Indigenous Khasi Villagers Attacked by Land Grabbers

17-07-2014

A recent episode of indigenous land grabbing happened on 30th March, at Nahar Punjee-1, in Moulvibazar's Srimangal upazila. Around 11:00 AM, Nahar Punjee-1, a hilltop village of indigenous Khasi people, was attacked by approximately 200 people led by Pijush Kanti Bhattacharya, manager of Nahar Tea Garden. According to Khasi people, the community has been living on government Khas (government-owned) land and has always paid tax to the local government unit. Even though they have been living there long before Nahar Tea Estate was set up in 1964 by a government lease, Pijush Kanti Bhattacharya has been claiming 200 acres of land where the Khasi people reside. The attack was aimed to evict its Khasi residents and occupy the land. The perpetrators occupied newly built, but unfinished, houses belonging to Khasi people and try to build new houses using building materials that they brought with them. At least 20 Khasi people were injured during the attack. The victims were beaten with sticks and assaulted with sharp objects when they resisted the perpetrators. The injured, including 13 women were sent to Moulvibazar Sadar Hospital and four of them were in critical conditions. Furthermore, the land grabbers damaged several betel leaf plants, causing a huge damage to the Khasi community since their livelihood is almost entirely based on betel leaf cultivation.

Khalek Parvez Box, General Secretary of Kulaura Press Club, stated that this attack was clearly planned to grab the Khasi’s ancestral land[1] and accused the Nahar Tea Estate authorities of having created an enduring scheme to evict the community. On 2nd June, 11 human rights organizations[2] organized a human chain in front of the capital's Jatiya Press Club stated that while the attacks on the indigenous population have become more vicious than ever before, the government takes no steps to protect them. During the human chain, all the speakers condemned the attack and demanded proper investigation and prosecution for perpetrators. The activists also demanded immediate arrests of the attackers and a separate land commission for plain land indigenous communities.

This attack further pinpoints the importance for Bangladesh to comply with its obligations under international human rights law, including the ILO Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples No.107, and take concrete steps to safeguard Bangladeshi indigenous communities’ rights.

GHRD’s partners have been investigating and documenting land grabbing attacks and implementing raising awareness events in Bangladesh to promote and protect human rights of indigenous peoples. GHRD and its partners recommend Bangladeshi authorities to stop the systematic and forcible displacement of indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands and develop legal mechanisms in order to prevent these violent attacks and  restore indigenous properties.

Photo: Mintu Deshwara/Daily Star


[2] Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon, Adivasi Poribesh Rakkha Andolon, Ain o Salish Kenrda, Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD), BLAST, IED,Jatiya Adivasi Parishad, Kapaeeng Foundation, Nagorik Udyog, and Green Voice. Manusher Jonno Foundation also took part.

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