Hill Voice, 5 October 2020, Chittagong Hill Tracts: On behalf of 107 representatives of Internally Displaced Hill Persons and Civil Society of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), a memorandum was submitted to the Chairman of the CHT Task Force on the Rehabilitation of India-Repatriated Tribal Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Kujendra Lal Tripura, MP to resolve the Covid-19 Related problems and other short, middle and long-term problems faced by internally displaced hill persons of the CHT.
The memorandum was issued on 4 October 2020 Sunday. At the beginning of the memorandum, felicitations and gratitude were expressed to the government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for providing food grain relief and the Prime Minister’s 2,500 Taka Special Package to tackle the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The memorandum drew attention to the fact that that, despite the commendable relief measures taken by the government, on account of difficulties faced at the field level, the food security needs of a significant portion of the marginalized communities of the CHT continued to remain unmet.
It stated that the majority of hill village families, who were daily wage labourers or marginal Swidden (shifting) farmers, had no more than a week’s stock of rice at best. However, relief from governmental and non-governmental sources entities seldom reached their settlements.
Moreover, these areas were deprived of drinking water supply, motorable roads, motor vehicles, electricity, education and healthcare. In such a context, the living conditions of the internally displaced hill persons (an estimated 86,000-96,000 families) can easily be gauged. Unlike the resettled Bengali migrants of the 1980s and the India-returned hill person refugees that were repatriated under the auspices of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord of 1997, the internally displaced hill persons do not have the privilege of receiving regular food grain rations.
In the circumstances, having regard to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic and other matters, it was requested that the following short, middle and long-term measures be taken in favour of the internally displaced hill persons:
- To urgently provide food and financial support to the Internally Displaced Hill Persons;
- In addition to long-term relief measures and appropriate rehabilitation in the long term, to bring the elderly, widows, persons with disability and woman-headed families within the coverage of Vulnerable Group Development (VGD) and Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF) support through the Union Councils;
- To bring the Internally Displaced Hill Persons within the fold of the regular monthly ration-receiving groups of the Ministry of CHT, as in the case of the India-returned Hill Refugees and the Migrant Bengali Families that were resettled in the CHT;
- For the CHT Land Disputes Resolution Commission to take appropriate measures to resolve the land-related disputes of the Internally Displaced Hill Persons on an urgent basis;
- To expand the mandate of the CHT Task Force on Refugees and Displaced Persons;
- For the publication of an annual report regarding progress in the rehabilitation programmes concerning the Internally Displaced Hill Persons.
The memorandum was copied, among others, to the Prime Minister’s Office, Convenor of the Committee for the Implementation of the CHT Accord, Minister, Ministry of CHT Affairs, Members of Parliament from the CHT and other senior functionaries and office-holders.
In addition to eighty internally displaced hill persons from the CHT, the following distinguished persons and organizations were among the signatories,
Chakma Circle Chief Barrister Devasish Roy, President of Chittagong Hill Tracts Citizens’ Committee Goutam Dewan, former principal of Khagrachhari College Professor Sudhin Kumar Chakma; head of the Bandarban chapter of the CHT Forest and Land Rights Protection Movement Juamlian Amlai and various social, development and student organizations.
In addition, Advocate Sultana Kamal, a prominent human rights activist; Khushi Kabir, coordinator, Nijera Kori and prominent human rights activist; Barrister Sara Hassan, prominent lawyer and human rights activist; Dr. Swapan Adnan, eminent researcher; Dr. Meghna Guhathakurta, eminent researcher; Dr. Iftekharuzzaman, eminent researcher; Mr. Shamsul Huda, Executive Director, ALRD and Bina D’Costa, Professor, National University of Australia also expressed solidarity.