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Tribals protest 'rights abuses'

Ethnic protesters say they are being oppressed by Bengali majority

Tribals take to the streets in northwestern Rajshahi district yesterday Tribals take to the streets in northwestern Rajshahi district yesterday
  • ucanews.com reporter, Rajshahi
  • Bangladesh
  • March 21, 2012
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Hundreds of ethnic tribal people blocked roads in a northwestern district for hours yesterday to demand the government end “human rights abuses” being committed against them by the Bengali majority.

They also accused government and law enforcement officials of inaction and collusion regarding the abuses which they say includes attacks on them by Bengalis amid land and property disputes, the grabbing of their land with fake documents and the rape of tribal women.

At least 300 tribal men and women took part in the protest in Rajshahi district. It was organized by Jatiya Advasi Parishad, a national forum working for the rights of tribal people in northern Bangladesh.

The protesters said the situation has got worse in recent years.

“Land grabbers have re-launched efforts to force local tribal people from their ancestral lands. They seem to have the backing of local government officials and law enforcers,” said Anil Marandi, 52, a Santal tribal leader.

He said they have complained to the authorities many times about the land grabbers’ tactics, but nothing has been done to stop it.

JAP president Rabindranath Soren said the tribals have little choice but to take to the streets as they have few other options with which to claim their lawful rights.

“We have not been recognized constitutionally and our rights have not been taken into account. Our backs are against the wall. If the government shows some sincerity we could live in peace,” he said.

Local government and land officials in the area were not available for comment.

An estimated 3 million tribal people belong to about 45 ethnic groups in the country of nearly 160 million. About half of the country’s 350,000 Catholics are tribal people.

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