
  • Take special measures to reduce maternal and child mortality of indigenous peoples.
  • Ensure the rights of indigenous women in land and property and recognize the role of indigenous women in preserving the forests and natural resources.
  • Ensure quota for indigenous women in every sector and allowances for the widowed and elderly women.
  • Ensure indigenous women representative’s area wise in Parliament and Local Government.

Published on 22 March 2017.

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Kapaeeng Foundation launches Human Rights Report 2016 on Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh http://kapaeeng.org/kapaeeng-foundation-launches-human-rights-report-2016-on-indigenous-peoples-in-bangladesh/ http://kapaeeng.org/kapaeeng-foundation-launches-human-rights-report-2016-on-indigenous-peoples-in-bangladesh/#respond Sun, 26 Feb 2017 15:43:25 +0000 http://kapaeeng.org/?p=1850 Kapaeeng Foundation (KF) launched Human Rights Report 2016 on Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh. The launching and dissemination program of the Report was organised on 26 February 2017 at Tawfiq Aziz Khan Seminar Hall of The Daily Star Bhavan in Dhaka. KF published this human rights report with the support of Oxfam.

Former honorable chairman of National Human Rights Commission Prof. Dr. Mizanur Rahman was present as the chief guest while chairperson of Kapaeeng Foundation Mr. Rabindranath Soren presided over the program. Noted women rights activist and Nijera Kori coordinator Khushi Kabir, general secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum Mr. Sanjeeb Drong and senior policy officer of Oxfam Mehbooba Yasmin were present and delivered their speech.

The program was moderated by Falguni Tripura and vice chairperson of Kapaeeng Foundation Chaitali Tripura delivered welcome speech. Around hundreds human rights defenders, lawyers, academics, journalistsstudents, indigenous rights activists, civil society members, representatives of development partners, among others, were also present and discussants in the event.

Mr. Pallab Chakma, executive director of Kapaeeng Foundation and one of the editor of the report made a presentation on the overall situation of human rights in 2016 on indigenous peoples in Bangladesh.

Prof. Dr. Mizanur Rahman said human rights situation of indigenous peoples is becoming worst day by day. Indigenous peoples in Bangladesh has been unpeopling from the country. State should supposed to taking care of human rights violation of the country. But states fails to protect human rights of indigenous peoples in the country. Human rights violation of a single person threatens human rights of all other peoples in the society. Overall situation of the country will not be improved if violence against indigenous peoples continues.

In the declaration of our independence being said that ensure equality, social justice and human dignity of all people of the country. We called human rights of these three together. But, is state is protecting the dignity of its dignity? he raises the question. The responsibility of the state is protecting the dignity ensure equality and social justice. But we see that police who are responsible to protect the citizens, they are involved in arson of Santal houses in Gaibandha. In this context, he said, Superintendent of Police of Gaibandha district has been transferred to Khagrachari. His job is transferable, then how the transfer is punishment for him? It is the people’s democratic state with a major intellectual fraud. State should bring into justice who is involved with human rights violations, until the end of the investigation should be relieved of his actions and should take appropriate action once the investigation ends.

The former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission also said the state’s sole aim should be to put the welfare of every citizen. And it will be able to make our dreamsBangladesh, Bangabandhu’s golden Bangladesh.

He also said that Bangladesh is becoming middle income country. But the human rights situation in the country does not improve as expected. Without the improvement of the human rights of the people development will not be succeed.Moreover the global human rights is under threat. So all of us have to work together for human rights.

Khushi Kabir said there is no doubt the situation of human rights is not good in our country. People are being killed because of free thought, different culture, language does not welcome here. We must have to improve the situation. The district superintendent of Gaibandha is responsible for human rights violations against Santals is under investigation, how can he transferred to Khagrachari? He urged the government to notify the appropriate logic or reason. Ensuring indigenous rights is state responsibility. Indigenous Identity exist forever if state demolish their identity by calling as “Khudra Nrigoshti.” She said.

Sanjeev Drong said the indigenous peoples of Bangladesh and the situation is going through the worst time ever. The important factor is how many incidents brought into justice instead of decrease or increase numberof human rights violations against indigenous people. He also alleged that not a single case of any incident brought into justice. No single perpetrator got punishment. He also expect that state will take step against all those perpetrators.

Oxfam’s senior policy officer Yasmin Mehbooba said the human rights report on indigenous peoples of the country is helping us understand the true picture of overall situation of human rights. We will able to draw the way forward activity for indigenous peoples through the human rights report.

In his concluding remark Rabindranath Soren said indigenous people had been tortured and forced to migrate to neighboring country due to not getting justice. Therefore, to protect the human rights of indigenous peoples, indigenous peoples have to fight unitedly.


Indigenous peoples belonging to more than 54 different ethnic groups are known, as per available historical records, to be living across Bangladesh for centuries. 2011 census puts the indigenous population of Bangladesh at around 1,587,000 accounting for 1.08% of the total population of Bangladesh. However, indigenous peoples in the plains strongly dispute the 2011 census report on the figure of their indigenous population and claim that their population in the plains alone is estimated at about 2.0 million. Disaggregated official data being unavailable, the demographic distribution of different ethnic indigenous population groups remained uncertain.

However, they were denied of their recognition as indigenous peoples when 15th amendment to the constitution passed on 30 June 2011 described them as “tribes, minor races, ethnic sects and communities” [Article 23(A)]. Instead they were labelled as “Banglaees” ignoring the distinct identities of indigenous peoples [Article 6(2)]. Bangladesh ratified ILO Convention 107 in 1972, but yet to bring about any positive change in the lives of indigenous peoples. The pledges of the government made in the 7th Five Year Plan to ensure legal protection to indigenous peoples by 1) implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007 and ratifying the ILO Convention No. 169, 2) formulating a land policy to deal with land disputes involving ethnic communities and finally 3) ensuring the participation of local governments in the management of natural resources” are yet to be materialized.

The Foreign Donation (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act, passed in October 2016, and the proposed amendments to the Press Council Act are considered by many as instruments to control NGOs freedom of expression and association and for gauging newspapers respectively. On the other hand, a government directive in 2015 requiring individuals of national & foreign organizations to ensure presence of local administration, army/BGB in any events they wish to organize in the CHT, in fact, placed severe restrictions on them.

In the year under review, the indigenous peoples continued to be dispossessed of their lands, the mainstay of their subsistence, as land grabbers’ drive for robbing indigenous peoples’ land using forged land documents, intimidation, gaps in country’s legal system and patronage from the establishment persisted. Legal battle proved futile as there is almost no evidence of restitution of land won in the law court.

Bangladesh claims to have achieved the status of a lower-middle income earning country. However, there is no reflection of this achievement on the lives of indigenous peoples, who still a wait to be lifted out of the cycle of deprivation of rights and marginalization of opportunities. The continuation of the existence of indigenous peoples with their distinctive identities in this country is still threatened. When spaces for accountability, rule of law, democracy and transparency in the country are narrowed down, the miseries of indigenous peoples are destined to be aggravated. However, it is reassuring is that the civil society and media of the country are getting vocal about indigenous peoples’ rights as well as the implementation of the CHT Accord. Despite the presence of a prejudiced section among the mainstream population against indigenous peoples’ aspirations, a number of support-networks among them have started coming up, though their activities are yet to gain necessary momentum.

Situation of Civil and Political Rights

Indigenous peoples need political access to fight for their rights and to hold their governments accountable. The key to stimulating the struggle for human rights of the indigenous peoples lies in their greater political inclusion. Discrimination is widespread in the behavior of public officials both at the national and local level and in the attitude of political parties. The government’s attitude, too, towards indigenous peoples reflects their hegemonic and discriminatory views.

In the last Union Parishad elections held from 11 February 2016 to 4 June 2016 throughout the country, none from among indigenous communities in the plain land could have been elected as chairman, though more than half of indigenous population of the country live there. Unlike in the plain land, chairman candidates from indigenous communities in the CHT won elections in the 83 Union Parishads out of 115 in three hill districts. However, though there is a concentration of indigenous population in the CHT, no single Mayoral candidate from indigenous communities was elected in elections to any of 7 municipalities (pourasavas) in the CHT held in December 2015.

The Supreme Court in one of its rulings restrained law enforcement agencies from making arbitrary arrests on suspicion. However, in spite of the ruling, there is a growing trend of making arbitrary arrests, detention and enforced disappearances in the country and members of law enforcement agencies involved in such crimes enjoy full impunity. In 2016, criminalization of activities of Indigenous Peoples’ Human Rights Defenders (IPHRDs) and IPOs by state and non-state actors continues both in the CHT and in the plains resulting in arbitrary arrests, detention and intimidation of them. In 2016, fabricated cases were filed against at least 191 IPOs and IPHRDs activists including 42 innocent indigenous villagers in the plain land, while 80 activists including 3 public representatives were arrested and more than 81 persons including 4 from the plain land were detained briefly.

In 2016, at least 23 indigenous fellows (including 6 indigenous women and girls, please see ‘Chapter IV: Situation of Women and Girls’ Rights’) were killed in the CHT and in the plains. Despite the rulings against extrajudicial killings by the Supreme Court of the country, quite a number of indigenous peoples were reported to have been extra-judicially killed in 2016. The most ghastly and atrocious incident was the killing of 3 Santals in Gaibandha by police firing.

At least, 96 members of indigenous communities were physically tortured and harassed, and 297 houses including a Buddhist Temple were searched and ransacked by law enforcement agencies while conducting a search operation. At least 3 communal attacks by fanatics, land grabbers and settlers were carried out against indigenous peoples in which their houses and properties were destroyed and looted. As many as 200 houses belonging to indigenous Santals were set on fire and burnt to ashes by land grabbers in presence of the law enforcing agencies and security forces in Gaibandha district in November, 2016. In a video of this incident that went viral in the electronic and social media, police were seen setting fire to the indigenous Santal houses.

The district administration in the CHT were alleged to be indulged in forbidding assemblies and rallies organized by various IPOs. For instances, Khagrachari district administration and law enforcement agencies prohibited, on a number of occasions, formation of human chains organized by IPOs and Civil Society organizations including a 300 kilometre-long in the three hill districts of the CHT on 9 January 2016 demanding for proper, speedy and fullest implementation of the CHT Accord and formation of an independent Land Commission for indigenous peoples of the plain land. This is also disturbing that despite constitutional guarantee in regards to equal status and equal rights in practicing any religious faiths other than Islam, there were alleged reports of religious persecution on indigenous peoples and other religious minorities continues.

Table: Human Rights Violations in 2015 and 2016

Type of violation 2015 2016
CHT Plain Total CHT Plain Total
Arrest and detention 52 22 74 152 9 161
Killing 7 3 10 11 6 17
Torture, assault and intimidation 101 38 139 79 17 96
Communal attack 4 1 5 2 1 3
Destruction and looting of house and property 84 84 97 97
Houses set on fire 3 32 35 5 200 205
No. of persons against whom cases were filed 128 31 159 149 42 191


Situation of the Rights of Land and Natural Resources

2016 was to become one of the critical years for the indigenous peoples of Bangladesh, especially the Santals of Gobindagonj in Gaibandha district. The local administration with the help of police and hired goons resorted to an eviction drive on 6 November 2016 at Shahebgonj-Bagda Farm area in Gobindagonj to forcibly evict indigenous Santals and poor Bengali farmers from their ancestral land alleging that the lands belonged to the Bagda Farm. This brutal eviction drive left at least 3 Santal men killed and many others injured. Moreover, about 1200 indigenous families were forced to run for their life as their houses were completely burnt to ashes. The incident of Gobindagonj is a glaring example of the extent of helpless that indigenous peoples are thrust in.

Notwithstanding the deep frustration overshadowing the hopes of CHT indigenous peoples, a bold move by the government towards implementing the CHT Accord in 2016 was the amendment of contradictory provisions of the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001. In spite of many other challenges that still stand in the way of implementing the said law for resolution of land disputes, it is, however, hoped that this amendment would help to resolve land disputes in the CHT and facilitate restitution of dispossessed lands to the rightful owners. On the contrary, in 2016, land confiscation, eviction and attack on indigenous people in the CHT in the name of establishment of tourist spots and BOPs, rubber plantations and land leases to outsiders have alarmingly increased in the CHT. As a whole, the land rights situation remained disconcerting in 2016.

In this year, at least 6 indigenous people were killed, including 5 from the plain land and one from the CHT, and 84 persons were injured in land related incidents in the country. Livelihoods of at least 31699 families of which 606 families were from the CHT and 31093 families from the plains came under threat following persistent land grabbing belonging to indigenous peoples. Besides, 1208 houses of indigenous peoples were burnt to ashes in the plain land.

Moreover, over 15429.98 acres of lands belonging to indigenous peoples were reported to have been brought under the process of acquisition, mostly for the establishment of special economic zone, special tourist zone and reserve forests. Land grabbing in the plains led to the eviction of 1216 families from their homesteads and 1035 families were being threatened with eviction both in the CHT and in the plain land. Moreover, this year, at least 17 houses belonging to indigenous peoples were destroyed and looted while 37 women were molested by land grabbers in the land related incidents both in the CHT and in the plains. Unfortunately, most of the wrongdoers remained unpunished.

Compared to 2015, the number of houses burnt, persons assaulted and injured, families evicted, women molested and the number of persons killed increased noticeably in 2016. The number of families threatened with eviction remained almost the same compared to the previous year. But the premeditated brutalities committed in Gobindagonj in November, at the end of the year, had out did the magnitude of fatalities in the plains triggered during the previous year.

Table: Land Related incidents and causalities in 2016

Form of atrocity CHT Plains Total
No. of Houses burnt to ashes 1208 1208
No. of houses looted and ransacked/ demolished 7 10 17
No. of persons assaulted & injured 2 82 84
No. of person killed 1 5 6
No. of rape attempts/ molestation against women 8 29 37
No. of families livelihood under threaten 606 31093 31699
No. of evicted families 1216 1216
No. of families threaten to evict 31 1004 1035
Amount of land under grabbing/acquisition (in acres) 2333.98 13096 15429.98
No. of persons against whom false case filled 58 400 458
Arrest 9 4 13
No. of religious institution/graveyard are in danger of land grabbing 1 4 5


Situation of the Rights of Indigenous Women and Girls

As many as 53 cases of violence against indigenous women were reported from January 2016 to December 2016 in which a total of 58 indigenous women and girls were assaulted sexually and physically. 25 of these cases took place in the plain lands in which 28 indigenous women and girls were victims of physical and sexual violence in contrast to 28 such cases in the CHT where 30 women and girls were the number of victim/survivor.

As of December 2016, rape attempts were made on at least 10 indigenous women and girls. Besides, 8 indigenous women were physically assaulted, 17 women were raped, six were killed/ killed after rape, nine women were gang raped. Furthermore, 2 cases on sexual harassment and 5 kidnapping cases were reported. Among the 85 offenders, 72 were from the mainstream Bengali community and two happened to be a member of law enforcement agency, while 11 malefactors were from the indigenous background. The age of the victims were reported to be ranging from 3 to 35 years.

The figures of human rights violations against indigenous women and girls as reported in 2016 dropped slightly in relation to what happened in 2015. For instance, in 2015 the total number of cases on human rights violations against indigenous women from January to December was 69 while the number stood at 85. In the next previous year during the same time period, a total of 53 incidents have occurred in which 58 indigenous women and girls fell victims of physical and sexual violence. The causes for such a fall in incidents of violence against the female members of indigenous communities may be traced either to the development of some positivity, especially on human rights issues of indigenous people, in the attitude of a section of the mainstream population or may be the beginning of change in the outlooks and perspectives of mainstream people towards indigenous women.

Table: Types of Violence against Indigenous Women and Girls and Number of these Victims/Survivors of Violence in Bangladesh (2007-16)

Year Rape/Gang Rape Killed after Rape Physical Assault Attempted Rape Abduction/Kidnap Sexual Harassment /Molested Trafficking Total
2007 5 3 1 9
2008 3 1 4
2009 2 4 6 3 1 16
2010 7 5 6 5 2 25
2011 11 7 8 5 31
2012 17 7 36 13 2 75
2013 15 4 16 9 5 10 8 67
2014 21 7 58 22 10 4 0 122
2015 28 3 21 17 5 9 2 85
2016 26 6 8 10 6 2 0 58
Total 135 44 151 90 37 25 10 492


Human Rights Organisation “Odhikar” reported that there were 1028 women victims of which 757 were raped and 271 were sexual harassed in 2016. If compared in terms of percentage by assuming all the 1028 victims as Bengali and indigenous women and girls, we find that 5.7% of the victims/survivors in 2016 were from indigenous communities, who are merely 1.8% of country’s total population, while the remaining 94.3% victims were from the Bengali community, who are the majority in the country with 98.2% of the total population. This statistical data makes it clear that the propensity of sexual crime and physical violence against indigenous women is higher than that faced by mainstream Bengali women. Such incidents occur massively due to ethnic and cultural differences.

A glance at the numbers and incidents of human rights violations against indigenous women and girls makes it clear that similar to the previous years, indigenous women in the plains were at a higher risk of being targets of violence in 2016 compared to indigenous women in the CHT. There are also other forms of violence (such as emotional violence, cybercrimes against indigenous women and girls, domestic violence etc.) which remain unreported or if not, less reported. In addition, the mortality rate among indigenous women is high due to poor existing maternal health services or absence/lack of proficient gynecologists indicating inadequate health care services and lack of health professionals to address the concern.

State of Child, Youth and Education Rights

While the human rights situation of indigenous peoples in general is in a dreadful state, a closer look into the state of human rights of indigenous children and youths in the country also doesn’t reveal a satisfactory picture. The issues of indigenous children often take the backseat and not much of it is discussed about. There is the lack of segregated data and information on indigenous children issues. Accordingly, it is problematic to analyse the human rights situation of indigenous children in the country. However, from a routine observation it becomes clear that indigenous children in Bangladesh are doubly discriminated — firstly, because they are indigenous and secondly, because they are children. Their human rights enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to which Bangladesh is a signatory, are routinely violated. Article 30 of the CRC directs the States to take measures so that any indigenous child “shall not be denied the right, in community with other members of his or her group, to enjoy his or her own culture, to profess and practice his or her own religion, or to use his or her own language.” While the rights to culture, religion and language enshrined in this article are deemed imperative, indigenous children are often seen to be denied of and discriminated against on the ground of these issues.

Similar to that of children, indigenous youth too face age-group-specific human rights issues because of their identity firstly as indigenous and secondly as youth. Indigenous youths, being always in the forefront of handling issues affecting indigenous communities as a whole, often confront a situation that tend to curb their rights seriously. Especially, when it comes to violations of human rights faced by indigenous peoples, youths tend to be the prime victims. As was shown in other chapters of the report, indigenous youths, including girls (covered with special attention in Chapter IV), is one of the groups among indigenous peoples that faced discrimination and rights violations most in 2016.

Amid mixed developments in different areas of rights of indigenous children and youths, their right to education remained in the focus throughout the year. Government repeatedly expressed its commitment to bring changes in this regard. Government representatives on many occasions uttered about introducing mother tongue based pre-primary education in five indigenous languages and undertaking of other related initiatives as well. Thus, although such positive developments were observed throughout the year, some initiatives put into action by the government violated the educational rights of children and youths instead and suffered as well from serious limitations.

CHT Accord of 1997: Present State and Challenges of Its Implementation

After holding decade-long dialogues with the successive governments from 1985 to 1997, the CHT Accord was signed on 2 December 1997 with an aim to resolve CHT crisis through political and peaceful means. But substantial progress is yet to be achieved due to non-implementation of the main issues of the Accord.

The Government implemented some provisions of the Accord, such as, enactment of CHT Regional Council Act 1998, amendment of three Hill District Council Acts in 1998 and enactment of CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001 which was amended in 2016 as per 13-point recommendations; formation of interim CHTRC and Ministry of CHT Affairs; repatriation of Jumma refugees from Indian state of Tripura; withdrawal of around 100 temporary camps (where the government claims withdrawal of around 200 camps); formation of CHT Accord Implementation Committee, CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission and Task Force on Rehabilitation of Returnee Refugees and IDPs, etc.

However, no effective initiative for implementation of the main issues of the Accord has been taken even after 19 years. The main issues remain unimplemented are legal and effective safeguard measures to preserve tribal-inhabited features of the region, devolution of powers and functions to the CHTRC and three HDCs, holding elections of the CHTRC and three HDCs formulating Electoral Roll Rules and Election Rules and preparing voter list with permanent residents of three hill districts of CHT, withdrawal of all temporary camps and de facto military rule ‘Operation Uttoron’ (Operation Upliftment) from CHT, with a time limit to be announced immediately, rehabilitation of Internally Jumma Displaced Families and Returnee (India-Returned) Jumma Refugees and returning lands and homesteads back to them, amendment of all the other laws applicable to CHT including the Police Act, Police Regulation and CHT Regulation 1900 to make them in conformity with the Accord.

At last, in August 2016 the contradictory clauses of the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001 have been amended after long delay and negotiation.Although the CHT Land Commission has started to function, the effective functioning of the Commission in settling land disputes is still questionable due to the constraints as a result of limited initiatives by the government. The office setup is very poor with limited resources including fund, logistic and human resources. After transfer of secretary of the Land Commission from the office of the Commission in November 2016, it has only two staff. Even, the Commission does not have any fund for functioning of day-to-day works. The government is yet to allocate adequate fund, to approve adequate manpower and to set up two sub-office in Rangamati and Bandarban district. The Rules of Business of the Commission is yet to be framed. The CHTRC submitted a draft Rules of Business to the government in December 2016, but no substantial progress has been found in finalising and approving the draft Rules of Business. Without having Rules of Business, it would be difficult for the Commission to start hearing of the land disputes as well as judicial functions of the Commission.

It is to be mentioned that different decisions are being taken and implemented with regard to matters relating to general administration, law & order, and development by the government authorities, without consulting or informing the CHT Regional Council and Hill District Councils. For instance, in forming and setting up of Guimara upazila, Sajek police station, and Bartholi union, the CHT Regional Council and the concerned Hill District Council were not consulted before deciding on such important issues. Decisions on development activities of public interests such as construction of border roads along the three hill districts, land port at Thegamukh, setting up of luxurious tourism complexes under the patronage of local military authority and Parjatan Corporation, declaration of protected and reserved forests, installation of Border Out Posts (BOP) for Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) are being made and implemented without consulting with the CHT Regional Council and the three Hill District Councils.

Since reconstitution of the Task Force during the present grand alliance government (2009-2016), no development in rehabilitating the internally displaced Jumma families, returnee Jumma refugees and ex-combatants of PCJSS has been achieved. The government side is still following the previous policy to rehabilitate Bengali settlers in the CHT identifying them as IDPs which is contradictory to the CHT Accord. As a result, though 19 years have passed by after signing the CHT Accord, the rehabilitation process of the tribal IDPs remains in the dead end situation.

Please click here to download the Human Rights Report 2016

Published on 26 February 2017.

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Discussion Meeting on ‘19th Anniversary of the CHT Accord: Land Rights and Realities of Local People’ held in Dhaka http://kapaeeng.org/discussion-meeting-on-19th-anniversary-of-the-cht-accord-land-rights-and-realities-of-local-people-held-in-dhaka/ http://kapaeeng.org/discussion-meeting-on-19th-anniversary-of-the-cht-accord-land-rights-and-realities-of-local-people-held-in-dhaka/#respond Thu, 01 Dec 2016 14:57:17 +0000 http://kapaeeng.org/?p=1796 To mark the 19th anniversary of the signing of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Accord 1997, Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum (BIPF) and Kapaeeng Foundation jointly organized a discussion meeting titled “19th Anniversary of the CHT Accord: Land Rights and Realities of Local People” on 1 December 2016 at Azimur Rahman Conference Hall, The Daily Star Bhaban, Karwanbazar, Dhaka.

Mr. Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, President of the BIPF and Chairman of CHT Regional Council presided over the event while Professor Dr. Mizanur Rahman, former Chairman of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was present as the chief guest. Barrister Raja Devasish Roy, Chief of Chakma Circle and Expert Member of United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; Professor Dr. Sadeka Halim, former Information Commissioner; Professor Mesbah Kamal of Dhaka University; Ms. Shaheen Anam, Executive Director of Manusher Jonno Foundation and Mr. Shamsul Huda, Executive Director of Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD), among others, addressed the event. Mr. Pallab Chakma, Executive Director of Kapaeeng Foundation presented the keynote paper of the programme and Mr. Sanjeeb Drong, General Secretary of BIPF gave welcome speech. Hiran Mitra Chaka moderated the whole programme.

In his closing remark Mr. Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma said that civil and military bureaucracy is not interested to implement CHT Accord. There is several administration and authority exist in CHT. There is no coordination among them. The question of security for mass people is a big issue there. He further said that lack of political will of government is the main obstacle to full and effective implementation of CHT Accord. The CHT Accord remains unimplemented for last 19 years due to aggressive nationalist, communal and undemocratic outlook of the rulers and policy makers of the country. He mentioned that CHT issue is national and political problem, so the problem has to be solved through political mean. Hence, for the greater interest of the country and the nation, there is no alternative but to fully implement the CHT Accord, he added.

Mr. Larma urged all the democratic, progressive and non-communal political parties and the civil society to come forward with own programmes in support of the CHT’s local people’s demands and work as a pressure groups. If the government do not come forward with committed political will to implement the Accord with letter and spirit, Jumma peoples will bound to take alternative way to make advance of implementation of CHT Accord, he further added.

Professor Dr. Mizanur Rahman, former Chairman of NHRC, mentioned that having not been able to keep promises is shameful for the government. The non-implementation of the CHT Accord is pushing the CHT into an unexpected situation. He is concern that the process of turning the CHT into Islamized and militarized region is underway.  He said land problem is the core problem in CHT. So, if the land issues are addressed, other problem will be resolved repeatedly. He also expressed concern on harmony between Jumma and Bengali people, violence against indigenous women, Islamisation of region, business controlled by Bengali outsiders etc. He also urged the government to form mixed police force with indigenous and Bengali people to avoid any unexpected incident in CHT and building confidence among the communities. Moreover, he urged the government to provide self-determination and constitutional recognition to indigenous peoples.

Raja Devasish Roy in his speech described the critical situation of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in CHT who are mostly living in the reserve forest in Sajek area. Referring to the Jumma IDPs, he said they are even deprived of access to healthcare, education, drinking water and sanitation. Therefore, he urged the government to rehabilitate India repatriated Jumma refugees and IDPs. He demanded to transfer core subjects, including Land and Land Management, Law and Order, Police (local), Forest, Environment etc to the Hill District Councils without further delay to accelerate CHT Accord implementation process.

Professor Dr. Sadeka Halim, former Information Commissioner, said that implementation process of CHT Accord is not measureable with numbers. The number of incident related land disputes has been increasing day by day due to not resolving the land disputes through CHT Land commission in CHT.

Professor Mesbah Kamal said that CHT Accord Implementation Committee is not working effectively. He also added that civil society could help to formulate new roadmap to full and effective implementation of the CHT Accord.

Ms. Shaheen Anam, Executive Director, Manusher Jonno Foundation, said that different forms of human rights violation including communal attack, killing, rape, and abduction on indigenous peoples and minority communities are on rise across the country. She also said that due to the demographic engineering, indigenous peoples’ culture, language, religion is in endangered. Bangladesh government should take proper step to protect indigenous peoples.

ALRD Executive Director Shamsul Huda said that though CHT Land Disputes Resolution Commission has been amended in the Parliament but Rules of Business has to be framed to run functions of the Commission effectively. He urged to the government to make rules and regulations having consultation with CHT Regional Council. He also called upon the government to enhance the capacity CHT Land Commission by providing adequate fund, man powers and logistic support to ensure smooth functioning of the Commission. Finally, he proposed to rehabilitate Bengali settlers in the plain land.

photo-bipf-kf-dicusionIn his keynote, Mr. Pallab Chakma said that The lands used for traditional Jum cultivation and the lands already recorded and under occupation of the indigenous Jumma people have been given in long-term lease to such people who are not permanent residents of CHT in the name of horticulture including rubber plantation and development of orchards. In Bandarban alone, a total of 1,605 plots, 25 acres of land for each plot that stand a total of 40,077 acres of lands leased out to the outsides. Besides, thousands acres of lands have been acquired or have been under process for acquisition in the name of establishing camps, expansion of camps and training centers for the armed forces. Furthermore, as part of the program for expanding reserved forests and protected forest, the Environment and Forest Ministry undertook an initiative for acquisition of 218,000 acres of lands through gazette notifications issued from 25 June 1990 to 31 May 1998. Hundreds acres of lands are being taken in acquisition and under forcible occupation in the name of establishing tourism centers in the three hill districts.

According to CHT Accord and Hill district Council Acts, the subject of land and land management is bestowed upon the three Hill District Councils. But still Deputy Commissioners of three hill district continue holding the control of land and land management in CHT. According to the Hill District Council Acts, no land can be transferred, leased out, sale and acquired without prior approval of the Councils. However, Deputy Commissioners do not comply with these laws.

The CHT Accord also provides to resolve land disputes in CHT in consonance with the laws, customs and practices in force in the CHT through forming a land commission. the Land Commission could not start its functions for resolution of land disputes in last 19 years as because of remaining the amendment of contradictory provisions of the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001 pending.

Recently the government amended the contradictory provisions of the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001. Amendment of CHT Land Commission Act is considered to be a bold step in resolving land problem in CHT and in advancing implementation of CHT Accord. This amendment of the Land Commission Act paves the way for proper resolution of land disputes and restitution of dispossessed land to the indigenous Jumma peoples.

Keynote paper made following recommendations to ensure land rights of indigenous peoples in accordance with CHT Accord-

  1. Resolve land disputes through proper effective execution of CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act.
  2. Transfer subject of the Land and Land Management to the Hill District Councils.
  3. Cancel all the leases given to non-resident persons for rubber plantation and other plantation.
  4. Rehabilitate India-returnee Jumma refugee and internally displaced families.
  5. Rehabilitate Bengali settlers outside the CHT with due dignity.
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Kapaeeng Foundation Launches “Human Rights Report 2015 on Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh” http://kapaeeng.org/kapaeeng-foundation-launches-human-rights-report-2015-on-indigenous-peoples-in-bangladesh/ http://kapaeeng.org/kapaeeng-foundation-launches-human-rights-report-2015-on-indigenous-peoples-in-bangladesh/#comments Wed, 23 Mar 2016 12:20:33 +0000 http://kapaeeng.org/?p=1696 KF Report: On 23 March 2016, Kapaeeng Foundation (KF) with support from Oxfam launched the “Human Rights Report 2015 on Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh” at Tawfiq Aziz Khan Seminar Hall, The Daily Star, Dhaka.

Noted human rights activist and Former Adviser to the Caretaker Government of Bangladesh Advocate Sultana Kamal present as Chief Guest in the launching ceremony of the Report.

Ms Ayesha Khanam, President, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad; Ms Nirupa Dewan, Member, National Human Rights Commission; Advocate Rana Dasgupta, General Secretary, Bangladesh Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Unity Council; Mr MB Akhter, Program Director, Oxfam and Mr Sanjeeb Drong, General Secretary, Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum were present in the event as distinguished guests. The event was chaired by Mr. Rabindranath Soren, Chairperson of Kapaeeng Foundation. Mr. Pallab Chakma, Executive Director of KF made a presentation on the Report while the welcome speech was delivered by Chaitali Tripura, Vice-Chairperson of KF. Flaguni Tripura, Advocacy Facilitator of KF, moderated the ceremony.

Advocate Sultana Kamal said, we took part in the Liberation War with the dream to see a democratic and humane State where everyone in the country would be equal in dignity. If we compare the current situation of indigenous peoples with what we dreamt for, it is a clear that our dream is being violated. The State has pushed indigenous population onto the verge of extinction – hence, the State has to listen positively to what has been revealed in the Human Rights Report and take steps to defend the rights of general people including indigenous peoples.

Ms Ayesha Khanam said, the long-waged movement of indigenous peoples, the pain of denial of rights, repeated occurrence of human rights violations and illusive justice have entrenched a kind of exclusion in the minds of indigenous peoples. In order for protecting the rights of indigenous peoples, the State has to change its political view towards them.

NHRC Member Ms Nirupa Dewan said, despite the constant violations of the rights of indigenous peoples, indigenous peoples are still hopeful and they still have the belief that every citizen of country is equal in the eyes of the Constitution and the State. Since it is the current government that signed the CHT Accord, we have the highest expectation from this government.

Mr. MB Akhter said, the State has to be more caring and active in protecting the human rights and it has to listen to the minority-indigenous people. This country is not only for the Bangalees, but this country is for minorities, indigenous peoples and all the citizens of the country.

Around a hundred rights activists, civil society members, academics, journalists, indigenous leaders and youths were present in solidarity with the launching ceremony of the “Human Rights Report 2015 on Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh.”

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY of the Human Rights Report 2015 on Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh

There is practically no significant change in legal and policy areas affecting the indigenous peoples in Bangladesh during the year under review. The Government passed a number of laws, regulations and policies in 2015 e.g. adoption of Bangladesh Public-Private Partnership Act 2015 and Labour Regulation 2015 in the Parliament and the Cabinet approval to Domestic Worker Protection and Welfare Policy. However, these legal and policy documents referred to, embody nothing specific about issues of indigenous peoples.

Started in 2012, the Government continued with the process of amending the Forest Act in 2015 as well. The draft Forest Act 2015 includes a number of provisions detrimental to the rights of indigenous peoples and forest dwellers. On the other hand, the amendment process to the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001 in pursuance of the CHT Accord that, in fact, began in 2001 still remained to be amended even in 2015. A 13-point amendment proposal was adopted for the 2nd time to amend the CHT Land Commission Act in January 2015. However, the amendment bill of this act is yet to be put up before the cabinet for approval before placing it in the Parliament for passage.

The Ministry of Primary and Mass Education again failed to accomplish publication of textbooks for indigenous children of primary schools in five of their selected mother tongues, an initiative started in 2013. However, the most optimistic feature in one of its policy documents, 7th Five Year Plan (FY2016-2020) which has already been drafted, is the retention of government’s willingness, as was the case with the 6th Five Year Plan, to consider implementation of the UNDRIP and ratification of the ILO Convention No. 169.

Situation of Civil and Political Rights

Civil and political rights of indigenous peoples are often intimidated in many cases. Right activists engaged in their legitimate actions to protect and promote their rights to self-government, land and resources, are frequently criminalized resulting in their arrests, detention, enforced disappearances and even sometimes become victims to political killings. In 2015, at least 74 members of indigenous communities including women and schoolgirls were arrested. They were charged with criminal offences. However, most of them were released later on bail. On the other hand, fabricated cases were framed against at least 117 indigenous souls. Besides, 13 indigenous people (including three indigenous women and girls) were extra-judicially killed in both the CHT and the plains. The recurrence of arbitrary arrests, detentions and extrajudicial killings on indigenous peoples intensified alarmingly during the year under review. Fabricated charges were brought against as many as 191 persons, 74 of whom were arrested as against only 5 persons who were indicted in 2014.

At the same time, at least 134 indigenous people, 101 from the CHT and 33 from the plains, were tortured and physically assaulted. While bulk of the physical assaults were carried out by influential Bengali non-state actors, in many instances, the state actors such as members of security forces and law enforcement agencies played either supportive or passive roles in the commitment of such crimes.

Houses and properties were destroyed and looted by the miscreants of the non-indigenous origin. In 2015, at least 84 houses belonging to indigenous peoples in the plains were vandalized and looted and 35 houses in the plains and the CHT were set on fire and burnt to ashes by the land grabbers.

Land, Natural Resources and Climate Changes

As were in the previous years land related human rights violations against indigenous peoples continued in 2015. A total 26 houses of indigenous peoples in the plain land were burnt to ashes, while 65 houses were reported to have been looted and ransacked by land grabbers.  44 indigenous people, 5 from the CHT and 39 from the plain land were physically assaulted and wounded by land grabbers in land related hostilities.

In 2015, at least 45 indigenous families were ousted from their ancestral lands, while 1400 indigenous families including 657 from the CHT were threatened with eviction from their lands. Land related hostilities resulted in an assault on, at least, an indigenous village by land grabbers in the plain land, while a total 5,216 acres of land including 11.50 acres in the plains were grabbed by both the state and non-state actors. Such a big mass of lands, essentially, comprising Jum and mouza land in the CHT were occupied by outsider lease holders which threatened the livelihoods of hundreds of Jum cultivators particularly in Bandarban district. Also, approximately 1326.99 acres of land including 22.5 acres in the CHT were targeted for illegal encroachment or acquisition. Bringing false charges against indigenous peoples by the land grabbers is a common key tactics to preempt the resistance by the indigenous peoples in defending their lands in the country. Land grabbers in 2015, filed false cases against, at least, 28 indigenous people including 11 from the plains to break down whatever resistance the indigenous people could offer.

The activation of the Land Boundary Agreement between Bangladesh and India signed in 1974, following its passage in the Indian Parliament in 2015, caused a new problem for the indigenous peoples in the plains as a total of 360 acres of land, on which the livelihood of around 350 indigenous Garo and Khasi people of Pallathol under Barlekha upazila in Moulvibazar were dependent, was to be transferred to India.

The indigenous people in the CHT are generally displaced from their ancestral lands due to land confiscation in the name of plantation by so-called lease-holders & private companies, establishment of camps and tourist spots, reserved forest and land grabbing by Bengali settlers, while influential Bengalis, tea estate holders, leaders of national political parties and government authorities are responsible in evicting the indigenous people in the plains. In both the cases, the act of eviction is aided by disregarding the customary land management system of indigenous peoples, national laws and policies, including the CHT Accord in the CHT region and the East Bengal State Acquisition and Tenancy Act 1950 in the plains. Aggravating the situation, local police and officials in the land office often play supportive roles in aid of land grabbers in the plains, while the local administration and security forces, in the main, back Bengali settlers and private companies in grabbing lands in the CHT. In fact, the biggest worrying factor in both the CHT and the plains is the ‘element of impunity’ which helps perpetrators of human rights violations against indigenous peoples to evade punishment, in spite of the fact that Bangladesh government is committed to comply with the international human rights norms as well as national laws and regulations in order to promote the rights of indigenous peoples in the country.

Situation on the Rights of Indigenous Women and Girls

As reported, 85 indigenous women and girls fell victim to sexual and physical violence in 2015 in Bangladesh. Among them, 44 victims were from the CHT, while 41 were from the plain land. Since 2007, a total of 434 indigenous women and girls were made victims of multiple forms of human rights violation. In 2015, at least 26 cases of rape/gang rape, 3 killing, 11 physically assault, while 16 cases of attempted rape, 5 cases of abduction, 6 cases of sexual harassment, and 2 cases of trafficking were documented. A total of 69 cases of violence against indigenous women and girls in Bangladesh were documented in 2015. Of the 69 cases, 38 cases were reported from and documented in the CHT, while the remaining 31 cases were from the plains.

The victims were found to be in the age group between 4 to 50 years. As far as the filing of cases (with the police) with regard to 69 incidents of violation was concerned, cases were filed on 46 incidents. Rests of the incidents were either resolved through arbitration or were not informed to the police for action. From the analysis of the available data, it appeared that 78% of the perpetrators were non-indigenous, while 15% of them were indigenous. 6% of the violators could not be identified, while the law enforcement and security personnel accounts for 1%.

Like in the previous years, most of the cases relating to human rights violation involving the indigenous peoples in Bangladesh were centered on land. The land grabbers used the heinous ploy to sexually and physically violate indigenous women and girls in order to terrorize the community to unsettle them, and thus create opportunities for them to occupy the lands belonged to indigenous peoples. For example, on 19 June 2015, land-greedy ruffians invaded a victim’s land in Mirsarai under Chittagong, where 10 women and children were injured. On 24 July 2015, some Bengali settlers stabbed and wounded a Marma woman with the motive to oust her from her land. The alarming figures of violence committed against indigenous women and girls across the country in the recent past included not a single case of instance to prove that the victim availed justice. Rather in most cases, the perpetrator got out of bail and skipped punishment due to corruption in the justice system which often tended to be bias towards the perpetrators.

From the information available in 2015, it could be seen that cases were filed against most acts of violence, but no proper action was taken against even a single case. Malpractice in the prosecution and justice system often deprived the victims from getting redress. Failure to close the gap between acts of crime and dispensation of justice, on the other hand, encouraged perpetrators to threaten victims’ family. The abductors of Kalpana Chakma, who was abducted in June 1996, could not be produced before the court to face trial till today. The investigation officer failed to submit his investigation report to the court for the 22nd times since her abduction. In the case of attack on women leader Bichitra Tirki by land grabbers in August 2014 in Chapainawabganj District, the perpetrators succeeded in obtaining bail by bribing the investigating officer and other concerned officials. The trial process of Sujata Chakma’s murder case moves at a snail’s pace. For example, deposition of five witnesses took place in 2013-2014, but no statements from other witnesses were recorded in 2015.

Situation on the Rights of Youth, Child and Education

While the overall situation of indigenous peoples in Bangladesh is in a dreadful state, the condition of the child and the youth, and the status of their rights to education in the country can hardly be deemed satisfactory. The issues concerning the rights of indigenous children seldom get space to be discussed about. There is the lack of segregated data and information on the issues of indigenous children. It is, therefore, problematic to analyze the human rights situation of indigenous children in the country. However, a general observation of their situation gives a clear indication that indigenous children in Bangladesh are doubly discriminated — firstly, because they are indigenous and secondly, because they are children. Their human rights enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to which Bangladesh is a signatory, are routinely violated. The Child Rights Committee’s review of Bangladesh held in September 2015 reflects the storyline of the situation. Bangladesh enacted the Children Act, 2013 in line with the CRC with a view to respect, protect and promote the rights of children in Bangladesh. However, the law remains largely on paper and the provisions of the Act are yet to come into force. Moreover, the Act remains silent about the issues specific to indigenous children. The whole document does not mention the word ‘indigenous’. Given this backdrop, the condition of indigenous children, on the whole, in 2015 remained more or less similar to that of the previous years.

Educational rights are intertwined with the rights of the children and youth, although education has other dimensions, too, as it covers people of all the age groups. Educational rights of indigenous peoples got some focus from the policy makers in the recent years. The initiatives undertaken by the government include a plan to introduce mother tongue based education, setting up of parakendras (village-centers) and bringing the illiteracy rate down. The initiatives undertaken are, nonetheless, deemed to have fallen short of protecting and promoting educational rights of indigenous peoples including that of their children. In 2015, the situation of educational rights held out similar trends as in the past years in spite of having some mixed developments. Although a number of positive developments have been observed throughout the year, however, some initiatives actuated by the government have violated the educational rights of children, and suffered from serious limitations.

Present State of Implementation of the CHT Accord

The CHT Accord signed in 1997 has completed its 18 years without making any real progress towards commissioning of an effective and functioning local self-governance system that ensures land and other rights for the indigenous peoples in the CHT. The promised amendments to the contravening sections of the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act, 2001 are yet to be made.

It is to be mentioned that as per the decision taken in the meeting held at Prime Minister’s office on 18 February 2015 between the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Chairman of CHT Regional Council who is also the President of PCJSS, the 18-page report titled: “Statement on the Unimplemented Issues of the CHT Accord” attached with 16 supporting documents as annexure was handed over to the Prime Minister on 1 April 2015. But no progress has been made in this regard to this day.

The development programs, being implemented in the CHT, are not respectful of the region’s distinct cultural identity, is not self-determined, and without any free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples, as stipulated in CHT Accord, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples (UNDRIP) and World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP) Outcome Document.

Published on 23 March 2016.

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Launching and dissemination programme of Annual Situation Report 2015 on Indigenous Woman in Bangladesh Held in Dhaka http://kapaeeng.org/launching-and-dissemination-programme-of-annual-situation-report-2015-on-indigenous-woman-in-bangladesh-held-in-dhaka/ http://kapaeeng.org/launching-and-dissemination-programme-of-annual-situation-report-2015-on-indigenous-woman-in-bangladesh-held-in-dhaka/#respond Tue, 23 Feb 2016 07:22:18 +0000 http://kapaeeng.org/?p=1681 Violence against indigenous women and girls is one of the alarming issues. From 2007 to 2015 a total number of 434 indigenous women and girls were subjected to physical and sexual violence and there is no single case where justice prevailed. In addition, 38 cases occurred in CHT and the rest in the plains out of 69 cases in 2015 and the majority victims were from the CHT. The most striking facet of sexual violence against indigenous women and girls is rape which exceeds other forms of physical and sexual violence in 2015. A total number of 14 cases reported on rape and 12 cases on gang rape, 11 cases on physical assault, 6 on sexual harassment, 16 cases were attempted to rape out of the 69 cases in 2015. It is notable that most of the cases rise out of the land issue and masculine hegemony towards minority indigenous women and the majority perpetrators belong to non-indigenous background.

All these information related to indigenous women were disclosed on 16 February 2016 in a launching and discussion program of Annual Situation Report 2015 on Indigenous Woman in Bangladesh at the Daily Star Bhaban in Dhaka. Kapaeeng Foundation and Bangladesh Indigenous Women’s Network (BIWN) published this report with the support of Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF).

Former Advisor of Caretaker Government of Bangladesh and Executive Director of Ain O Salish Kendra Advocate Sultana Kamal was present in the programme as chief guest. Prof Sadeka Halim, former information commissioner and teacher of Dhaka University; MJF Executive Director Shaheen Anam; Prof Obaidul Haque of International Relations Department at Dhaka University and Executive Director of Achik Michik Society Sulekha Mrong among others, also spoke at the event while Pallab Chakma, Executive Director of Kapaeeng Foundation chaired the programme. Chaitali Tripura, Joint Convenor of BIWN and Vice Chairperson of Kapaeeng Foundation gave welcome speech. The programme was moderated by Chanchana Chakma, member secretary of BIWN and the key note was presented by BIWN member and North South University Lecturer Parboti Roy.

Addressing as chief guest, Sultana Kamal, also noted human rights activist, said in her speech that increasing violence against indigenous women is tantamount to disregarding the fundamental spirit of the country’s Liberation War. Impunity to the perpetrators of such violence has made the victims even more vulnerable, she said.  Today, the division between the minority and the majority has entered into national politics. By equal empowering men and women into politics, the state must ensure the establishment of self-determination of all people. Equality, equal rights, parity can move forward a nation. She also called for full implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Accord of 1997 and separate land commission for plain land indigenous peoples to prevent violence against indigenous women and land grabbing.

Professor Sadeka Halim said that violence against indigenous women is used as an ultimate weapon to evict indigenous peoples from their ancestral land. She also said there is number of law for women in government policy but no separate law to protect indigenous women in CHT and plain land. In most of all government policies (ex. National Women Development Policy), indigenous women were addressed only in a single paragraph. She demanded to formulate new policy for indigenous woman.

Shaheen Anam said that women are moving forward in social, economic, and political sector. However, still negative aspects towards women exist in the society. Violence against indigenous women in CHT is used as a tool to implement a particular purpose. Though the Constitution ensures free from discrimination for all, but it is day dream for indigenous peoples. The society and state have to move forward with its diversified nations. No justice in those cases of violence raises big questions about the treatment of minorities and the government must answer why culprits were not punished, she added.

Professor Dr. Obaidul Hague said that indigenous woman are abused due to their indigenous background. The number of violence against indigenous women is increasing day by day. Numerically, the figure of violence against indigenous women might seem low but in proportion of the indigenous population it is very high. Follow-up report of violence incidents against indigenous women most of time does not maintain properly and in that case media should play strong role to sensitize people to ensure justice for indigenous women.

Sulekha Mrong said that though Garo are matriarchal society but women are still lags behind that decision making process. Women only get property ownership and all other social, political, economical work has been completely manage by men.

In her welcome speech Chaitali Tripura said that the figure of violence against Bengali women and indigenous women are not same. Indigenous women are more vulnerable and marginalized than mainstream woman. Indigenous woman are abused for three reasons. Firstly being a woman, secondly being an indigenous woman and thirdly because of the land. Indigenous women are constantly harassed in CHT and plain lands, but the state remains silent. To ensure the safety of indigenous women must ensure the constitutional recognition as indigenous, full implementation of CHT Accord and separate land commission for indigenous people in plain, she added.

Pallab Chakma said that the figure of violence against the indigenous women continues to a alarming extent. Every year number of incidents of violence against indigenous woman is increasing which is one of the alarming issues. Every year while preparing annual report, Kapaeeng Foundation’s secretariat expects this year number of incident will reduce but in reality every year incident has been increasing. The government should take immediate steps to end violence against indigenous women.

In her presentation of the annual report Parboti Roy said that violence against indigenous women and girls has become a cause for concern. A total of 85 indigenous women and girls have been victims of physical and sexual violence of 69 cases. In addition, 38 incidents have been organized in CHT and the rest were in plain land. It is noteworthy that in most cases are committed by non-indigenous people on land dispute.

She also said that the government has taken a number of development initiatives that are related to the socio-economic development of the marginalized women. However, the majority key policies and development measures tend to overlook the concern of indigenous women in general. Several positive initiatives have taken by the successive governments such as the second cycle UPR recommendations, 7th Five year plans (2015-16, 2019-20) and provision of indigenous women’s advancement in the CHT Accord. Nevertheless, the National Women Development Policy 2011 mentions a little on indigenous women and other development plans and strategies ignore the special needs and concern of indigenous women. Although there are a number of national level plans, strategies and laws to address violence against Bangladeshi women, the implementation and intervention process are not proactive towards ethnic minority and indigenous women. As a result, impunity pertains and justice is denied in most cases.

Indigenous women have less access to health care and education. Though there is education policy, national achievement in closing gender gap in primary education and multiple government initiatives to promote girls education, the indigenous children, more especially girl children lag behind education facilities. In addition, indigenous children living in remote locations are the most vulnerable to avail education. Child marriage, poverty, insecurity and dowry play role as barriers against indigenous women’s educational empowerment. In the plains the rate of early marriage is higher among the indigenous communities. The status of health among indigenous mothers is not satisfactory as the indigenous peoples lack health care benefits in terms of maternal, antenatal and child care.

Furthermore, the impacts of environmental degradation along with climate change impede indigenous women’s daily activities and intensify their burden of works. The pernicious initiatives by the successive governments, illegal timber business led by the mainstream people and control on indigenous peoples access to their ancestral forests and lands, forced establishment of eco-parks and tea states by the state and multinational corporations in the name of tourism and industrialization hurdle women’s access to natural resources to provide food, fodder, water and nutrition supply to their families. Also, the tobacco plantation in the name of employment opportunities result indigenous labor exploitation and environmental degradation. Indigenous women in the coastal belt are one of the most vulnerable populations who are subjected to land grabbing, environmental catastrophes and violence by non-indigenous peoples.

The legal aid provided by human rights based organizations and nominal support from the government to address gender based violence do not sufficiently ensure full access to justice of indigenous women and girls. It is likely that masculine hegemony tend to control indigenous women’s mobility, voice and suppress their security as well as to create tension in indigenous communities. One of the causes of alarming incidents on violence against indigenous women and girls and the impediment of their empowerment is the non implementation of main provisions of CHT Accord of 1997. Lack of resolution of land dispute, non-withdrawal of temporary camps and de facto military rule ‘Operation Uttorn’, non-cancellation of land leases given non-residents, non-compliance to appoint permanent residents of CHT giving priority to indigenous peoples, non-rehabilitation of internally displaced Jumma families and returnee Jumma refugees, non-devolution of powers and functions to CHT institutions remain key elements in securing security, development and empowerment of indigenous women and girls in CHT. Indigenous peoples’ livelihood is dependent upon the traditional economic activities like shifting cultivation and hunting. There are gender divisions of labor in shifting cultivation where women play significant role along with their unrecognized domestic activities comprised of their triple gender roles. However, women’s contribution in domestic activities are ignored and devalued where men’s role in productive activities are socially counted and tend to show male bias. Moreover, in jum cultivation, women have limited access to market and resources that need attention to ensure gender equality and women’s productivity in economic sector through provision of social services by the state to reduce the burden of women’s reproductive gender roles. Indigenous women play crucial role in sustaining their traditional economic activities where weaving is one of the prominent ones. However, there is no sustainable effort to promote women’s contribution and entrepreneurship development. Due to the impact of globalization, neoliberal economic policies along with militarization, forced eviction of indigenous peoples from their ancestral land imposed indigenous women to take up non-traditional economic activities or occupations. Indigenous women in the plains are imposed to work as daily wage labourers to non-indigenous people’s land and face wage discrimination and sometimes sexual and physical violence. As the indigenous peoples compelled to take up their traditional economic practices due to multifaceted forces of globalization, now- days they are involved in non-traditional informal job sectors and one of the dominant sectors is garment sector industry. The other popular informal job sectors are- beauty parlors and domestic services in the urban locations where the Adibashi women face severe human rights violation, wage discrimination and lack of security. The national labor laws and policies are not adequate to meet the needs and concerns of indigenous workers’ rights.

Likewise, indigenous women’s locus has not changed that much in the hierarchy of politics and administration both in the traditional and mainstream structure. Women still confront discrimination in access to inheritance rights and in decision making process in their respective communities. However, in CHT there has been a change in traditional administrative structure in contemporary period. The Chakma circle chief has taken initiatives to encourage and enhance the number of women karbaris and headmen. In 2015 second Women Headmen-Karbari Conference held which can be considered as a path breaking initiative to encourage women’s participation in the traditional decision making power structure. However, women’s situation remains static in the plains in the sphere of traditional administration. Although in some communities there remains the practice of matrilineal inheritance system. At the local level politics, the representation of women is very low and there is no indigenous female representation at the national level parliament although there are provisions of reserve seats for women. Few indigenous women are visible at the local level Union Parishad as members where they are underrepresented. Despite the fact, indigenous women play significant role through the establishment of several indigenous women’s organizations in order to protest and raise voice against violence perpetrated against indigenous women and girls and human rights of indigenous peoples both in the plains and the CHT.

Finally she has been raised following recommendations:

  1. Ensure constitutional recognition of indigenous ethnic groups, language and culture by amendment of constitution.
  2. To ensure women’s representation and participation in the administrative and political activities seats for indigenous women to be reserved at local council including National parliament.
  3. Judicial inquiry and exemplary punishment to the perpetrators to combat violence against indigenous women and girls.
  4. Accurate, rapid and full implementation of the CHT Peace Accord and declare proper on schedule roadmap to implement rapidly.
  5. Ensure the participation of indigenous women in local and national level development, to take measure to ensure employment and the legacy of the property of indigenous women.
  6. Special measures for indigenous women in education and health care and primary education in mother tongue for indigenous children to be introduced.
  7. Provide legal assistance to the victims of violence against indigenous women.
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