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Bangladesh must ensure land rights of minority communities

THE rights of members of the national minority communities to land have been an issue of concern for years because of the government’s failure to ensure effective land governance that could address their grievances. When it comes to land governance of minority communities, it is a case of violent dispossession and eviction.

Rights activists and academics on Monday at a programme on national minority land issues, organised by the Bangladesh Adivasi Forum, once again expressed their concern and asked the government to make the Chattogram Hill Tracts Land Dispute Resolution Commission effective. Set up in 2001, keeping to the 1997 CHT Accord, the commission has remained largely inactive and runs without a procedural guideline.

The government amended the Chattogram Hill Tracts Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act in 2016 to recognise customary rights of the jumma communities and confirmed that land disputes in the hills would be resolved in consonance with the law, custom and practice in force in the CHT. Since the amendment, the commission has received over 22,000 applications from minority communities, but none has been resolved. Moreover, the government has failed to deliver on its promise to introduce a special administrative system composed of the regional council and three hill district councils and to bring general administration under its governance.

In such a situation, politically influential people and even government agencies have continued to evict members of national minorities from their land. In many cases, development projects have been approved on lands that belong to people of national minority communities without their consent, even though it was agreed in the CHT Accord that no development project would be undertaken without the consent of the communities.

Activists working to promote the land rights of national minorities have also alleged that a quarter inside the government directly and indirectly supports the Parbatya Chattogram Nagarik Parishad, a group opposed to the accord, and impedes the full implementation of the accord, stalling the activities of the commission. The commission, for example, had to postpone its scheduled meeting on September 7 after the Nagarik Parrisad had called for a strike.

Unresolved land disputes are also a primary reason for the continued political instability and violence in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. To address the situation, minority land rights activists have long advocated for a complete digital survey of national minority land, the formation of a separate land commission for national minority land with majority representation from the communities concerned, and the formation of a land settlement tribunal. The government, however, appears to be non-committal.

The government must, therefore, ensure the full implementation of the accord. It must also empower the land commission and set the rules of business so that the commission can effectively attend to the unresolved land disputes in the hill districts. The government should also conduct a complete digital survey of national minorities’ land and consider the formation of a land settlement tribunal to resolve the thousands of complaints filed by members of minority communities.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-generated from news feeds. It has not been edited by Minority Watch staff. Please click this SOURCE LINK that deserves the credit.

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