Banani Mallick, from Chiang Mai, Thailand
Ethnic violence, land disputes and other indigenous problems in the tribal-majority Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) in Bangladesh would have been solved, had the government fully implemented the peace accord it signed with tribal insurgents in 1977, speakers at a workshop held in Chiang Mai in Thailand said on Thursday.
Various tortures and violence on ethnic men and women were happening due to the absence of land rights and constitutional recognition to the tribes people as indigenous, they said.
The workshop on 'Indigenous Voices in Asia Media Showcasing Fair 2015' was organized by Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) at Chiang Mai, Thailand.
A large number of Indigenous people are being forced to migrate everyday as Bengali settlers grab their lands forcefully, the speakers further said.
Joan Carling, Secretary General of AIPP, said that the land problems relating to ethnic people in CHT are increasing as the government has not yet fully implemented the CHT Peace Accord.
"Nearly two decades since the signing of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord, constitutionally these ethnic people are not recognized. They do not have land rights, too. So they are facing so many tortures and being forced to be migrated," she said.
She also added that over the years, different government agencies and Bangalee settlers have occupied the homesteads and agro lands of these ethnic people.
"This is simply a violation of human rights," Joan Carling said, adding that "nearly two decades since the signing of the CHT Peace Accord, the government is nowhere near ensuring the land rights of the ethnic people."
A key provision of the 1997 accord is to give back the lands taken away from the ethnic tribals by government and non-government actors. But still it is a right that exists only on paper, the speakers lamented.
In all, about one lakh indigenous families in the three hill districts -- Bandarban, Rangamati and Khagrachhari --had lost all or some of their lands. Of them, around 90,000 families were locally displaced during the 25-year long insurgency - which killed over 5,000 settlers, soldiers and law enforcers -- and nearly 10,000 are refugee families repatriated from India following the 1977 deal. But they are yet to get back their lands.
Referring to recent imposition of restriction on entry of foreigners in the CHT, Himel Chakma, Rangamati Correspondent of the Independent Television, termed this as a double standard played by the government.
In one hand they (government) are talking about making CHT a prime tourism area, but on the other hand, they deny visit by foreigners to the hill and forest region, he said.
In 2011 alone, at least 7,118 acres of land belonging to indigenous people were grabbed by Bangalee settlers in the three hill districts, according to a 2012 report of Bangladesh Legal Aid Services Trust (BLAST).