GHRD has been following the reports of intensified land grabbing incidents against indigenous peoples in Bangladesh from January to June 2014. GHRD’s local partners have been investigating some of these incidents. According to the reports from Kapaeeng Foundation, one of GHRD’s local partners, since January significant amount of land was grabbed from indigenous peoples in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) and 95 families were evicted from their ancestral lands. The indigenous peoples in the plains were also attacked. The violent land grabs, such as the one against Khasi villagers occurred in 30th May, continued in the plains as well as in CHT.
Thousands of indigenous peoples remained affected since Bangladeshi authorities failed to protect its indigenous population from violent land grabbing attacks. Indigenous peoples both in plains and CHT lost their homes and farmlands, while the prevailing culture of impunity exacerbated the situation. In most of the cases, the land grabbers including Bengali settlers in CHT, private companies and powerful individuals well connected with local government officials have gone unpunished.
Through lobbying activities and advocacy, GHRD and its partners continue to draw attention to the deteriorating human rights situation of the indigenous peoples in Bangladesh. Civil society actors called on Bangladeshi authorities to stop the systematic and illegal displacement of indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands whilst developing legal mechanisms able to prevent these violent attacks and restore indigenous peoples’ land. The intensive lobby work of various actors, such as Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission (CHTC), mobilized civil society to promote but also raise concerns about the implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord (CHT Accord) of 1997; a peace treaty dedicated to recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples’ over CHT. CHTC established itself as the international monitoring body on implementation of CHT Accord and have been conducting fact finding missions in order to investigate human rights violations including land disputes in the hill region. On 5th July, CHTC members were attacked in Rangamati on their way to investigate alleged land dispute which would dispossessed indigenous peoples from their land in the hill districts. Members of CHTC along with a police officer were injured during the attack which was supposedly carried out by Bengali groups opposing the investigation of CHTC in three hill districts; Rangamati, Khagrachhari and Bandarban. This incident shows that this climate of insecurity sustained by culture of impunity, not only affects indigenous peoples whose human rights have been systematically violated, but also human rights defenders who are dedicated to shed much-needed light on these violations. In addition, it is important to highlight that CHTC had faced impediments during their previous human rights missions to the area.
GHRD is gravely concerned about the intensified attacks against indigenous peoples in plain lands and CHT and the recent one against CHTC, while Bangladeshi authorities failed to provide adequate protection and bring perpetrators to justice.
Photos: Daily Star