Aug 15, 2011

Chittagong Hill Tracts: Human Rights Situation in CHT Worries NHRC Chief

The Bangladeshi government tries to change the Chittagong Hill Tracts’ constitutional identity from indigenous people to ethnic minority, giving the government more power to cease land.  

Below is an article published by the Independent.

DHAKA, AUG 8: Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Prof Dr Mizanur Rahman on Monday said human rights situation in the CHT region is worsening due to the strict security policy executed by successive governments. He called upon the government not to consider the issues of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) in view of security, which has been the “baseless plea” raised in the past by vested quarters.

“We have failed to acknowledge the people of CHT in the Constitution as per their demand. Now it is time to implement the CHT accord,” Mizanur said.

He was addressing launch of a book titled “Alienation of the lands of indigenous people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh”, jointly organised by Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission (CHTC) and the Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD) at CIRDAP auditorium in the city on Monday.

Presided over by CHTC co-chairperson and former adviser to a caretaker government advocate Sultana Kamal, the function was addressed, among others, by Chakma Circle chief and member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Barrister Raja Devasish Roy, ALRD executive director Shamsul Huda and CHTC member Shapan Adnan.

Mizanur stressed immediate implementation of the CHT Accord to establish the rights of the indigenous people.

He said, “We trusted the government for change of the county’s charter, but the indigenous people are still frustrated about it, which is not acceptable.”

About the CHT people’s constitutional identity, he said, “The government has been trying to impose the identity of khudra nrigosthi (ethnic minority groups) on the indigenous people by distorting the international law regarding them. This is also not acceptable in a democratic country like ours.”

The NHRC chairman alleged that a vested quarter is trying to create panic among the indigenous people, but this panic has to be removed.

Raja Devasish Roy emphasised formulating a regional land policy guided by the CHT district councils with a view to resolving the age old land dispute in the CHT.

He also alleged that an influential group wanted to develop connivance with the corporate business giants to grab land in CHT.  Sutana Kamal urged the indigenous people to avoid intra-ethnic and inter-ethnic conflict to establish peace in the CHT region.

Shapan Adnan said even though 13 years have gone by, many of the critical clauses of the CHT agreement have yet to be implemented by the government.

Shapan said the new book focuses on the multiple and complex mechanisms that have been used to grab hilly lands in CHT, inclusive of state power, illegal violence, and fraudulent manipulation of land records.