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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Civil society rallies round ethnic people

Source: The Daily Star News

Civil society members yesterday gathered on the Central Shaheed Minar premises in the capital raising their voice against the recent aggression by Bangalee settlers towards the indigenous people of Rangamati and Khagrachhari hill districts.

Addressing a gathering organised by Nagorik Samaj (citizens' forum), they warned that the atrocity is a threat to democracy and the state.

Demanding punishment of the perpetrators, speakers also emphasised the need for settling land dispute terming it the main cause behind the hill district crises.

They also demanded immediate implementation of the CHT Accord, constitutional recognition to indigenous people, cancellation of land leases in the hills, protection and compensation for the affected families.

A series of clashes between indigenous people and Bangalee settlers started on February 19. The six-day violence claimed three lives and injured 70 while more than 500 houses were set on fire, over 400 of which belonged to indigenous families.

Even Buddhist temples, church, mosque and schools were not spared from the arson attack.

The brutality displaced 3,000 adivasis and 500 Bangalee settlers from their homes.

Justice Golam Rabbani in his speech said whenever the nation steps in to build a democratic society, it faces obstacles from fascist segments.

Lawmaker Rashed Khan Menon described the incident as a scheme planned to foil the peace process in hill land. He blasted the role of military and local administration for their failure to ensure security of indigenous people. He also stressed the need for activating the land commission and resolving land dispute.

Lawmaker Hasanul Haq Inu insisted on immediate parliamentary-level inquiry to find out how such atrocity took place in presence of army.

Raja Debashis Roy, chief of Chakma Circle, questioned the army presence in the hill districts and also pointed to their inactivity during the fight.

He also said the attack on indigenous people is a blow to democracy, religious forbearance and ultimately, the state sovereignty.

The protest meeting was followed by a procession that circled the Dhaka University campus.

Expressing solidarity with the cause, Pankaj Bhattacharya, presidium Member of Gono Forum, Rokeya Kabir, president of Bangladesh Nari Pragati Sangha, cultural activist Ali Zaker and Mamunur Rashid, Shirin Akter, chairperson of Karmojibi Nari, Prof Anwar Hossain, Prof Dalem Chandra Barman, Prof HKS Arefin, Prof Mesbah Kamal, Sanjeeb Drong, general secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum, Prof Robayet Ferdous, Dr Sourav Sikdar, Ajoy Roy of Sammilito Samajik Andolon, Sharif Jamil, joint general secretary of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon, Rekha Chowdhury of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad also addressed the meeting among others.

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