Main image: photo of Grabbing char land, influentials have been digging ponds for fish farming in Sonagazi upazila of Feni. Dhaka Tribune
Leaders of plain land indigenous people demand to be supervised under a separate ministry
The indigenous people of the plain land are still victims of various discrimination and their demands, including constitutional recognition, stay in limbo. They are struggling to protect their lands from encroachers.
Speakers at an advocacy dialogue demanded the formulation of a separate land policy and commission for these people, which will ensure their security.
The roundtable dialogue between policymakers and the ethnic minority groups living on the plain land – with the aim to enhance their rights through promoting advocacy and lobbying – was arranged by Private Rural Initiatives Program (PRIP) Trust and International Republican Institute (IRI) jointly on Wednesday.
During the discussion, a Santal community leader from Dinajpur complained that indigenous people of plain land are facing more hardships than those in CHT when it comes to land ownership.
An indigenous female leader from Rajshahi said that they have no organizations or agencies working for their rights or their lands.
The leaders of the ethnic minority groups urged the government to keep reserve seats for their representation in the union and upazila parishads as well as in the parliament. They also demanded to be supervised under a separate ministry.
A project titled “Enhancing Rights of Ethnic Minorities Through Promoting Advocacy and Lobbying” – conducted by PRIP and IRI in Netrokona, Dinajpur, and Rajshahi districts between December 2019 and December 2020 – found that encroaching of lands of plain land indigenous people has become very common.
The project identified land mortgage, registration issues, forced occupation, being ignorant of the law as some of the main causes for them losing their lands.
While addressing the event, Dinajpur 1 MP Manoranjan Shill Gopal said: “A movement needs to be formed for pressing home the demand of the ethnic minorities.
“Quota in each sector for the indigenous community should be preserved. A separate land commission for the indigenous people staying in plain land needs to be developed.”
Prof Mesbah Kamal of Dhaka University said: “The indigenous people account for 3% of our whole population. The 15th Amendment to the constitution in 2011 acknowledges their partial existence. They need full-fledged constitutional recognition.
“The separate land commission for these needs to have special powers and the indigenous community security law has to be formulated.”
Bangladesh Adivasi Forum General Secretary Sanjeeb Drong demanded the immediate formulation of policies for indigenous people ahead of the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence.
Feni 1 MP Shirin Akhter, also the general secretary of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, urged the concerned authorities to build a discrimination less society.
Among others, Rajshahi 2 MP Fazle Hossain Badshah, also the convener of the Parliamentary Caucus on Indigenous People and Minorities; and Dhaka 8 MP Rashed Khan Menon also attended the discussion virtually.