Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) President Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma alias Santu Larma has said local indigenous peoples kept losing their lands due to rampant grabbing even in the name of different government projects.
Santu Larma, also the chairman of the CHT Regional Council, said the government’s plan to establish economic zones on the pieces of land owned by the indigenous peoples is adding to their woes.
He made the comments while briefing the media during on the occasion of this year’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples at the capital’s Sundarban Hotel on Saturday. The day will be observed on August 9.
“The way the Adivasis are living in the country is not how their life should have been, which is a result of mindless encroachment of their land,” he said, adding, “The life that we are leading is not ours.”
Other than the continued encroachment, the occupation of the land belonging to the ethnic minorities is occurring in the name of development projects including national park, eco-park, reserve forest, social afforestation, military camps and other infrastructures, he stated.
He alleged that the Awami League government failed to implement the UN Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples in Bangladesh, though Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in her previous tenure had promised to do so back in 2009.
According to him, over three million indigenous peoples are being deprived of their basic and human rights.
“Although the development of the indigenous peoples is mentioned in the National Educational Policy, the National Women Development Policy, and sixth and seventh five-year plan, it is merely a rarity,” he observed.
Criticising what the government terms a high tide of development across the country, he said: “Actually the indigenous peoples, poor and marginal farmers, Dalit people and tea workers are drowning instead.”
“The government says Bangladesh has upgraded as a lower middle income country, which is hardly reflecting on thousands of indigenous peoples living in remote areas,” said Santu Larma, who also placed a 10-point demand at the event.