GHRD joined Bangladeshi diaspora, human rights and social-religious organisations in a demonstration at the UK Parliament in London on the 29th of February. The protest, calling for the protection of minorities in Bangladesh and the Chittagong Hill Tracts, was a response to the recent violence committed against Hindu communities in Hathazari, in Chittagong.
Members of Parliament heard and responded to the demands and received a written petition jointly presented by the inter-religious groups.
Lord Avebury, Co Chair of the CHT Commission and Chairman of the All Party Human Rights Group and Shadow Transport Minister Rt. Hon MP Jim Fitzpatrick condemned the attacks and assured to raise the matter with the UK Foreign Minister.
The demands included the full implementation of the CHT Peace Accord, secularization of society and return to the 1972 Constitution (to remove Islam as a state religion) and the creation of a minority rights commission. The petition was also delivered to the British Prime Minister’s office and to the Bangladeshi High Commission later that day.
Lord Avebury supported the initiative and expressed a particular concern about the ongoing situation in the CHT and the attacks against Buddhist temples and destruction of temples that has remained a trend in recent years.
He condemned the illegal activities of the Chairman of the land commission who are changing the rules to allow hearings to be held between indigenous peoples and settlers under rules that are unfair.
Lord Avebury further expressed his deepest concern that the delegation of the CHT Commission - which is set up to monitor the situation in the CHT - were being followed during their last attempted visit and the conversations that are supposed to be of private nature were being monitored at all times.
He said that although Sheikh Hasina is committed to the implementation of the peace accord: “The work towards this implementation has been far too slow and it needs to speed up.”
GHRD fears that conflict and violence against minorities is escalating in Bangladesh following the recent land disputes and attacks in Chittagong. It is most disturbing that the Government’s response has been to restrict international presence and foreigners are being expelled from the CHT for talking with the indigenous peoples, or simply denied the VISA to travel. GHRD urge the authorities to undertake impartial investigations and preventive measures to protect the minorities of Chittagong.
The demonstration was jointly organised by Sanaton Association, Jagannath Hall Alumni Association, Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council Europe/UK, Voice Against Racial Discrimination and Sarbojanin Baba Lokenath Association.
Read the petition here
Read the press release here
Watch the video produced by GHRD here: