By Adil Sakhawat
It has been four months since the attacks happened and a lot of Santals are still homeless and living in desperate conditions. Dwijen Tudu who was blinded in the left eye during the attack on Santals in Gaibandha last November came to Dhaka to speak at a public hearing on Tuesday even though he and his wife were both threatened not to attend.
He spoke about the inaction of local lawmakers and the Chairman of Shapmara Union Parisad at the public hearing on the violation of human rights of indigenous people organised by the Institute for Environment and Development at CBCB Centre.
Speaking on how their land was being taken by land grabbers, he said: “We are still being threatened to not return, even today when we were coming to attend the programme we were warned.
“No one has been arrested for the attack even though it has been four months. We demand the government let us return to our land and build permanent homes for us there.”
The indigenous people from Pahan, Santals and Oraon spoke of the continuous harassment they faced with false cases being filed in their names, which they say is a ploy by Bangalis to grab their lands.
They demanded these allegations be properly investigated by NGOS and the government.
It has been four months since the attacks happened and a lot of Santals are still homeless and living in desperate conditions.
“We are continuously being harassed by the police with these false cases being filed against us. We are so scared that our children do not leave the house, not even to go to school,” said Olivia Hembrom at the hearing.
Three indigenous people were killed and seven people disappeared during the attack on the indigenous people in Gobindaganj of Gaibandha district on November 6, 2016.
Even though so much time has passed no progress has been made by the government, the speakers at the public hearing said.
Uzzal Pahan from Akkelpur upazila of Joypurhat lost his uncle Mohonlal Pahan in August last year. He was killed by land grabbers.
“The only reason I lost my uncle is because the land grabbers lost the false case they filed against us and they took revenge by killing him,” Uzzal alleged.
“They also attacked our home,” he added.
The hearing was full of people saying the practice of land grabbers filing false cases was rampant.
“There is a huge financial burden that comes with having to hire a lawyer and going to court. At this rate, we are going to be left landless and destitute,” said Robisoy from Nawabganj, Rajshahi.
Bicitra Tikri of Chapainawabganj lamented on the extent of their rights being violated, having been raped by land grabbers when she tried to get her deceased husband’s land.
“The government is blind to the level of harassment the indigenous people are subjected to. They should form a land commission for the indigenous community,” she said, adding that the government’s inaction has been nothing short of frustrating.
After hearing all these allegations Srijoni Tripura, a Supreme Court lawyer, urged the government to take separate initiatives to stop the human rights violation of indigenous people.
She also suggested lawmakers be stripped of their position if found guilty of being involved in land grabbing of indigenous people.
Published on the Dhaka Tribune website on March 29, 2017.
A six-member delegation from the Rakhine Commission was greeted by protests as they arrived at an unregistered camp in Bangladesh on March 19.
The demonstrating refugees at Kutupalong camp held banners demanding an international criminal inquiry be launched following alleged crimes against humanity perpetrated during a scorched earth campaign in northern Rakhine State.
In a flash survey conducted by the UN, the Muslim refugees from Rakhine State detailed a host of horrific abuses, alleging that security forces committed murder, mass gang-rape, arson and kidnappings.
The national-level Rakhine Commission, which was established by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has a mandate to investigate such grievous allegations for the government. However, the commission released an internationally decried interim report that largely dismissed the allegations or claimed insufficient evidence for judgment. Prominent UN actors, including the special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, have dismissed the commission as not credible, and not impartial. The commission is headed by Vice President U Myint Swe, the former head of intelligence under the military government, and does not include any Muslim Rohingya members.
The six representatives from the commission were sent to Bangladesh to interview refugees who have fled across the border from northern Rakhine State following the launch of the clearance campaign on October 9. More than 74,000 mostly Muslim Rohingya – locally known as Bengalis – have swelled across the border in the wake the crackdown, according to UN estimates.
The commission members were accompanied to Kutupalong camp by camp director Mohammad Shomshuduza, as well as security forces, according to refugee leader Kasim.
Upon arrival at the camp around 2pm, the delegates met with and questioned refugees.
The refugees explained the abuses they allege they suffered at the hands of the Burmese security forces.
According to one refugee at the camp, Sharif, after detailing the abuses, the refugees asked the commissioners to support their call for finding and punishing the perpetrators through an international tribunal. He added that the commissioners appeared to be “upset” by the request.
When they questioned the refugees, the commission members never asked whether they would want to go back to their homes or not, said Jalal Uddin, another refugee. He added that about half the women in the unregistered camp had suffered some form of sexual violence during the security forces’ crackdown.
Last week, the European Union called for an immediate international probe of potential crimes against humanity by security forces in northern Rakhine State. The Human Rights Council is expected to vote on the resolution this week.
After the tour of Kutupalong camp, the Rakhine Commission members departed for Cox’s Bazar. They were expected to visit with refugees in the Balu Khali and Leda camps on March 20 and 21, according to Bangladesh officials.
This article was published on Burman News International on March 21, 2017.