Indigenous peoples cannot be evicted: Chairman of NHRC

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Hill Voice, 29 February 2024, Kulaura: Indigenous peoples have traditional rights. The father of the nation made the country independent to realize the rights of the people of this country. This people also contributed in the great liberation. They will not exist unless their culture survives. They, living in for generations, cannot be removed from the homesteads. The Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Dr. Kamal Uddin Ahmed said these while visiting Jhimai Punji of Kulaura, on February 27, 2024.

The Hill Voice representative from Jhimai Punji said that due to the eviction of the Khasi people from the land, deforestation by cutting down natural trees, creating confusion among the people by giving false and fabricated information in their name, in view of the complaints filed by them at various times in the NHRC, on February 27, on Tuesday, the chairman of the NHRC came to visit Jhimai Punji on the ground. It is learnt that senior officials of the administration were also present at the time.

In the visit, Dr. Kamal Uddin said, the indigenous peoples have been living closely in Punji area of Kulaura. There is harmony and sincerity among them. He questioned why the land where a community has been living for a long time is being leased again and again. There is a problem with cutting trees here. The livelihood of the people here is hidden in the cutting of the trees. Both life and livelihood are their rights. If livelihood is destroyed, there is no life.

He added, three complaints have already been filed in our commission. We are here to realize them deeply. Addressing to the local administration and plantation authorities the chairman said, we have to act more considerably so that the livelihood of any community is not destroyed.

Notably, at least 500 people live in 72 families of Khasi people in Jhimai Punji area. They are constantly in fear of tree cutting and eviction by tea plantation authority. Once the trees of Punji are felled, the indigenous peoples and the environment will be threatened. The tea estate authority obstructs the movement on the road of Punji people. The Khasi people’s vehicles are not allowed to enter the road, about one and a half kilometre long from the main gate of plantation to Punji, even though they travel.

Since 2015, though there has been a demand for road, but the plantation authority has not paid heed to the demand till now. Those who want to go to the hospital with pregnant women, elderly or emergency patients, their vehicles are stopped at the main gate. Just as Khasi people are victims of discrimination, and blocking the road is also a violation of human rights. Moreover, entire 72 families are still without electricity. This is disrupting the education of the Punju students. There is also a problem of potable water.

The Khasi people have sought cooperation from the Chairman of the NHRC so that no plan is taken to destroy their life, livelihood and natural forest.