Indigenous leaders and NGOs have demanded that a draft law proposal protecting the rights of 38 plain land indigenous communities be placed in parliament in the current session.
A dialogue regarding the proposed draft law was held at the Daily Star building in Dhaka yesterday morning.
They also suggested that special provisions should be included for the marginalised minority castes like the Robidas, Ramdas, Joldas, Rajbangshi, Dom, Chandal, Muchi and others.
Manusher Jonno Foundation, Indigenous People Development Services (IPDS), Brotee, Gram Bikash Kendro, and Jatiyo Adibashi Parishad have collaboratively prepared the proposed draft.
“There are only thirty-eight indigenous communities left in the plain lands. They no longer have ownership of the land they have lived on for so long. These people need our help,” said IPDS President Sanjeeb Drong, while presenting the proposed draft.
Some speakers suggested that a separate commission empowered with legal authority to deal with these issues should be formed, rather than providing recommendations to the government.
Others suggested some corrections to the proposed draft.
Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon said: “Since 1993, these indigenous communities demands have gone unheard and unfulfilled.
“There must be a definite pledge to form this commission in the next election manifesto, if it is not formed under the current parliament.”
Menon suggested that the repetitions and ambiguities in the draft should be corrected.
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Barrister Sara Hossain Photo: MAHMUD HOSSAIN OPU/Dhaka Tribune
Barrister Sara Hossain said the draft helped begin the discussion on these matters and opened up the possibility of more such conversations in the future.
She stressed the need to identify the land belonging to the indigenous communities and set rules to give them back their land.
Jatiyo Adibashi Parishad President Rabindranath Soren said: “The government should take an initiative regarding this draft and ensure that the indigenous communities are actively involved in the process.”
Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) lawmaker Najmul Haque Prodhan, lawmaker Tipu Sultan, Brottee Executive Director Sharmin Murshed also spoke, among the others. MJF Director Rina Roy moderated the session.