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Violence against tribal people doubles

Critics say not enough is done to protect them

Demonstrators seek to raise awareness of tribal peoples' plight Demonstrators seek to raise awareness of tribal peoples' plight
  • ucanews.com reporter, Dhaka
  • Bangladesh
  • August 9, 2012
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Violence against tribal people has risen sharply in the past year and the government is failing to bring people to justice in anti-tribal cases, rights activists say.

From January to July this year, eight people were victims of anti-tribal killings and 23 cases of violence against tribal women were recorded, including 10 rapes, said the Kapeng Foundation, a rights group that has worked on tribal issues since 2007.

That is twice the rate of 2011, which saw only seven ethnic killings, the group says. It announced the numbers on Thursday to correspond with World Indigenous Day.

“In the last six months 13 tribal families were evicted from their homes by Bengali settlers and 10 people were arrested on false charges in Chittagong Hill Tracts,” said Mong Singh, the group’s coordinator. During this time a Buddhist temple was demolished, seven tribal houses burned down and 16 tribal people abused by Bengali settlers, Singh added.

Chittagong Hill Tracts covers three hill districts in southeast Bangladesh - Bandarban, Rangamati and Khagrachhari - and is home to around 25 ethnic tribal groups, mostly Buddhists.

The region has had an influx of Bengali Muslim setters over the past 20 years, which has led to land disputes, violence, armed resistance against settlers and counter-insurgency measures by successive governments.

The dispute was apparently ended in 1997 with the CHT Peace Accord between tribal militia group Shanti Bahini and the then-government. But land disputes and insurgency remain an everyday reality.

Several commentators say that not enough is being done to pursue justice.

“There is a group in administration and law enforcement who are apathetic about tribal people,” said Rashed Khan Menon, a parliamentarian and president of the parliamentary caucus on ethnic minorities. “They try to save the accused instead of bringing justice. Impunity for violence encourages criminals.”

Sultana Kamal, executive director of Dhaka-based rights group Ain-O-Salish Kendra agreed.

“Tribal people are being marginalized and exposed to violence as the government denies recognizing them as indigenous people,” she said.

However, state minister for home affairs Shamsul Haque said: "we are committed to ensuring the security of every citizen, no matter if they are Bengali or from ethnic groups.”

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