Justice delayed and denied . . .
June 12 marked the 26th anniversary of the military abduction of Kalpana Chakma, an Indigenous women’s rights advocate and leader of the Hill Women’s Federation from the Chakma community in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) in southeastern Bangladesh. Even though Chakma remains missing, and the government has led a variety of investigations over the years, it has not released its findings, identified the perpetrators, or brought the case to trial. Over the last two decades, there have been many instances of military intervention to silence Indigenous activists and leaders in the CHT. Most recently, in March, armed forces detained an Indigenous political activist from the CHT Nabayan Chakma who was found dead later that day. The CHT is home to 12 ethnic groups collectively known as the Jumma people (highlanders). According to the 2011 census, there were 1.6 million Indigenous peoples in the country, 850,000 of whom are Jumma people.
Peace accord failed . . .
After Bangladesh gained independence in 1971, political and armed conflict broke out between the government of Bangladesh and the United People’s Party of the Chittagong Hill Tracts over the issue of autonomy and land rights. The 1997 Peace Accord finally put a stop to the conflict. Under the agreement, the government committed to withdrawing the military and transferring the authority of the local police, land, and environmental protection to Indigenous representatives. Nonetheless, much of the agreement remains to be implemented, and the number of military assaults in the form of abduction, killing, and disappearances continues to grow.
Displacing continues . . .
Between 1999 and 2019, the Jumma people filed 22,000 land grab complaints. These remain unresolved because the government has yet to decide on the rules for implementing the Chittagong Land Dispute Commission, the body in charge of settling land disputes. Meanwhile, according to Chakma Circle Chief Raja Devasish Roy, anyone who fights for the rights of the Jumma people is baselessly accused of crimes. The ongoing human rights violation in the CHT is not only pushing the marginalized Jumma people to the verge of extinction but also tarnishing Bangladesh's image in the international community.
- Al Jazeera: Attacks, land grabs leave Bangladesh’s Indigenous groups on edge
- The Daily Star: The indigenous experience is similar, be it in Bangladesh or Canada
- Human Rights Watch: Bangladesh: Indigenous activist dies in military custody