Indigenous peoples still far behind in terms of human rights: rights activists said

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Hill Voice, 11 August 2021, Dhaka: Indigenous peoples of Bangladesh are still far behind in terms of enjoyment of human rights. The speakers expressed this opinion in an online discussion on “Human Rights Situation of Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh” organized by the Kepaeeng Foundation with the support of the Netherlands Embassy in Bangladesh on the occasion of International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on August 10, 2021,Tuesday.

According to a press release issued by Manjuni Chakma of Kapaeeng Foundation on August 10, the discussion was facilitated and presided over by Pallab Chakma, Executive Director of Kapaeeng Foundation while Aroma Datta, Member of Parliament and Member of the Parliamentary Caucus on Indigenous Affairs; Shaheen Anam, Executive Director of Manusher Jonno Foundation; Dr. Mesbah Kamal, Coordinator of Parliamentary Caucus on Indigenous Affairsand Professor of Dhaka University; Shamsul Huda, Executive Director of ALRD; Rabindranath Soren, Chairperson of the Kapaeeng Foundation and Jatiya Adivasi Parishad; Sanjeeb Drong, General Secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum spoke in the event. The keynote paper was presented by Anurag Chakma, Assistant Professor and PhD Researcher, Dhaka University.

Anurag Chakma presented a report on human rights violations against indigenous peoples in his presentation, which provides an overview of the Kapaeeng Foundation’s Annual Human Rights Report 2019-2020. In the statistics, he presented the incidents of human rights violations upon indigenous peoples of Bangladesh with the graphs. He also brought up the issues of violence against indigenous women and dispossession of lands of indigenous peoples, including the case of Luckingme Chakma, which was widely discussed. He later mentioned some of the recommendations made in the human rights report. Recommendations include to provide legal assistance to victims, to provide special training to administrative officers and law enforcement agencies on the rights of indigenous peoples, and to reform national laws and policies.

Participating in the discussion, Rabindranath Soren said that the human rights reports by the Kapaeeng Foundation are published every year, but no action has been taken by the government. The government or the state is not indigenous friendly, which means there is no justice or legal action for human rights violations.

Shamsul Huda said the history of the indigenous peoples is a part of our heritage. Indigenous peoples are at the forefront of all struggles in this country. So, their human rights should be made respect and honor.

Sanjeeb Drong, general secretary of the Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum, said the human rights report is very important for the indigenous peoples and the state. Indigenous peoples even need to have separate reports on each issue so that the government, media, administration and civil society can be informed and used in lobby-advocacyworks.

In her discussion, Aroma Datta, Member of Parliament and former member of the National Human Rights Commission, applauded the Kapaeeng Foundation for its human rights report. She said”We need to be more tactful. This report needs to be shared with various policy makers. The Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Land, Ministry of Law and other ministries need to be contacted and discussed and thus a solution has to be reached.”

Shaheen Anam said, how can I say that Bangladesh is a diverse country if the existence of indigenous peoples is vanished? The same words and the same promises are made by the state on every indigenous day. But the human rights situation of the indigenous peoples is not improving.

Mesbah Kamal said, “The struggle for the rights of the indigenous peoples is not a struggle of the indigenous peoples alone, it is a joint struggle of all of us. Everyone must come forward in this fight.”

Ruzin Sarwar, Senior Policy Adviser at the Netherlands Embassy also took part in the discussion. Later, Khokon Sweeten Murmu, Eugene Nokrek, Shantibijay Chakma and others from different parts of Bangladesh took part in the open discussion.

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