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Roundtable Discussion on ‘Evicting Indigenous People from their Land and Guarantee of Land Governance’

We are sharing this update submitted by the Association For Land Reform And Development (ALRD).

Eviction of Indigenous People (IP) from their ancestral lands and set out their house on fire increased in recent times. Such clashes have often erupted between IPs and Bengali settlers in the Chittagong Hill Tracts and sometime happened with plain lands IPs. Grabbing of IPs land is alleged to be main cause of conflict in such areas. Latest, such clash over land happened in Habibpur village under Parbatipur upazila in Dinajpur district on 24 January. There was a longstanding dispute between Bengali’s and indigenous Santal communities over possessing land properties. Such clashes resulted bloody and troublesome incidences.

Mr. Shamul Huda third from the left demanded strong actions against the land grabbers who compelled IPs evicted from lands

Mr. Shamul Huda third from the left demanded strong actions against the land grabbers who compelled IPs evicted from lands. Photo by ALRD.

With a view to place the issue on discussion table, ALRD and Bangladesh Adivasi Forum jointly organized a roundtable discussion on “Evicting Indigenous People from their Land and Guarantee of Land Governance” at the Lounge of Dhaka Reporter’s Unity held on 16 February. One hundred and forty-five participants from CSOs, NGOs, community-based organizations (CBOs), and electronics and prints media participated in the roundtable discussion.

ALRD Executive Director, Shamsul Huda, chaired the program. A paper was presented by Associate Professor of Dhaka University, Robayet Ferdous, depicting the recent land grabbing incidents and different communal attacks on the indigenous people.

Participants of the roundtable discussion.

Participants of the roundtable discussion. Photo by ALRD.

Speakers stated that the indigenous communities are a major victim of the land grabbers who take hold of their lands defying prescribed government rules. Referring to the earlier records, they alleged that the indigenous communities were being wiped out from their lands following forced evacuation by the land grabbers with the backing of the local administration. Participants and speakers at the discussion demanded the fulfillment of the peace accord to ensure transparency and accountability and avoid the culture of impunity both in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) and plains.

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Roundtable discussion on land market in Bangladesh

We are sharing this news posted by “The Daily Star” on 27 January.

Participants of the roundtable discussion, "Rural Land Market in Bangladesh: A Situation Analysis." Photo retrieved from http://www.thedailystar.net/upload/gallery/image/arts/roundtable-on-rural-land-market.jpg

Participants of the roundtable discussion, “Rural Land Market in Bangladesh: A Situation Analysis.” Photo retrieved from http://www.thedailystar.net/upload/gallery/image/arts/roundtable-on-rural-land-market.jpg

Mr Shamsul Huda of the Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD) participated in a roundtable discussion on Rural Land Market in Bangladesh: A Situation Analysis on 3 December 2014 at the Daily Star Centre. Jointly organized by Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF), Uttaran, and CARE Bangladesh with financial support from European Union (EU), the event served as a venue for sharing the preliminary findings of a survey on the exploration of land market in Bangladesh.

Under the EU’s Access to Land Programme, Prof. Abul Barkat led the survey together with the Human Development Resources Centre (HDRC).

Findings reveal that 58.55% of the households are landless in Bangladesh, 48.37% of which are rural households.

Moreover, in the concept of a typical rural land market, lands are transferred through ‘sales market’ (selling and buying activities) or ‘rental market’ (lease-in and lease-out practices). However, land grabbing and land acquisition now become part of the story. Results showed that land loss is more attributed to land grabbing and land acquisition. From the reported 32.1% households who lost their lands, 18.9% were due to land grabbing and 13.2% were due to land acquisition.

Issue on land governance was also raised. According to the discussants, the two types of policy flaws in the country are: (i) existing policy/processes are not pro-poor and (ii) the country lacks any functional land use policy. To address this, participants agreed that digital land record and survey would contribute to better land governance and will be an immediate first step to comprehensive land policy.

As for the land market issue, the concept of ‘land bank’ and ‘optimum use of land’ were explored during the roundtable discussion.

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.