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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Minority Chakma’s in India: “We are victims of constant human rights violations.”

As one of the tribes of the Jumma People, the Indigenous Peoples of Bangladesh, those who belong to the Chakma ethnicity are constant victims of abuses and racial discrimination, and have been for the past 40 years. The Jumma People have inhabited the Chittagong Hill Tracts for centuries but, following the partition of India in 1947, various governments have extensively and severely oppressed the minorities.

In 1964, about 35,000 Chakmas fled to India, mainly to the state of Arunachal Pradesh. Nowadays there are 64,000 of them living in those territories. The central government of India had issued valid migration certificates indicating legal entry into India and the government’s willingness to accept the Chakmas as future citizens. However, today the Chakmas remain stateless.

Up until 1980, the Chakmas in Arunachal Pradesh enjoyed all the rights, freedoms and facilities accorded to the fellow local tribes but, as the anti-foreigner movement swept the North East, in 1991, the Arunachal Pradesh Government withdrew these rights. Since then the Chakmas have been fighting for citizenship rights under the leadership of the Committee for Citizenship Rights of the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh (CCRCAP). Their situation continues to deteriorate.

We have interviewed a group of 40 boys that for the past two years have been given the chance to study in a private school in Bihar, the Alice Project Education School. After reading their answers, we felt we couldn’t sum them up. We copy them literally, in order not to modify the boys’ original voice.

When the Chakma came from Bangladesh to India as refugees:

1. At first, in the former the Chakma used to stay at Bangladesh. In 1964 the Chakma escaped from Bangladesh. Some stayed at Tripura, some at Mizoram and some escaped to Arunachal Pradesh. They are facing problem in the following reasons:

2. Still we did not get the citizenship. Somebody got but not all because they need document. We even don’t have the right to vote.

3. We did not get any sanition facilities like electricity supply, water supply and other facilities.

4. We did not have proper education, governmental school, good health care centre and public health care centre. We did not have enough land, enough house and enough hospitals. The boys are regretting for good education and teaching. They don’t give any job.

5. In my village the boys are facing problems because there is no good school. There is only one governmental school there. The teachers of that school do not teach properly. From another school the tribal people, I mean the local people, led the Chakma students out from class 1st till 10th. Now those students want to study but they can’t. Now they are wandering here end there. The tribal people do whatever they want. We don’t have any authority. If any facility comes from the government in our village, the local people take those facilities and they don’t give it to the village.

6. They faced lot of problems and they give lots of trouble. Sometimes they burnt the houses. The people can’t escape or save anything. Sometimes the terrorists, who are from other tribes, came to the village and demanded for money. They go to the head of the village and they asked for money. They threatened people not to inform about those things to the police or to military, otherwise we will abolish you all. One day the terrorists came to my grandfather’s house and looted his shop. They took away everything they found. The villagers don’t want to be crabbed against others out of fear. If it’s real, even then they don’t want to be crabbed against the other tribes.

7. Last year a dangerous thing happened because of the land. Since the Chakma came from Bangladesh and took shelter in that place, they settled there and started to do agriculture in that place. When the other tribes came to know about that place that it was very good for agriculture, they also wanted to take that land. They started to claim our places as their own. The Chakma refused to give those lands because they had settled there after fleeing from Bangladesh and had no other shelter. So one day the other tribal came in a car with gun and knife to fight. That time the Chakma people became united and faced the problem. When the other tribal came to know about this they went away. But still they use to come and claim for those lands.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Indigenous recognition still lacking in Bangladesh

Special Announcement: International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous recognition still lacking in Bangladesh

On this, the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, Global Human Rights Defence (GHRD) would like to remind everyone that many Indigenous communities around the world remain unrecognized and unprotected by their governments. In Bangladesh, indigenous Jumma communities continue to fight for recognition of their indigenous status in the national constitution and experience human rights abuses on a daily basis without protection from their government.

Recently, government representatives have proclaimed that ethnic minorities in Bangladesh, particularly the Jumma living in the Chittagong Hill Tracts are “not indigenous” but are rather to be considered as “tribal groups”. The Government went even further and stated that Bangladesh does not have an indigenous population within its borders.
This argument is used to avoid responsibility and defer the focus from their suffering. The unwillingness to recognise indigenous peoples is a commonly used mechanism of Governments to deny their rights and dismiss international scrutiny.

In reaction to this, indigenous peoples, academics and rights groups have recently protested in Dhaka, denouncing these statements and demanding their recognition in the constitution of Bangladesh.

GHRD, along with many international human rights organizations, rejects these statements and maintain that the Jumma clearly meet the available criteria to identify indigenous peoples, they have close link to natural resources, a distinct social, economic and political system, a distinct language and culture, and particularly the most crucial element: self-identification.

On this day, we wish to emphasise the responsibility of all governments and of the Bangladeshi in particular, to protect its indigenous population from destruction, and to provide its vulnerable communities with special protection. The rightful recognition of indigenous status, as well as constitutional protection is one clear and strong indicator of such commitment.

GHRD, The Hague, The Netherlands
9 August, 2011