Indigenous groups face land-grabbing in north
Northern Bangladesh's mostly Hindu indigenous people are still coming under land-grabbing pressure from the country's predominantly Bengali Muslim population, say activists.
“There is a process through which the indigenous population is being deprived of their land rights,” Mizanur Rahman, chairman of Bangladesh's government-appointed National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), told IRIN.
“There is a problem of land-grabbing of Santals [a northern indigenous group] and other people in the name of development, social forestation - to plant trees on their land for the overall benefit of society. It is later sold as 'khas' land [public land],” he said.
Mesbah Kamal, secretary-general of the National Coalition for Indigenous People (NCIP), says 75 groups distinct from ethnic Bengalis are still found in Bangladesh. Collectively, they are referred to as Adivasis.
But ethnic Bengalis make up 99 percent of the country's over 140 million people, making minorities vulnerable to land-grabbing by Bengalis, say activists.
A 2009 book entitled Life and Land of Adibashis (Adivasis) by the Human Development Research Centre (HDRC) , a Bangladeshi NGO, found that dispossession of land among northern indigenous tribes was “extensive”.
The book says 65 percent of the indigenous Santal community based in the north has experienced dispossession of land - in total, 818sqkm of land valued at nearly US$900 million has been forcibly grabbed from northern indigenous tribes.
Such loss of land has had grave repercussions for the indigenous population, most of whom are rural and derive their income from the land, activists say.
Source: IRIN Asia.