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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Speakers of BIPF urge government of Bangladesh to formulate a National Action Plan for implementation of the SDGs

Source: Kapaeeng Foundation

On 10 December 2015, a national seminar titled “Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh: Human Rights and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)” was organized by Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum (BIPF) with the support of International Labour Organization (ILO) in Dhaka. Over one hundred participants, including ambassadors, diplomats, development activists, civil society members, journalists, indigenous and mainstream population with different working backgrounds, participated in the event.
Rashed Khan Menon, MP, minister of Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry was present as the chief guest while Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma President of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum (BIPF) and Chairman of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Regional Council presided over the seminar. H. E. Pierre Mayaudon, Ambassador and Head of Delegation, European Union;  H. E. Henne Fugl Eskjaer, Ambassador, Royal Danish Embassy; Fazle Hossain Badsha, MP, Convener, Parliamentary Caucus of Indigenous Peoples; Srinivas B. Reddy, Country Director, International Labour Organization and Barrister Sara Hossain, Honorary Director, BLAST were present in the seminar as discussant. Mr. Sanjeeb Drong, General Secretary of BIPF, delivered the welcome speech and Mr. Mangal Kumar Chakma, Advisor of Kapaeeng Foundation presented the key note paper which was written jointly with Raja Devasish Roy, Chakma Chief, Advocate, Supreme Court & Member, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
BIPF chairman Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma said, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer us a unique opportunity to adopt a new partnership between the United Nations, development partnership of Bangladesh and other stakeholders, including indigenous peoples and their organizations and other representative bodies. He expressed his expectation that the government of Bangladesh would respect and fulfill the rights of indigenous peoples in spirit with different international instruments, including ILO Convention No. 107 & 169, UNDRIP and Outcome Document of WCIP. He also expected an effective interface between government’s inclusive development plans and internationally agreed development goals would allow us to ascertain that none of the marginalized people of the country, within our multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious society, is left behind in sustainable development process.
He said that indigenous peoples in Bangladesh are experiencing different discriminations the violations of the rights of indigenous peoples instead are occurring, such as, land grabbing and eviction of indigenous peoples from their ancestral land by States and Non-State actors, and lack of recognition of customary tenure systems, particularly in plain land. This impairs indigenous peoples’ rights to access and use forests, ancestral lands and natural resources. It also exposes indigenous peoples to the effects of climate change, disrupts their social unity and exacerbates their situation both in CHT and plain land. He also added, the country could not make any progress without advancement of indigenous peoples of the country. If the government establishes indigenous peoples right to land in the CHT and plain land, than other rights will be defended automatically.
Mr. Larma added a roadmap needs to be declared to fully implement the CHT accord and thus avoid future unrest. He mentioned that the PCJSS, one of the signatories of CHT Accord, already declared to launch harder non-cooperation movement from 1 January 2015 if the Accord is not implemented fully by then.
Rashed Khan Menon, MP, minister of Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry said, the CHT Accord not yet been fully  implemented so the need for removing complexities to take bold steps to implement the CHT Accord signed 18 years ago. It is true that the bureaucratic government in the country and fundamental Islamism are the main hindrance to implement the CHT Accord. He also opined that creating platforms at grassroots level is imperative for the implementation of the CHT Accord.
European Union ambassador Pierre Mayaudon stressed the need for a dialogue ‘at the higher level between the government and indigenous leader’ for implementation of the CHT Accord. He also emphasized on the need for formation and activation of the land commission for plain land ethnic minorities.
H. E. Hanne Fugl Eskjaer, Ambassador, Royal Danish Embassy stressed the importance of including indigenous people in the development agenda and use of the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals to address the needs of this vulnerable group including indigenous peoples, and to make sure no one is left behind. As marked poverty reduction is one of the key area of intervention attaining the SDGs, an enhancement strategy on indigenous peoples would help to overcome the inequality and poverty, and ecological sustainable for the long run. At this stage, indigenous peoples should be inclusive for the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the SDGs, and the overall development.
Fazle Hossain Badsha, MP, Convener, Parliamentary Caucus on Indigenous Peoples urged civil societies, parliament members and the Bengali people for playing active roles in the movement of implementation of the CHT Accord. He urged the government to establish a separate land commission for plain land indigenous peoples immediately to stop the eviction of indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands.
International Labour Organisation (ILO) country director Srinivas B. Reddy stressed the need for pursuing a policy of inclusion for mainstreaming indigenous community’s issues in the development agendas. ILO is working for different vulnerable groups in Bangladesh and the indigenous issue is one of the major vulnerable groups, he added.
Bangladesh Legal Aid Services Trust honorary director Sara Hossain reminded that investigation and placing charge sheet on Kalpana Chakma, a victim of forced disappearance, had remained stalled for years. She also urged government of Bangladesh to withdraw two circulations of Home Ministry issued in January 2015 on CHT and Public Works & Housing Ministry dated in August 2015 on indigenous peoples as these circulations are contradictory to the fundamental rights of the Constitution.
In his welcome speech Mr. Sanjeeb Drong, General Secretary of BIPF said SGD promise to “leave no one behind”. However, the indigenous peoples in Bangladesh so leg far behind to the mainstream Bengali communities.  In this wave, government should come forward to establish a separate land commission for plain indigenous people and declare a road map to implement the CHT Accord. He also urged to indicate the development partners to keep and priority of the indigenous issues in their agenda.
In the key note paper, the keynote authors said that historically, Bangladesh is a country with diverse languages, religions and ethnicity. However, the existence of indigenous groups and their diverse cultural practices has remained unrecognized both by the State and its mainstream population, on account of ignorance, discriminatory perspectives or chauvinistic mindsets, or a combination of them. This has resulted in the exclusion of indigenous peoples from governance and development, except in a very marginal manner. Systemic poverty exacerbates inequality, especially for indigenous women, children and youth and persons with disabilities who are particularly affected by the lack of access to health services, housing, and other services.
The keynote speakers said that out of 72, only 25 sections of the CHT Accord have been implemented. However, the government claims that altogether 48 sections of the CHT Accord had been implemented. They described about the issue of the situation of alienation of lands of indigenous peoples of the country, both in the CHT and in the plains, is alarming, and continues to deteriorate. The indigenous peoples of the plain land claiming to form a separate land commission for plain indigenous peoples. However the government is not yet to take any such measures and form a Land Commission for the plains indigenous peoples.
Key note paper focused on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were adopted by the UN General Assembly on 25 September 2015, contain the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets and include six specific references to indigenous peoples. He added that Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in the areas of poverty alleviation, primary school enrolment, gender parity in primary and secondary level education, lowering the infant and under-five mortality rate and maternal mortality ratio, improving immunization coverage and reducing the incidence of communicable diseases stipulated in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However, indigenous peoples in Bangladesh are still lagging far behind in many of these key goals and targets, if not all.
Keynote authors opined that if the 7th Five Year Plan is formulated by incorporating adequate provisions that address the indigenous peoples’ contexts of both opportunity and disadvantage, several crucial human rights and developmental rights of indigenous peoples can be addressed. Speakers said that indigenous peoples in Bangladesh look forward to being a full part of the SDG journey, so that all Bangladeshis can truly transform Bangladesh and bring peace and prosperity for all. Indigenous peoples wish to ensure that they are not left behind. Therefore, the designing of culturally relevant indicators, preceded by the disaggregation of data, including in the data of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, is a vital precondition. The UN system including the country teams, along with the development partners of Bangladesh, have an important role to play in this regard.
In the keynote paper, the authors appealed to all development partners of the Government of Bangladesh for using its foreign aid for good governance, including the overall development of the citizens of Bangladesh, in a non-discriminatory manner. They stressed for taking adequate and context-specific measures to consult the indigenous peoples with regard to the adoption of the 7th Five Year Plan and to amend the Sectoral Policies of the country to include indigenous peoples’ issues; formulation of a National Action Plan for implementation of the SDGs, UNDRIP and Outcome Document of the WCIP, at country level; capacity building of Indigenous Peoples’ Organisations for protection and promotion of the rights of indigenous peoples and inclusive development; awareness building among indigenous peoples, policy makers and other  stakeholders on the rights of indigenous peoples including SDGs, UNDRIP, Outcome Documents, ILO Convention No. 107, ICCPR, ICESCR, ICERD and CHT Accord of 1997; Establishment of partnerships for development on issues relating to indigenous peoples; declaration of a time-line-based Action Plan or ‘Road Map’ for proper, speedy and full implementation of the CHT Accord of 1997 by the government and recognition of indigenous peoples’ collective rights, in particular the right to land, territories and natural resources; to form a separate Land Commission to prevent land alienation and to restitute alienated lands of the indigenous peoples of the plains.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Assailants hack to death writer Avijit Roy, wife injured

Police said the couple came under assault near TSC intersection at Dhaka University's around 9:30pm on Thursday.
They were returning from the Amar Ekushey Book Fair at that time.
Doctors declared him dead during an emergency surgery at the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital (DMCH), its police outpost Inspector Mozzamel Haque told
DMCH casualty department’s Residential Surgeon Riaz Morshed confirmed to that Avijit Roy was dead.
Islamist zealots have been threatening Avijit, a bioengineer and a US citizen, for his active campaign against Islamist radicals.
Avijit has been a regular columnist and the founder of popular blog Mukto-mona.
He is son of well-known physicist Ajay Roy who has taught at Dhaka University for a long time.
Avijit had suffered a deep gash on his head during the assault and Banna lost a finger and suffered cut wounds.
She is still under treatment at DMCH.
Two machetes, a severed finger and a bag that possibly belonged to the assailants were recovered from the scene, Shahbagh police said.

Quoting witnesses, Inspector Haque said several unknown youths had carried out the attack with sharp weapons.
Avijit's blogger friends say he had been possibly trapped – some online bloggers had invited him to a book fair event.
Police are investigating the lead to track down the culprits.
Avijit Roy is well known for his books ‘Biswaser Virus’ (Virus of Faith) and ‘Sunyo theke Mahabiswa’ (From Vacuum to the Great World).
Two of his recent titles had been launched at the ongoing Ekushey Book Fair.
His writing and blogging had evoked the ire of fanatics and he had been regularly threatened.
Thursday’s attack bore a striking resemblance to the one on legendary writer Humayun Azad in February 2004.
Azad was also returning to home from the Ekushey Book Fair when he was hacked with machetes by radical militants. He later died in Germany.
Militants also hacked blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider to death in a similar attack near his home at Dhaka’s Mirpur in February 2013.
That was barely 10 days after the secular platform Ganajagaran Mancha started its Shahbagh-based agitation.
Islamist radicals had attacked other secular bloggers like Ashraful Alam and Asif Mohiuddin after the Shahbagh agitation polarised opinions in Bangladesh.
They were demanding capital punishment for war criminals and a ban on communal parties like the Jamaat-e-Islami.
Farabi Shafiur Rahman was arrested in connection with Rajib Haider’s murder but managed to secure bail later.
He had issued death threats demanding that, an online shopping portal, stops selling the books of Avijit Roy.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Communal attack on indigenous Santal village by Bengali land grabbers in Dinajpur, 25 houses gutted and 65 houses vandalised & looted

Source: Kapaeeng Foundation

On 24 January 2014 an indigenous Santal village named Chirkuta (Habibpur) under Mostafapur union of Parbotipur upazila in Dinajpur district went under attack allegedly by a group of Bengali land grabbers. The land grabbers looted and vandalized all the houses and belongings of indigenous peoples, leaving all indigenous families literally destitute.

It is learnt that on the day of incident at around 7.30 am, Zahurul Islam (50) and his brother Ziarul Mandal, both sons of late Mohammad Ali, from Habibpur under Parbotipur upazila in Dinjapur district went to work on 19 acres land of Joseph Tudu and his family. When Joseph Tudu and his family members came to know about the incident, they tried to stop alleged land grabbers and some altercation took place between two groups. At some point around a dozen of Bengalis joined in favor of Jahurul’s family and the feud turned violent. As a result, some Santals villagers were forced to shot arrows in order to defend themselves. Later, Zahurul's son Safiul Islam Sohag (22) was found dead. Besides, some Santal villagers namely Rakib Tudu, Ruben Tudu and Kablu Tudu were injured in the clash.

After learning about the incident, hundreds of Bengalis encircled whole Chirakuta village with locally made weapons including ramda, machete, sharp knife, and dagger. However, they did not attack until police held 19 Santal men. After police took those people, the assailants broke over the Santal houses — they set fire on at least 25 houses and vandalized 65 houses of Santal villagers and looted all the belongings of indigenous villagers including food, kitchen utensils, furniture, cattle and tube wells, leaving each and every indigenous family literally destitute. The attackers also set fire on a primary school run by Caritas-Bangladesh. Beside, in the attack, one Mikhalina Murmu (28), a pregnant indigenous woman, and one Mikhael Tudu were tortured and survived serious injury. Both of them were later admitted to Dinajpur sadar hospital.

Mahmudul Hoque (29), the uncle of Saiful Islam Sohag, filed a case (case No. 22, dated 24/01/14) with Parbotipur police station against indigenous Santals accusing named 28 and 14 unanimous indigenous persons. On the other hand, a Santal woman victim named Nilima Hembrom filed a case (case No. 29, dated 28/01/2014) against 76 identified Bengali persons and many unknown persons with Parbotipur police station in connection with this incident.

Police has not arrested any of the attackers as of yet, although all the 19 indigenous persons who were held by the police earlier have remained under the custody of the police except for Antineus Tudu, a candidate of Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examination, whose exam is scheduled to be held from 2nd February 2015. On 29 January, the court granted bail to until the SSC examination period.

It is mentionable that Zahurul Islam has been claiming his ownership over the land of Joseph for last few years. In this situation several talks and arbitrations took place between Joshep Tudu and Zahurul Islam. The local UP chairman, police and other villagers also joined the talks. Every time Joseph Tudu showed land documents whereas Zahurul Islam failed to show any.

On 27 January, a three-member probe committee was formed by Shamim Al Razi, the Deputy Commissioner of Dinajpur district to investigate the incident. The probe committee is supposed to submit their probe report within 15 days since the formation of the committee. The members of this team are Touhidul Islam, Additional District Magistrate, Dinajpur; Sushanta Sarkar, Assistant Superintendent of Police (Sadar circle), Dinajpur; and Jahangir Alam, Assistant Commissioner of Land, Parbotipur upazilla.

On 25 January, an onsite enquiry team of Jatiya Adivasi Parisad (JAP) visited Chirakuta village. The team found obvious signs of demolition of indigenous houses including remnants of clay-made walls, ashes, charcoal and other debris from burning. They also found that all the indigenous men fled the village and all the young girls were sent to their relatives’ elsewhere allegedly due to the fear of police arrest and further attack by the Bengalis.

The investigation team of JAP found the evidence that the case of land grabbing was turned into a communal attack. They also claimed that although the clash was between two families, other Bengali people who were incited to make this brutal attack on indigenous Santals.

Different citizen groups and indigenous peoples’ organizations condemned the brutal attack on indigenous Santals of Chirakuta and demanded to bring all the perpetrators to justice. Indigenous peoples organizations including Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum, JAP, Kapaeeng Foundation, and Bangladesh Indigenous Students Action Forum staged demonstrations to protest against the attack.

Name of Santal villagers against whom land grabbers filed cases and among them police held 19 persons from sl. 1 to 19 villagers:
1. Barnabas Tudu, 40,
2. Habil Tudu, 55, both son of Late Manir Tudu
3. Antinues Tudu, 22,
4. Emelius Tudu, 20, both son of Josef Tudu
5. Jibon Hembrom, 22, son of Vadu Hembrom
6. Khalil Tudu (Ripan), 25, son of unknown
7. Lazarus Tudu, 20, both son of Habil Tudu
8. Juwel Tudu, 22,
9. Bifol Mardi, 20, son of Noren Mardi
10. Noren Mardi, 51,
11. Mosoi Tudu, 58, son of late Mohon Tudu
12. Chelsu Hembrom (Rengta), 45,
13. Renatus Hembrom, 40, both son of late Regna Hembrom
14. Rakib Murmu, 32, son of Suren Murmu
15. Romesh Soren, 50, son late Dhanai Soren
16. Alfaskius Tudu, 43,
17. Karlus Tudu, 30, both son of Gonesh Tudu
18. Bachu Barman, 38, son of late Ghutu Barman
19. Hayus Tudu (Thosa), 42, son of Churkai tudu
20. Josef Tudu, 55,
21. Mikhael Tudu, 45, both son of late Raghunath Tudu
22. Aihas Tudu, 45, son of Churkai Tudu
23. Kistu Tudu, 35, son of late Sam Tudu
24. Gudai Tudu, 58, son of late Manir Tudu
25. Srimon Tudu, 35,
26. Noren Mastar, 42,
27. Vadu Hembrom, 50, son of late Chotu Hembrom
28. Benedic Tudu, 25

Please visit for following for lList of loses of indigenous Santal villagers of Chirakuta village under Parbotipur upazilla in Dinajpur

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Development without consent!

Address indigenous concerns

Source: The Daily Star, 20 January 2015

The establishment of a Rangamati Science & Technology University has generated widespread protests by indigenous communities and civil society groups who believe that, in the absence of full implementation of the CHT Accord, the project will further displace and deprive already marginalised indigenous communities. We urge the government to take serious note of these concerns.

Why should indigenous people be opposed to development projects? Obviously there are reasons for this opposition. First, they take it as an imposition, as the decision was taken without prior consultation with local communities and representative institutions, even though the Accord stipulates that no land within the control and jurisdiction of the Hill District Council (HDC) shall be acquired or transferred by the government without consultation and consent of the HDC. It also recognises the rights of indigenous people to decide their own development priorities through representative institutions.

Second, the track record of the government in matters of development project in the CHT has not been one of trust and confidence-building. Indigenous communities fear that they will be evicted from their lands, as they have been in the past, to make way for the institution and for non-indigenous students, teachers and staff who will consequently settle in the area.
Development in a democracy must be of, for and by the people. Any decision taken without the people's consultation and in violation of the Accord can hardly be effective or desired.
We implore the government to prioritise indigenous demands in designing development projects and to implement the accord without further delay, allaying all concerns.