Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples has been celebrated this year by various indigenous organizations and various human rights organizations in Bangladesh through various online based programs.However, this year, a number of articles and features have been published in various national and local dailies and online news portals against International Indigenous Day and Indigenous Rights. Compared to that, only a handful of 2/1 articles and features have been published in favor of indigenous rights.However, most of these articles / features have been published in the online news portal run by the Indigenous Human RightsDefenders. Besides, the human chain organized at Kaptai in Rangamati on the occasion of Indigenous Day has been obstructed by the security and law enforcement agencies.
In the midst of the Corona pandemic, land grabbing and organized attacks on indigenous peoples for the purpose of occupation of land continue unabated. In August, land grabbers cut down at least 1,000 different species of trees, including betel nut trees of two Pan Punjeesin Moulvibazar and Sylhet.As a result of the housing project in the Catholic Christian Dharmapolli of Rajshahi district, 130 families of indigenous peopleare facing eviction. The land grabbers have erectedshops by occupying the land of the indigenous Rakhine community in defiance of the court order in Cox’s Bazar districtand 36 korha (around 16 decimal) of land belonging to a Rakhine family has been occupied by land grabber in Chakaria of Cox’s Bazar. On the other, the agricultural land of the indigenous people has been severely damaged due to the mud oflandslides coming from India on the border of Sunamganj district.
In the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), the incidents of occupying land of an indigenous villager and built a house on this land by the settlers disobeying the order of the administration in Barkal, filing of a case against the Jumma land owner by the settlers in Longaduand threatening to 3 Mro villagers by the rubber company to leave the village in Naikhyongchari have been taken place in August 2020.Besides, two indigenous persons were killed in NaikhyongchhariofBandarban district and Hakimpurof Dinajpur district and three others, including a woman, were attacked to injuries in Madhupur of Tangail district and JhenaigaziofSherpur district.
Violence against indigenous women has risen alarmingly during the Corona period in August 2020.This month, 15indigenous women, including two men, have been subjected to victims of sexually assault, rape, beating and attack.Among them, 3 women were raped including one gang-raped, 2 women were attempted to rape and eve-teased, 01 woman was trapped in marriage and 01 more was missing and 8 women including 2 men were beaten. Besides, Tk. 2 lakh of an indigenous college girl who was raped has been robbed by the rapist.
In August 2020, 6 people were arrested and 21 people were detained for time being and tortured in the CHT. Besides, 9 persons were beaten, harassed and interrogated and 18 houses including 2 shops were searched and vandalised.The distribution of rice by UNDP as incentivesduring corona situation has been obstructed by the ruling party and security forces in the CHT. In addition, two markets temporarily set up due to the outbreak of the corona virusin Chengi Union and Logang Union in Panchhariupazila have been vandalized and evicted by members of the security forces.
Indigenous Day Celebrations:
Various indigenous peoples’ organizations at the national and local levels in Bangladesh have celebrated the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peopleson 9 August this year through various programs.
In line with the theme “COVID-19 and Indigenous People’s Resilience” declared by the United Nations for Indigenous Peoples Day, the Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum (BIPF) has set the theme for this year as “COVID-19 Pandemic and Indigenous People’s Struggle for Livelihoods.”Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, most of the programs have been organized online based discussion meetings and cultural events. However, limited gatherings, submission of memorandums and cultural events were also held in different districts. Posters, souvenirs, supplements, leaflets etc. have also been published by the BIPF.
In a goodwill message on the occasion of International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, JyotirindraBodhipriyaLarma, President of the BIPF, said that indigenous peoples and other marginalized people are living in indescribable misery and uncertainty during this time.These marginalized people are being forced to live miserable lives in various economic crises due to lockdown including lack of proper treatment. Government relief in remote hilly and indigenous areas is not reaching adequate levels. Even in 22 years, the basic provisions of the CHT Accord have not been properly implemented.The Land Commission, in particular, has remained completely ineffective. All the temporary camps, including the de facto military rule ‘Operation Uttoron’ (Operation Upliftment), was not withdrawn. As a result, the existence of the indigenous Jumma people is on the verge of extinction today,Mr. Larmaopines.
Prominent people at the virtual discussion organized by the BIPF on August 9 said that the implementation of the CHT Accord is very important in the interest of the country.On the other hand, the human rights situation of the indigenous people during the Corona is deteriorating, said the speakers at a virtual discussion organized by the BIPF on August 11 with diplomats and representatives of diplomatic missions of various countries and international human rights activists.
The Adivasi ChhatraParishad has demanded constitutional recognition of the Adivasis, formation of an independent land commission for the Adivasis in the plains and separate incentives for the Adivasis in the Corona crisis.The Parliamentary Caucus on Indigenous and Minority Affairs said that if the four principles of the constitution were implemented, the rights of the indigenous peoples would not have to be discussed. The Cox’s Bazar Regional Branch of the BIPF has demanded 13 points including constitutional recognition to the indigenous CHT Accord immediately in the memorandum submitted to the Prime Minister.
According to the Jatiya Adivasi Parishad, thousands of indigenous youths from North Bengal have returned to their villages in Corona crisis losingtheir jobs. In the north, about 15,000 indigenous youths have returned to the villages due to unemployment. Indigenous people of 38 communities including Santal, Orao, Munda, Rajowar, Ganju, Bagdi, Malpahari, Bhuimali, Korha and Kada in the northern region have become jobless in Karona.
A human chain organized at Wagga in Kaptai on the occasion of International Indigenous Day on August 9 has been obstructed by the security and law-enforcement forces. The human chain organized by the students and youths of Kukimara village started on August 9 at 9:30 am in front of the passenger set of Kukimara village.Around a hundred people including teachers and students were present in the human chain. Members of the security forces insulted the organizers in vulgar language and threatened arrest, jail-torture, lawsuits.
Land grabbing and attack
On 4 August 2020at night, local Bengali named Fakhruland his gang cut down the saplings of different species of more than 800 trees, including betel trees, in three Pan Jum farms of the Khasias in Singur Punji of Baramchal union in Kulauraupazila of Moulvibazar district.
On 4 July 2020, Bengali settlers forcibly occupied the land of a Jumma villager and built a house on this land in Bhushanchhara ofBarkal under Rangamati district. The house was built by a group of Bengali settlers named Md. Sahidul from Kalabanya settler area of Aimachhara union of the upazila by occupying land of Joykumar Chakma in the village of Suparipata village of Bhushanchhara union.
On 20 August 2020 at the night, miscreants cut down 200 saplings planted in a Khasia garden named Faisal Khangla in BhitargolGuabari area of Nijpat Union in Jaintapurupazila of Sylhet district.
On 25 August 2020, two Muslim land grabbers filed a case with the court against two Jumma villagers at Bagachatar area in Longadu of Rangamati district, ignoring the decision of the Upazilaland administration.It may be mentioned that on 4 June 2020, two Bengali settlers named Md. Ali Ahmed Chowdhury and Abdul Alim Sarkar of Rangipara built a house on the said land in the dark of night. Disobeying the administration’s order to remove the house, the settlers filed the case with Rangamati District Judge’s Court against the two persons, including Nabinchan Chakma.
Various rubber companies, including Lama Rubber Industries and Meridian Company, have threatened to burn down houses of three Mro villages in Sorai Union of Lama Upazila under Bandarban district. Two years ago, out of 48 families, 14 families were forced to leave the village due to harassment and threats by rubber companies and move to DhenkichharaNatun Para.
As a result of a housing project in a Catholic Christian Dharmapolli in Rajshahi district, 130 indigenous families living in the Polli are in danger of being evicted. Without consulting the indigenous peoples, the Catholic Christian authorities sold 4,675 acres of rural land to the Rajshahi Christian Co-operative Housing Society.The housing authority has now taken up a housing project on the land. This has affected 130 tribal families. There are 12-13 houses of indigenous people on this land.
The agricultural lands of the local indigenous people have been severely damaged due to the mud of landslides of the hills at Tahirpur border of Sunamganj district. Haors, canals and beels are being filled with sand that comes from the hill slopes, and some indigenous families who were displaced have taken shelter elsewhere.Due to its location at the foot of the Khasia Hills, the area is prone to landslides during the monsoon season. Such natural calamities have occurred in Meghalaya as a result of the Indian government’s long-running coal mining. Every year in the rainy season, sand and stones come down.
An incident has taken place in Fatehkharkul mouza of Ramuupazila of Cox’s Bazar district where a shop was built by Muslim land grabber by occupying the land of the indigenous Rakhine community in defiance of the court order. The greedy eyes ofan influential land grabbernamed Kamaruddin fell on the 82.5 decimal of land of the innocent Longkyaw Rakhine.Kamaruddin later began to intimidate the innocent Rakhine people by cutting down land to build shops in the empty space. As a result, Lungkyaw Rakhine filed a case with Cox’s Bazar Senior Assistant Judge’s Court. On 10 August 2020, the court ordered Kamaruddin to maintain the status quo. Despite this, Kamaruddin is forcibly carrying out construction work.
On 26 August 2020 a person introduced himself as the staff of the land office at Chakaria in Cox’s Bazar has been accused of forcibly occupying about 36 korha (around 16 decimal) of land belonging to a helpless indigenous Rakhine family. The victim lodged a complaint with Chakaria Police Station alleging.
Killing and Attack onIndigenous People
On 2 August 2020, an indigenous van driver named Shanchu Minji (38) was killed atChhotiDangapara area of Hili in Hakimpurupazila of Dinajpur district. Later, Hakimpur police recovered the decapitated body.
On 8 August 2020, miscreants attacked SuchnaChambugong (45) and her son in Madhupur of Tangail district. Mohammad AbulKalam and Mohammad Karim, two miscreants from the same village, destroyed crops and cattle ofChambugong. When the indigenous women went to protest, the miscreants attacked the mother and son. The two were seriously injured.
On 12 August 2020, an indigenousperson named Raghunath Koch (50) was beaten and his leg was broken by miscreants at Jhenaigati in Sherpur. Later, pedestrians rescued him and admitted him to JhenaigatiUpazila Health Complex. The on-duty doctor sent him to Mymensingh Medical College Hospital at night for better treatment.
On 23 August 2020, a Jumma villager named BimungMarma (50) was killed in Baishari of Naikhyangchhariupazila of Bandarban. On 25 August, his dead body was recovered from the slope of the hill adjacent to Akashmani Garden of KiwoMarma in Ward No. 2 of Baishari Union of the upazila. The locals are speculating that the people of the outsider rubber company may have carried out the murder.
Violence against Indigenous Women and Girls
On 8 August 2020, an indigenous woman was raped by a miscreant named Zahirul Islam (45) in Itahari village of Gogram union in Godagariupazila of Rajshahi district. Following the incident, a group of 10-12 terrorists led by Zaheer’s son Jabbar beaten Motilal Murari (22), the brother-in-law of the indigenous woman, and his wife Rita Rani Murari with sticks. Police have not arrested any accused in the incident.
On 9 August 2020, Simon Rema was beaten by Md. Rabbi alias Laden and two of his friends when his husband Simon Rema protested against eve-teasing to his wife by the miscreants in Gohalideo village of Durgapur police station in Netrokona district. Simon and 4 others from the village were injured. Some people get bloody wounds on their backs, heads and hands due to hit with the sharp weapons. A case was registered with Durgapur police station but police did not arrest anyone.
On 13 August 2020, Abul Mansur (55), a member of the Ward No. 7 of Narayanhat Union Parishad in Fatikchhariupazila of Chittagong district, beaten up an indigenous woman from Harinmara village named Basumati Tripura.Abul Mansur tried to trap Basumati Tripura in marriage taking her signature on white paper in the name of giving rice.
A Garo girl has been raped by Aryan Islam Arif (22) in Mymensingh’s Muktagachha after falling in love. On 11 August 2020, he took her to Nalikhali Diabetic Center and forcibly raped her there. Later, the victim Garo filed a case as a plaintiff.
On 15 August 2020, a Garo girl named Dina Chambugang (18) of Hatilet village in Rangamatia union of Fulbariaupazila of Mymensingh district went missing. Ms. Dina came out of the house that day talking about college. When relatives inquired in the college, teachers said they did not invite any student to the 15 August event.
Alim Al RaziBabu, Managing Director of Al-Amin Multipurpose Co-operative Society in Naogaon, has been accused of raping an indigenous college girl alluring her in a love trap.The papers of Tk. 2 lakh of the college girlkept them as deposit in the Co-operative Society at Patnitala have also been embezzled. On 18 August, the girl filed a case withNaogaon Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal No. 2 to get justice.
30 August 2020 a Tripura widow has been gang-raped by 6 miscreants with the help of her boyfriend in Lama of Bandarban district. Not only that, at that time, the miscreants also snatched Tk. 30,000 from the raped woman.
The Khasi community in the remote areas of Sylhet division, surrounded by rugged hills and deprived of modern facilities, has kept the lockdown effective in its own management when the corona situation starts in the country. As a result, no COVID-19 patient has been found in 90 Khasipunjee villages of Sylhet division so far.They are also protected from corona in this pandemic of corona. On the other hand, financial assistance has been provided by the Garo community organization Nakmandi to the owners of Garo-owned beauty parlors, which were financially damaged due to the Corona epidemic.
According to a research report titled ‘A Rapid Assessment Report: The Impact of COVID-19 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples’ conducted by the Kapaeeng Foundation, human rights violations and land confiscations on indigenous peoples, livelihood risks, violence against indigenous women have increased during the Covid-19 epidemic, in addition to job losses, food crisis, lack of adequate government relief, indebtedness, lack of proper health care, deprivation of indigenous children in online education programs. The report was released in a virtual discussion on 5 August 2020 Wednesday afternoon.
A study conducted by the Indigenous People’s Development Services (IPDS) found that COVID-19 has pushed 62% of indigenous peoples into extreme poverty. Indigenous people’s income in the plains decreased by 92%. Due to the Corona epidemic, at least 5 lakh indigenous people have become “new poor” people due to closure of various institutions and loss of privately-owned jobs and works.
Attachments in special cases:
Security Forces Activities:
On 3 July 2020, during a religious ceremony in the Kaindya area of Balukhali in Rangamati SadarUpazila, members of the security forces surrounded a Buddhist monastery, harassed at least four people and searched a Jumma villager’s shop.
On 5 August 2020, two innocent Jumma villagers named Sonadhan Chakma (22) and Chikko Chakma (45) were picked up by the security forces from Morghona village of Mogban union in Rangamati Sadarupazila. They were released later on 7 August after being tortured for two days.
On 6 August 2020, an innocent Jumma carpenter named Birjit Chakma (28) was arrested by the members of the security forces of Gabaghona in Jibatali Union of Rangamati SadarUpazila. After being detained for 8 days and tortured illegally, Birjit Chakma was released on condition on 15 August.
On 7 August 2020, the police from the Bagachari police camp in Naniachar was accused of extorting money from the Jumma people, including the drivers.
On 8 August 2020, members of the security forces illegally searched the house of two persons, including KamnashishTalukder, who was living in a rented house belonging to a Jumma employee of the West Tribal Adam in Rangamati town.
On 8 August 2020, MongnuechingMarma (56) and AthoaimangMarma (32) were arrested by members of the Chitmarang security forces while they went to Chitmarang Bazar in Kaptaiupazila to sell bananas.
On 12 August 2020, members of the security forces searched the houses of two villagers, Indra Chakma and Liton Chakma, in Shuknochhara village of Sajek union in Rangamati.
On 13 August 2020, police arrested four persons, Deni Tripura (22), Sumon Tripura (20), Dipan Tripura and Shanti Tripura (28), on suspicion of being involved in the murder of a village doctor named Nur Mohammad Tipu in Matiranga, Khagrachhari.
On 14 August 2020, at least 8 villagers of Marmaand Tancgangyacommunitieswere detained by security forces in Raikhali union of Kaptaiupazila of Rangamati district, 5 were beaten and two rounds of blank shots were fired to create panic in the village. After one night of detention, the security forces released all the detainees the next day.
On 16 August 2020Sunday at the evening,two persons named Samendra Tripura alias Sudipta (35) and MomanshiMarma (30) were arrested by the security forces at Manikchhari in Khagrachhari.
On 17 August 2020, members of the security forces of Subalong conducted a search in the houses of 8 innocent local helpless villagers in the name of looking for terrorists.
On 19 August 2020 in the night, the security forces conducted a search operation in the village of Baghachola in the Subalong area of Barkal in the name of looking for terrorists. During this time 3 houses were vandalized.
On 19 August 2020, 10 Jumma students were detained by the security forces in Ghilachhari union of Nanacharupazila. After interrogation for about 3 hours, they were released in the evening. The arrested are Sujal Chakma, Parantu Chakma, Tapan Chakma, Bitu Chakma, Arjan Chakma, Tapen Chakma, Joseph Chakma, Bilton Chakma and Ranju Chakma.
On 21 August 2020, local Awami League and security forces in Baghaichhariof Rangamati district and Khagrachhari districts stopped the distribution of rice of the UNDP among the poor peopleduring corona crisis.
On 23 August 2020, tea shop of an innocent Jumma named Babucha Chakma (20) was searched by security forces in Sajek area of Baghaichhariupazila of Rangamati district and the shop was closed as per order of the forces.
On 26 August 2020, members of the security forces vandalized shops of a temporary market atTaraban Church area of Chengi Union in PanchhariUpazila of Khagrachhari. Locals temporarily set up the market due to the outbreak of the corona virus.
On 29 August 2020, members of the security forces in the Baburo Para area of Logang Union in PanchhariUpazila of Khagrachhari reportedly obstructed another temporary market set up by the locals during the Corona period.