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Training Course on “Indigenous Peoples’ Land Rights and Land Management” in Bangladesh

Participants and facilitators at the closing session of the training course.

Participants and facilitators at the closing session of the training course.

“Knowledge is an organic power that demands secure access to resources, seeks to alter the system so as to protect [communities], paving the ways of engagement for effective advocacy to exercise their rights and to make affirmative changes by strengthening their demands for establishing a National IP Commission as well.”

The capacity building initiatives of the Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD) enable its partners, network members and allies’ leaders to gain access to the source of skills, experience, and knowledge-base to fight back for access to land and control over resources.

ALRD, under the National Engagement Strategy (NES- supported by the International Land Coalition), organized the training course entitled, “IP Land Rights and Land Management” at ALRD’s Hall Room, Lalmatia, Dhaka on 19-22 May, 2014. A total of 29 participants (18 males and 11 females) from IP communities (Santal, Urao, Garo, Barman, Mahato) representing 17 organizations from different districts attended the course.

Course topics were:  fundamental concepts of IP rights and other international instruments related to IP rights and land laws; various steps of IP land transfer, mutation and land revenue; process of khas land distribution and necessary actions; experience sharing sessions on land related problems and role played there-in by IPs as per land laws; identification and mobilization of local resources, and strengths to establish IP rights on land.

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Updates from Bangladesh

ALRD and allies successfully stop grabbing/commercialization of wetlands

Dhaka – Wetlands are diminishing due to rapid scaling up of land commercialization by land grabbers, creating environmental hazards and ecological imbalance. In Bangladesh, which faces the threat of climate change, wetland conservations is immensely important.

On 16 January 2014, a special Bench of the High Court Division on 16 January, 2014 declared as illegal the Ashyan Group’s Housing Protect – Ashyan City – occupying 230.46 acres wetlands near Dhaka, and directed the group to pay a fine of 5 million takas.

This marks a success for ALRD, which, in association with seven rights-based organizations, namely Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon, Institute of Architects Bangladesh, Nijera Kori, and Paribesh Banchao Andolon, filed a writ petition in the High Court Division last 22 December 2012 against Ashiyan Group.  

1,500 landless peasants secure access to khas land at Bilkuralia of Pabna district  

On 20 January 2014, the District Magistrate of Bangladesh’s Pabna district vacated the attachment order that was given in December 1961 by the then Magistrate Court of Pabna to maintain status quo over the land. The attachment order had been a legal barrier behind the access to land under permanent settlement. Landless peasants, including indigenous peoples, numbering 1,500, were allocated khas land totaling 473.23 acres on temporary lease term from 1997-1998 fiscal year to 2012-2013. ALRD and its network partner- LDO- advocated for the land with technical and financial support provided to the petitioners of landless peasants. 

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Landless peasants of Bilkuralia, Bangladesh in a procession, demanding access to land

As a result of removal order/legal barrier, about 1,500 landless families of Bilkuralia have now access to permanent allocation of the said land is a major milestone for plain land IPs’ land rights movement.  

ALRD and partners raise voices to protect Adivasi community from land grab

ALRD_ALRD’s network partner, Kapeeng Foundation, held a Press Conference on 19 June, 2013 in cooperation with ALRD in Dhaka Bangladesh to share a fact finding report with media personnel prepared by 14-member Citizens’ Committee who had visited the area following incidences of land grabbing including violation of human rights at Adivashi Chak and Mro community of Naikkhanchhari and Lama Upazilla under Bandjarban district in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). About 21 Chak family Community are reported to have been evicted with repeated death threat from their ancestral lands as the influential grabbers had taken hold of their property. The report also says that another 210 Mro Jhum family are on the process of eviction. However, the grabbing process is known to have been creeping for the last four years following an illegal lease of land handed over to the vested interest quarters.

The civic delegation comprising country’s senior politician Mr. Pankaj Bhattacharya, president of United National Awami Party, Columnist Syed Abul Maksud, Professor Dr. Nur Mohammad Talukder, President of College-University Teachers’ Association, NGO Director Mr. Noman Ahmmed Khan, Professor Rajib Mir of Jagannath University, Mr. Dipayon Khisha of Capeeng Foundation, Mr. Mongol Chakma of Jana Sanghati Samity , and Journalist Mr. Arun Bikash were, among other, the fact finding team members spoke in the press conference. They placed 6-point demands urging the government to ensure security of the victims and safe return to their lands and that the perpetrators be arrested immediately. The demand also includes: arrest the land grabbers and miscreants; re-settle/rehabilitate the victim families (Adivasi Chak and Mro) on the evicted land through cancelation of leased agreement; in any leasing of land in CHT must be done with the informed consent of the adivasi; and to provide 5 acres of land each of the victim families.

The speakers viewed the incidence as a clear violation of human rights. They emphasized reformation of government policy in dealing with indigenous issues. It was also alleged that influential politician used to take possession of lands in Bandarban hill district and the local administration does not step to stop the land grabbing. They cautioned that the situation in CHT might again become volatile because of a sense of insecurity of its people who are continuously losing their land due to non-implementation of the CHT peace accord signed between Bangladesh Government and Jana Samhati Samity (JSS) in 1997.

Later on, ALRD’s Executive Committee member Raja Devasish Roy, while drawing attention to this issues to the Prime Minister’s Advisor on Public Affairs Mr. H T Imam, he (Mr. Imam) expressed his deep concern over the issue and assured to look into this matter.