Kapaeeng Foundation urges UN to put pressure on government to secure Indigenous People’s land rights
During the UNPFII Sixteenth Session that took place at the UN Headquarter on 24 April to 5 May 2017, ILC Asia member from Bangladesh, The Kapaeeng Foundation, made a bold statement to urge the UNPFII to push the Government of Bangladesh to expedite functions of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Land Commission and to form a separate Land Commission for Indigenous Peoples.
The Foundation was represented by Bablu Chakma, who emphasised their position by describing the current condition of the Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh, whose land is being grabbed by the mainstream population, and has lead to many human rights violation cases. Such issues have been acknowledged by the Government of Bangladesh in the past, under the 7th Five Year Plan (2016-2020). Yet however, the development plan has stated that the government's policies to protect the land of ethnic people have not been adequate.
“In 2016, over 15,430 acres of lands belonging to indigenous peoples were under the process of acquisition, mostly for the establishment of special economic zones, tourist spots and reserve forests. In the same year, land grabbing in the plains resulted in the eviction of 1,216 families from their homesteads and left 1,035 families under threat of eviction” in Bangladesh specifically in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
Due to a contradicting pending amendment in the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act of 2001, the Land Commission could not resolve any land disputes for last 17 years.
The government has taken steps forward to settle the issue by including an additional amendment this past year. Despite their efforts, the Land Commission facing enormous challenges in terms of its budget, office space, human resources and necessary expertise to settle land disputes, which is becoming a huge obstacle in processing cases relating to land disputes as well as adjudicating them without the Rules of Business.
As a sustainable resolution, the Kapaeeng Foundation sees an urgency to review the rehabilitation Bengali settlers who migrated into the CHT as such, a strategic plan should be taken to relocate the Bengali settlers who inhabited the CHT from 1979 onwards.
Photo credit by Kapaeeng Foundation