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Tribal people demand their rights
Discrimination, encroachment are threatening peoples' way of life, protesters sayTribal people participate in a human chain program in Tangail district in central Bangladesh
- Sujon Jengcham, Tangail
- April 8, 2011
Around 160 Christians from Garo, Koach, Barmon and Rajbangshi ethnic tribal groups took part in the demonstration in Tangail in Mymensingh diocese on April 6.
They said they were fighting for the rights of about 40,000 tribal people living in the countryâ€™s largest Sal-treeÂ forest, Bhawal-Modhupur garh, whose traditional way of life, they say, is under threat.
At the protest they demanded tribal people be recognized as â€śindigenous groupsâ€ť instead of â€śethnic minoritiesâ€ť in Bangladeshâ€™s constitution.
A parliamentary committee currently reviewing the constitution has decided to classify tribal people as â€śethnic minorities.â€ť
â€śThe decision seems to be a slap in the face for indigenous people and also violates the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,â€ť said Eugene Nokrek, president of the Joenshahi Indigenous Development Council.
Even though the 1885 Bengal Tenancy Act recognizes tribal people as indigenous groups, the government is not willing to do so, he lamented.
â€śIn 2007 there was move to recognize us as indigenous groups, but now itâ€™s being left out,â€ť he added.
Norek also claimed tribal people living in the Sal forest area have seen a steady erosion of their rights over the past three decades.
â€śThe Forest Department has nullified ancestral land records and served many eviction notices in order to build an eco-park,â€ť he said.
Media reports also say that in just five years, 8,100 hectares of forest were illegally leased to influential people.
Other reports claim a number of tribal people including some of their leaders were killed by land grabbers in collusion with Forest Department officials.
Tribal Garo housewife Shishilia Snal, 36, says she was shot by forest rangers a few years ago while she was collecting firewood and leaves in the forest.
â€śThey [the Forest Department] donâ€™t consider us as human beings and often try to abuse us,â€ť she said.
Indigenous Peoples Try To Address Survival And Security Challenges