In the name of development projects, the lands of the ethnic minorities are being encroached upon

Representatives of minority communities have complained that their land is being grabbed in the name of various government development projects. They said that their land is being encroached on even in the name of reclaiming vacant forest land.

Speaking at a seminar on the occasion of ‘International Adivasi Day 2022’, Ajay Mri, leader of small ethnic group of Madhupur, and Philemon Baske, president of Bagdafarm Bhumi Sangam Sangam Committee, said these things. 15 organizations organized a seminar titled ‘Role of tribal women in conservation of traditional knowledge, land, forest and natural resources: Challenges and our responsibility’ at the National Press Club in the capital on Monday morning. They are — ALRD, Bangladesh Adivasi Forum, Kapeng Foundation, Malaya Foundation, National Adivasi Parishad, CCDB, Caritas-Bangladesh, Blast, Bela, Nivira Kari, Urban, CDA, TIB, HDRC, Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Parishad.

Ajay Mri said that they are trying to occupy their land in the name of various projects. They were given an eviction notice in the name of Madhupur National Park. Now there is an attempt to grab their land in Madhupur in the name of digging a canal under the project. In the name of reclaiming vacant forest land, their land was occupied. He also alleged that Madhupur’s natural forest has been destroyed in the name of social forestry.

“We are being harassed in various ways in the name of the project,” said Philemon Baske. Attempts are being made to remove us from the ancestral property of our fathers and grandfathers by dividing and confusing them in various ways.

Bangladesh Workers Party President Rashed Khan Menon believes that the condition of the people of the small ethnic groups in the plains is worse than in the mountains. Speaking as the chief guest at the event, Menon said that the minority ethnic groups should continue to fight for their rights. For this they must be united. Besides, Bengalis also need to participate in the movement for their rights.

Association for Land and Development (ALRD) chairperson and human rights activist Khushi Kabir presided and moderated the event. He said, “We all agree to allow all the minority ethnic groups to practice their culture, language and traditions as citizens of the country.”

Syeda Rizwana Hasan, executive director of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), said that the characteristic feature of those who occupy the land of minority ethnic people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts or plains is to occupy them. He said, ‘We have fallen into the culture of injustice. The system of impeachment must be reformed. Talking about reforms out of party loyalty will not happen. Issue-based reforms should be demanded.

There is a case hearing next Thursday, where the government has asked to delete the word ‘tribal’, said Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) Honorary Executive Director lawyer Sara Hossain. He said, “You come to that hearing. Listen to the arguments about deleting the word ‘adivasi’ from there. If you have a disagreement there, you can raise it with the government.

Kajal Debnath, one of the members of the presidium of the Hindu Buddhist Christian Oikya Parishad, said that the businessmen who are occupying the land of small ethnic groups in the Chittagong Hill Tracts are the front line. Those who are behind the traders are totalitarians. They are destroying nature and politics.

Professor Robayet Ferdous of Dhaka University thinks that the current government is a thousand miles away from the non-communal spirit. He said, the once oppressed Bengalis have now become the oppressors.

General Secretary of Bangladesh Tribal Forum Sanjib Drang said, “People of small ethnic groups do not destroy nature, forests and mountains. We think, the land is not mine, we are his.

Pallab Chakma, executive director of Kapeng Foundation and Heimanti Sarkar, executive director of Puamdo, presented keynote speeches at the event. ALRD Deputy Executive Director Roshan Jahan gave the welcome speech.