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Monday, January 31, 2011

Indigenous rights groups demand consultation with IPOs in enacting the Forest Act and Wildlife Act

Source: Kapaeeng Foundation

On 25 January 2011 indigenous rights organisations namely CHT Citizens’ Committee, CHT Forest and Land Rights Protection Movement, CHT Headmen Networks and Kapaeeng Foundation submitted memorandum to the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment and Forest Ministry through Deputy Commissioner of Rangamati hill district demanding consultation by the government with indigenous peoples including their organisations and CHT Regional Council and Hill District Councils before passage of these Acts in the parliament. The memorandum was signed by 21 indigenous leaders from different organisations.

Indigenous rights organisations also organised press conference at Hotel Roof in Rangamati demanding the same. Mr. Goutam Dewan from CHT Citizens’ Committee, Mr. Sudatta Bikash Tanchangya from CHT Forest and Land Rights Protection Movement, Mr. Swdesh Priti Chakma from CHT Headmen Networks and Mr. Udvasan Chakma from Kapaeeng Foundation were present in the press conference. Mr. Sudatta B Tanchangya read out the press statement of the four organisations.

It is mentionable that Government of Bangladesh drafted proposal of further amendment of Forest Act-1927 and enactment of Wildlife (Preservation) Act 2010 canceling the Wildlife (Preservation) Act 1973 and planned to pass these Acts during ongoing parliamentary session. However, though indigenous peoples are stakeholder of these Acts, but no consultation with indigenous peoples is made by the government.

An indigenous housewife raped by a group of Bengali settlers in Khagrachari

Source: Kapaeeng Foundation

On 26 January 2011 at mid-night an indigenous mother of 4 small children was raped by a group of unscrupulous miscreants at Porabari village of Taindong union under Matiranga sub-district in Khagrachari district.

It was learnt that at around 2 a.m., a group of 8/10 Bengali settlers led by Suruj Mian, Babul Mian and Babul’s younger brother from Muslim Para village went to rob Nityaranjan Tripura’s house at Porabari village. When Nityaranjan came to know about the robbers, he shouted out. But, soon after that, the goons tied him up at a corner in the house and raped his wife (35) one after another before him. Nityaranjan blamed that the miscreants took Tk. 16,000 cash, gold chain and all other valuables (including land documents) away from his house. Since then, the miscreants have been threatening the victim’s family to kill all of them if they would lodge any case against the miscreants.

On 28 January, a case was filed against the miscreants with Matiranga police station (Case No.-05) despite death threat. However, miscreants are yet to be arrested by the police. It was learnt that the victim was taken into Khagrachari Sadar Hospital for health checkup at around 3:00 p.m. on Friday.

Protesting this incident, Chittagong Hill Tracts Hill Students’ Council (PCP) and Bangladesh Indigenous Students’ Action Forum (BISAF) jointly brought out a protest demonstration at Dhaka University Campus ton 29 January 2011.

PCJSS demands amendment of LC Act during ongoing winter session of Parliament

Source: PCJSS

PCJSS organised public meeting, procession and submission of memorandum to the Prime Minister demanding amendment of CHT Land Dispute Commission Act 2001 as per CHT Accord and recommendation of CHT Regional Council during the ongoing winter session of Jatiya Sangsad (national parliament) and appointment of a competent person to the post of Chairmanship of Land Commission removing present Chairman retired justice Khademul Islam Chowdhury.

On 23 January 2011 PCJSS organised public meeting and procession at district and upazila (sub-district) level through out the CHT region and submission of memorandum to the Prime Minister through concerned Deputy Commissioner and Upazila Executive Officer.

Again, on 25 January 2011 PCJSS also organised public meeting and procession at Muktangan in Dhaka. Presided by organising secretary of PCJSS Mr. Shaktipada Tripura, Presidium Member of Gono Forum Mr. Pankaj Bhattachariya, presidium member of Workers’ Party of Bangladesh Md. Fazle Hossain Badshah MP, central member of BASAD Mr. Bazlur Rashid, general secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum Mr. Sanjeeb Drong, general secretary of Jatiya Adivasi Parishad Mr. Rabindranath Soren, general secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Chhatra Sangram Parishad Mr. Batayan Chakma, president of PCP of Dhaka city unit Mr. Presenjit Chowdhury Sunny and president of Jatiya Adivasi Chhatra Parishad Harendranath Sing et el. Besides, general secretary of Workers’ Party of Bangladesh Mr. Anisur Rahman Mollick and central member of BASAD Mr. Rajekkujaman Ratan were present in the public meeting.

On the other, on 24 January 2011 human chain was organised by the indigenous people under the banner of the people from all walks of life in Khagrachari. They also submitted memorandum to Prime Minister through DC of Khagrachari. Besides, on 23 January 2011 CHT Citizens’ Committee, CHT Forest and Land Rights Protection Movement and CHT chapter of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum also participated in the human chain in Bandarban and submitted memorandum to the Prime Minister demanding the same.

It is mentionable that on 12 July 2001, just the day before the handing over charge to the Caretaker government, then Awami league government hurriedly passed the “CHT Land (Disputes Settlement) Commission Act 2001” in the parliament without taking into account the advice and recommendations given by the CHTRC. As a result, so many provisions crept into the Act which were contradictory to the CHT Accord and detrimental to the interest of the Jumma people. CHTRC sent recommendations to the government for amendment to the contradictory provisions of the CHT Land Commission Act 2001.

The inter-ministerial meeting held on 10 October 2010 in Rangamati presided over by Land Minister Rezaul Karim Hira decided to amend the LC Act as per recommendations of CHTRC. Further, 3rd meeting of CHT Accord Implementation Committee held on 26 December 2010 in Khagrachari adopted a decision to amend the Act in the next parliamentary session and then to start hearing of land dispute in CHT. Though winter session of Jatiya Sangsad has started from 25 January 2011, but no initiative for amendment of the Land Commission Act has been taken by government so far.

The present grand alliance government led by Awami League appointed retired Justice Khademul Islam as the chairman of the Land Commission in July 2009. After assuming in the office, Mr. Khademul Islam started in a dramatic fashion. He undertook a lightning tour of the three hill districts and convened meeting of the Commission for exchange of views. He used the Deputy Commissioners of the three hill district to issue letter calling upon the members to attend the meeting which was totally irregular. As the DCs are nobody of the Commission. On the other, the chairman of the Commission unilaterally declared to conduct land survey in the CHT without a decision to that effect in any of the meetings. However, CHT Accord provides to conduct survey after resolution of land dispute, rehabilitation of returnee Jumma refugees and internally Jumma displaced persons.

Despite the huge protest from the all sections of the citizens including CHTRC and PCJSS and also three circle chiefs, the Chairman of the Commission justice Khademul Islam Chowdhury continues his unilateral and controversial activities. In mid-July 2010 the secretary of Land Commission issued a notice to the CHT Affairs Ministry and Land Ministry to conduct cadastral survey in CHT soon; otherwise the ministries would be charged non-compliance with court order.

In addition, Mr. Chowdhury also unilaterally declared to start hearing of dispute from 27 December 2010 without discussion of members of the Commission.

With this backdrop, indigenous peoples and civic groups of the country have been demanding removal of justice Khademul Islam Chowdhury from the chairmanship of CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission.