JAP calls for protection of indigenous peoples in Rajshahi-Rangpur to prevent coronavirus


Hill Voice, 8 April 2020, Rajshahi:  The Jatiya Adivasi Parishad (JAP), an organization representing indigenous peoples in northwestern Bangladesh, has called for the protection of indigenous people of Rajshahi-Rangpur region on priority in preventing the deadly pandemic coronavirus (Covid-19) worldwide. The call was made in a message signed by Rabindranath Saran, President of the JAP, on 8 April 2020.

The call was made to the concerned administration and hospital authorities, saying that about 1.5 millions of indigenous people of more than 38 nations, namely, Santal, Uraon, Munda, Mahato, (Bedia/Kurami), Malo, Mahale, Mushahor, Kora, Korha, Kol, Vil, Bhuimali, Bagdi, Turi, Ganju, Garait, Teli, Koch, Kanda, Rajowar, Rabidas, Lohar, Shabar, Ho etc. were found in at least 13 districts of Rajshahi and Rangpur divisions in northwestern Bangladesh.

Today, 90 percent of these backward peoples are landless. Most of the indigenous peoples live in remote villages. As a result, they are far from touching modernity. Indigenous peoples are not yet aware of the prevalence of the global pandemic corona virus published in print and electronic media.

It is further said that indigenous peoples of the north Bengal are bound to suffer the brunt of silent torture, neglect and exploitation. Their lives are endangered today due to land related violence on them or confiscation of their land. Most members of these landless indigenous people are day laborer and undernourished. Moreover, there is still a shortage of toilet with adequate drinking water and healthcare in most of the indigenous-inhabited areas. They are also deprived of the necessary government medical services.

As a result, they easily get sick of various diseases and infections. The outbreak of the global pandemic coronavirus can easily take their lives. The JAP has noticed that in the meantime, the prevalence of measles in Rangamati and Khagrachari districts of Chittagong Hill Tracts has increased but the government administration has failed to provide necessary assistance.

In that call, the JAP demanded that if the indigenous children, women, the elders or the elderly persons became ill under the current circumstances, the hospital authorities should provide proper services and medicines without fear of needless fear. The organization urged concerned authorities to be more careful with their problems of indigenous children or elders in understanding the Bengali language.

In the meantime, the representative organization of indigenous peoples in North Bengal recalled the death of 22nd batch of indigenous student of Dhaka University’s Faculty of Education and Research, Suman Chakma, without treatment that the death of untreated patients should not be repeated.

The call also says that the deprivation of relief assistance of 1200 indigenous families in three villages Kuyamara, Madarpur and Jaipur under the Sahebganj-Baghda farm in Gobindganj upazila of Gaibandha was reported in various national dailies (The Daily Star and Samakal). But the condition of the laborers, distressed and poor indigenous people is the same throughout North Bengal.

According to the information provided by the District Committee of the JAP, the poor and working indigenous people of Thakurgaon, Panchagarh, Dinajpur, Rangpur, Gaibandha, Bogra, Joypurhat, Naogaon, Natore, Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj, Sirajganj, Pabna, Satkhira, Narail and Rajshahi did not receive any government relief and cooperation. The JAP urged the concerned administration and hospital authorities to come forward with the necessary assistance to tackle crisis of the day labor and poor indigenous people of North Bengal.

The JAP called upon the indigenous peoples of the North Bengal, “Be careful, don’t be frighten, comply with government restriction and assist the administration in preventing pandemic coronavirus. Use traditional-indigenous knowledge to address your own problems in crisis situations around the world today. Also use regular masks, hand-sanitizers, anti-bacteria-spray etc.”

The JAP called upon the indigenous peoples of the North Bengal to contact the leaders of the district branches of the National Tribal Council to deal with the situation arising out of the severe disaster of the coronavirus (Covid-19) epidemic and protect the indigenous populations; and also urge the leaders of the JAP to look for the indigenous peoples in their area and provide necessary assistance and advice to them.