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Dhaka Tribune

Indigenous people ‘worst victims of vote bank politics’

Update : 23 Oct 2013, 08:38 PM

The government’s reluctance to pass the CHT Land Disputes Resolution Commission Act (Amendment) Bill 2013 shows the country’s indigenous people are the worst victims of vote bank politics.

Columnist Syed Abul Maksud made the observation yesterday at a press conference in the city’s Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue, where representatives of Nagarik Samaj, a citizen’s platform, raised calls to pass the amendment of the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001 during the remainder of the current parliament.

The columnist also claimed that the demands of hill people remain unheard as they are not considered a major vote bank for any political party.

Abul Maksud said: “The hill people have equal constitutional rights like Bangalee settlers. Government should be non-biased and give special rights to the indigenous people which they actually deserve.”

He further urged political parties to clarify their plans for the development of the indigenous people in their election manifestos for the next national polls.

Shamsul Huda, executive director of Association for Land Reform and Development, said it was disappointing to see that the government had failed to fulfil its electoral manifesto pledge to amend contradictory provisions of the CHT Land Disputes Resolution Commission Act 2001.

He added: “Bangalee settlers started residing in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in the 1970s for ill political motives. After that, vested groups’ interest has been created in the area. Only those groups want the cancellation of the act.”

However, statistics show that Bangalee settlers were willing to leave the area if the government provided them rehabilitation, Huda said, adding that different donor organisations including the European Union have showed interest in funding the rehabilitation of the settlers.

Sanjeeb Drong, general secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum, said: “If the government does not pass the bill during its tenure for the excuse of political unrest, then we will consider that the government has deceived the hill people.”

Indigenous leaders also expressed their concerns, saying a parliamentary standing committee failed to discuss or give its final opinion on the bill at a scheduled meeting on October 3.

Speakers at the conference also said only 10 out of the 13 changes proposed by the CHT affairs ministry and the CHT regional council were incorporated in the amendment bill.

They claimed the exclusion of the words “or occupied” from the amendment would also cause many land disputes to stay unresolved or remain out of the jurisdiction of the Land Commission, as there are huge amounts of forcibly occupied land in CHT. 

Implementation of the act will put an end to the conflicts between Bangalee settlers and hill people, they added.  

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