• Thursday, Dec 09, 2021
  • Last Update : 04:03 am

Indigenous leaders: Govt unwilling to protect our rights

  • Published at 08:49 pm August 6th, 2020
Chittagong Hill Tracts
File photo shows indigenous women at the Chitagong Hill Tracts Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

During the discussion, they also demanded equal rights for all

The main provisions of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Peace Accord are yet to be implemented and the government has taken no visible initiative to establish the promised land commission for indigenous people of the plain lands due to the lack of political will.

Leaders and activists of the indigenous communities along with experts came up with these remarks on Thursday in a webinar organized by the Bangladesh Adivasi Forum marking the upcoming International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples.

During the discussion, they also demanded equal rights for all.

Bangladesh Adivasi Forum General Secretary Sanjeeb Drong said: “Awami League in their election manifesto for the 2008 national polls, promised the country’s ethnic groups that they will form a land commission to protect the rights of the indigenous people living on plain lands.   Even in the manifesto for the last general elections, the ruling party said they will continue their efforts to establish the promised land commission.” 

But nothing official has yet been done regarding the issue, he added.

Echoing the same, Mesbah Kamal, professor at Dhaka University’s department of history, said: “Unstable presence of different ethnicities was the main problem in the CHT. The government was later forced to realize this issue. That is why the peace accord was signed. But this realization was not equally welcomed by politicians and bureaucrats. As a result, the main provisions of the accord still remain unimplemented. 

“A law was passed as per this peace accord which was signed 23 years ago. But bureaucrats did not comply with the act because they only know how to fulfill the orders of the government,” he said. 

Prof Mesbah said that there is a lack of political will to fulfill all the provisions of the CHT Peace Accord. 

There is a lack of goodwill over this matter, he added. 

The professor also raised a question regarding the power of the bureaucrats over the government.

“The government runs the country. But how are they not able to pass an order to fully implement the accord? Are bureaucrats so powerful?”  he asked. 

‘70% of the country’s indigenous people have become poor’

Sanjeeb Drong said: “As many as 70% of the indigenous people of plain lands are now under the poverty line. 

“Many have become jobless. Thousands of them who worked in the informal sector were forced back home due to the Covid-19 crisis. More of us will become new poor if Covid-19 stays longer. “

He, in the discussion, also demanded incentive packages for the indigenous communities.

Meanwhile, Prof Mesbah said: “The government announced aid efforts are not enough for the indigenous people. Poverty in the indigenous communities will increase in the coming days. 

“Introduction of a separate package for the indigenous people of the country will be very rational.” 

Bangladesh Adivasi Forum at the webinar also announced seven-day long programs to observe this year’s International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples (August 9).

14-point demand made by Bangladesh Adivasi Forum

Bangladesh Adivasi Forum made a14-point demand to ensure the rights of the indigenous people.

The demands include, a road map to fulfill the CHT Peace Accord, introduction of the promised land commission for indigenous people living on plain lands, health services and cash incentives to the indigenous communities, part-time job opportunities for at least 10,000 youths amid the Covid-19 pandemic, cash incentives for indigenous students, and a separate ministry for plain land indigenous people.

Among others, Dhaka University mass communication and journalism department faculty Rubayet Ferdous, Oikya Nap President Pankaj Bhattacharya, Bangladesh Adivasi Forum Vice-President Rabindranath Soren, were also present at the discussion.

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