State and non-state authorities take away IP’s land and territory: Manjuni Chakma in EMRIP

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Hill Voice, 20 July 2023, International Desk: Manjuni Chakma, representative of Kapaeeng Foundation, a non-government organization of human rights and indigenous peoples’ rights in Bangladesh said on 4th day of the 16th session of UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples being held in Geneva of Switzerland that lands belonging to indigenous peoples are being taken away by state and non-state authorities in Chittagong Hill Tracts and plain lands. They are being evicted from their homestead and ancestral lands violating their traditional land rights without their free, prior and informed consent.

Kapaeeng Foundation’s representative Manjuni Chakma said these while presenting his statement on Agenda Item 9: Interactive dialogue with UNPFII, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples (public) in the 4th day’s meeting of 16th Session of EMRIP held in Geneva on 20 July 2023.

This 16th Session of the UNEMRIP started on 17 July and will continue till 21st July.

Manjuni Chakma said in his statement that “As you all know, one of the crucial issues of indigenous peoples is the taking away of their lands and territory and eviction from their homestead and ancestral lands violating their traditional land rights without their free, prior and informed consent.

For instance, the Government of Bangladesh had ratified the ILO Convention No. 107 on Indigenous and Tribal Population in 1972, where the individual and collective land rights of the indigenous peoples and their customary land rights have been recognized.

But the government of Bangladesh has not yet recognized the traditional land rights of the tribals as well as the collective land rights according to ILO Convention No. 107. As a result, lands belonging to indigenous peoples are being taken away by state and non-state authorities in Chittagong Hill Tracts and plain lands.

One of such examples is the land of indigenous Santal peoples acquired by the government for sugar factory in Gaibandha, which was supposed to be returned when the sugar mill was closed down. But as per the agreement, the lands were not returned to Santal peoples.

Similarly, according to the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord of 1997, the land of the indigenous Jumma peoples submerged in the Kaptai Lake was supposed to be returned to the original owners of indigenous peoples if these lands are suitable for cultivation. But the Muslim settlers continue to encroach these lands under the umbrella of the administration in violation of that provision of that Accord.

Therefore, I suggest that appropriate steps should be taken by the United Nations to convince the Government of Bangladesh for implementing the ILO Convention No, 107 and CHT Accord of 1997 pertaining to promote and protect traditional land rights as well as collective rights of indigenous peoples of Bangladesh.

Finally, I would request the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples to expand its program of funding to the indigenous representatives to attend various UN sessions. Because without the financial supporting of the United Nations, the opportunity for the indigenous people to attend the UN meetings is very limited.”