Jul 07, 2014

Chittagong Hill Tracts: Indigenous Rights Severely Violated

The human rights situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) has become dire and has to be immediately addressed according to the CHT Commission. Advocate Sultana Kamal, co-chairman of the commission has stated that the CHT people live in constant fear; their properties is taken away illegally and they are constantly harassed by security and law enforcement agencies. 

Below is an article published by BD NEWS 24:

The commission made the observation while briefing reporters about the human rights situation in the CHT region at the end of its three-day visit to Khagrachari on Friday [4 July 2014].

Commission’s co-chairman and former advisor to caretaker government, Advocate Sultana Kamal, CHT researcher Dr Swapan Adnan, human rights leader Khushi Kabir and Transparency International Bangladesh’s executive director Iftekharuzzaman briefed the media.

“Basic rights of the citizens are violated. Unethical interventions are made in their properties. Security agencies deployed in the area should bear in mind that the rights of indigenous people should not be violated in the name of establishing peace,” advocate Sultana Kamal said in her observation.

Stating that Commission visited poverty-ridden areas of Babuchara in Khagrachari, she said they interacted with 21 families, who took shelter in the primary school.

Narrating the plight of those families, she said they were subjected to “great injustice.”

Refugees repatriated from India were yet to be rehabilitated as was promised by the government, Commission’s co-chairman pointed out.

“Hill people are living in constant fears. Illegal structures are being constructed after grabbing their properties. Hill people are unsafe,” she observed.
In a serious indictment of law-and-order situation prevailing in the area, Sultana Kamal said that crimes, even as heinous as killing, committed against hill people often go unpunished. Two cases over killings were yet to see transparent trial, she added.

Apart from that, several fake cases were filed against tribal people.

“A 16-year old boy, who just passed SSC, could not enrol himself in any college as he has been detained under a false case. He has even been denied bail. This cannot happen in a civilized country,” she said.

Hill people were even harassed by law enforcement agencies when they go outside at night to answer the call of nature, the Commission said.

Sultana Kamal said they discussed the situation with DC Masud Karim and Police super Sheikh Mizanur Rahman.

She said, “DC and Police super assured to ensure security.”

In respond to a question on they being termed ‘foreign agents’, she said, “Similar terms were used for us even when we worked for poverty eradication and women rights.”

She further pointed out that Commission did not have the final say. “We expect that civil administration will work to ensure people’s rights. Govt should take care of those whose lives are in danger.”

Khushi Kabir said though ‘Sama odhikar’ had called a blockade after hearing about commission’s arrival, it did not hinder their work.

“It is not proper for an organization that preaches equal rights for all to create obscurantism in establishing other’s right.”

TIB Ed Iftekharezzaman too echoed Khushi Kabir’s view.

Meanwhile, terming CHT Commission’s visit to Khagrachari ‘unwanted’, Hill Bengali Student Council protested before the motel where the commission held the press conference.