Restoring Land Rights of Indigenous People

03-08-2013

On 3rd August 2013 6 Jumma villages in Matiranga-Taindong area were attacked by Bengali settlers. 36 houses at Jumma villages and a Buddhist temple were burnt down. As the violence escalated, 261 houses belonging to Jumma people were looted and vandalized. The communal attack resulted in approximately 400 families fleeing to areas close to the Bangladesh-India border and 380 families of indigenous Tripura community taking shelter in neighbouring areas of Matiranga-Taindong.

The attack raised concerns among the civil society organisations as well as the indigenous community leaders. Various events were held in the Chittagong division, including human chains, protests, rallies and press conferences to address the burning issues of indigenous community. Attacks against the members of indigenous communities were condemned and the government was urged to hold the perpetrators accountable and to ensure the security of indigenous people living in the area.

Tension has been building in the Chittagong Hill Tracts since the cabinet decided to amend the contradictory CHT Land Disputes Resolution Commission Act 2001. On 27th May, 2013 the land ministry drafted a new Commission Act Bill 2013 to be presented to the cabinet.

On 3rd June the amended bill was approved and it was placed before the Parliament on 16th June, 2013 for implementation. It was suggested that the tension was caused by opposition from Bengali settlers towards the amendments in the act. Bengali settlers feared that the changes in the act will not serve their best interests.

The Bangladeshi government formed a land dispute resolution commission to settle land disputes in CHT in accordance with the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord of 1997. It has been 16 years since the accord was signed and many provisions within the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord have not been implemented. Therefore there is a need to amend the existing Commission Act 2001, in order to empower the commission to settle land disputes in Chittagong Hill Tract and make the commission more efficient in addressing illegal occupations.

The amendments within the bill were criticized by several civil society organizations. The International Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission (CHTC) wrote to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on 20th October 2013. CHTC urged the government to pass the bill on the amendment of the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001 during the ninth parliamentary session that ended on October 24th. Also Kapaeeng Foundationorganised a press conference in order to address the increasing concerns over the delay in passing the bill. It was also stated that the government has not fulfilled its pledge from the last elections to pass the act with 13 amendments proposed by the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council and the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs. Indigenous people will continue to live in fear and insecurity unless these issues are addressed. Bangladeshi government should take the necessary step to pass the bill in order to enable the commission to implement the CHT Accord more effectively.

Medical Health camp at Gazipur, Dhaka organized by GHRD

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