On 24 February 2015, Jatiya Adivasi Parishad and Kapaeeng Foundation jointly organized a press conference protesting ongoing violence, evictions, murder and rape, and demanded to ensure security of indigenous peoples of northern region of Bangladesh at Reporters Unity in Dhaka.
Rabindranath Soren, President of Jatiya Adivasi Parishad, presented a report on present situation of indigenous peoples in Northern part of Bangladesh while Pallab Chakma, Executive Director of Kapaeeng Foundation conducted the event.
In his statement, Rabindranath Soren informed that, two indigenous persons were murdered, one Santal girl were gang raped after abduction, one Malo housewife was attempted to rape and 60 indigenous Santal’s houses in Chirakuta village of Dinajpur district were attacked, looted and set on fire in the last two months of this new year. Therefore, an unimaginable frightens and tremendous insecurity have generated among the indigenous peoples of North-Bengal. Some of them were migrated to India for seeking a safe living place. The impunity enjoyed by perpetrators trigged more attacks to indigenous peoples, he added.
He mentioned that, although the ruling Awami League-led government has promised twice, before the elections of 2008 and 2014 that they would establish a land commission for plain land indigenous peoples for resolving land disputes and dispossessed lands. However, they did not fulfill their promise so far.
He added, while discussion was going on, on that time indigenous peoples from Amlakathal village under Nawabgonj upazila of Dinajpur district informed him that, land grabbers were starting construction of a temple of Kali Goddess on a place, which belongs to the indigenous peoples. And in another incident, 1500 acres of land belonging to the indigenous peoples under process of grabbing, where a sugar cane farm was established by government. Government had given promise to return the land when it is established, but after the announcement of closing down the farm, the land grabbers were trying to grab the land of indigenous peoples.
During the discussion, Pankaj Bhattacharya, President of Oikyo NAP; Anisur Rahman Mallick, Presidium member of Workers Party of Bangladesh; Ruhin Hossain Prince, Central member of Communist Party of Bangladesh; Sanjeeb Drong, Generel Secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum and Numan Ahmed Khan, Executive Director of IED expressed solidarity speech while Dipayan Khisa, leader of Parbattya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti; Ajay A Mree, leader of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum; Pavel Partha, writer and researcher were present at press conference.
Pankaj Bhattacharya said that marginalized people in the northern part of the country has become the worst victims of the latest political unrest. He mentioned, “Media of the country are busy to publish news items on Manna and Khoka. But, they are silent about indigenous people though there are subjected to incidents of rape, torture and eviction,” he said.
Sanjeeb Drong said, the government should at least circulate a directive to punish perpetrators who grab indigenous people's land and make attack on them. As most indigenous people do not have documents proving ownership of their ancestral land, they often become the target of land grabbers. He added that the perpetrators simply evict indigenous peoples from their homes and take the land, without having to face justice.”
A report of Kapaeeng Foundation said, about 300 indigenous families living in Godagari of Rajshahi district left the country last year in search of a secured life. And Facing racial discriminations and oppression, many indigenous families of Rajshahi and Rangpur divisions are still migrating out of the country. Last year, in plain land, 10 indigenous people were killed, 42 people were tortured, 4 communal attacks were taken place, 10 incidents of ransack and arson were committed and 309 family were evicted from their ancestral homesteads.
Finally, the organizers put forward following 6-point demands to the government from the press conference to address the alarming issues of indigenous peoples of Bangladesh:
1. to take steps to stop violence against indigenous peoples’ of Bangladesh and ensure their security;
2. to arrest the perpetrators and provide an exemplary punishment those who are involved with the incident of violence against indigenous peoples;
3. to provide adequate compensation, medical treatment and legal assistance to the victims
4. to ensure the safety and proper rehabilitation of Santal people of Chirakuta village;
5. to establish a separate land commission for plain land indigenous peoples and effective functioning of CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission amending contradictory provision of its act;
6.to distribute Khas land-forest-water bodies to the landless and poor indigenous peoples’.
(A Human Rights Organization for Indigenous Peoples of Bangladesh)