Friday, August 15, 2008

Gov't to resolve IP issues pronto

I met Anil Marandy at the office of Adivasi Unnayan Songstha in Rajshahi. Young and idealistic in his late 30s, Anil is the president of Jatiyo Adivasi Parishad , an organization of Adivasis of northwest Bangladesh. Along with Robindranath Soren, Secretary General of JAP, both Adivasi leaders had been very helpful in the conduct of focus- group discussions with Adivasi tribes especially the Santals of Dinajpur and Rajshahi and the Rajbongshis of Bogra. Below is an interview with Anil. Photo shows Anil (in bonnet) giving blanket to a Santal during a relief mission.

Q>What does Jatiyo Adivasi Parishad intend to achieve.
A>Adibashis own land. Jatiyo Adibashi Parishad works to recover Adibashi land ownership. In the Cadastral Records of 1922, Adivasis have 60% ownership and possession to their land. In the 1962 Settlement of Acquisition records, it was noted that there is only 42% of Adibasis having land ownership. In the 1972 Revision Survey record, only 22% of Adivasis have land. Now,because of land grabbing, only 15% of Adibashis own land.

Q>What has JAP done to realize its intentions since its establishment in 1993?
A>In Babuldang, Tanore last June-July 1993, some 37 family- homes were destroyed by miscreants led by elements of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party who wanted to acquire the 6 acre lot which had been occupied by Adibashis for a long period of time. Government officials helped in the bulldozing of the land along with the police who helped the Thana officer. Jatiyo Adivasi Parishad then organized a three- day procession of Adibashis. Some 3,000 Adivasis from Godagari and Tenure joined the procession and brought along their own food.

They demanded government to cancel a lease granting the land to some non-Adibashi individuals and issue permanent settlement papers to the Adivasi settlers. A dialogue followed with the government and lease was cancelled. Deeds of permanent settlement were given to 37 Adibashi families. Recovery of land is a very complex issue. With people’s movement, something can be done. Because as it is, even court proceedings are seemingly hopeless with cases fought in court for a very long time which demands a lot of money. We also established a mother language school in Sondurpur catering to Adibashi schoolchildren.

Q>What do you consider are the strengths of JAP.
A>We organize people and achieve unity. Many people support our movement. The support has lessened now however because of NGOs disturbance. I organized mass movements with people bringing along their own food and transportation. This serves as their commitment to a cause which we all value. But NGOs now give the people food and money and transportation and give people money too. Commitment to the value of fighting for the struggle is lessened, if not lost, hopefully not.We establish moral courage among people by our gatherings and tell them this country is our country, that our land rights should be established. We go to the DC office and get lease documents to our land.

Q>What were the problems so far in achieving your objectives.
A>At the same time, Adibashis need legal support so we approached BLAST but they were not able to support us as they are one with government policies. Advocates have this way: no money, no case. They want taka first. But we need lawyers but we have no money. NGOs also cannot fully advocate land rights because NGOs are state owned. NGOs can only give technical support to IP causes.

Q>What will you tell government?
A>We are in a talking process. Late last year, we submitted a 20 point demand to the District Commissioner and to the Chief Adviser. Among these demands is constitutional recognition for Adibashis and a special land commission for Adibashis as well.

Q>Indigenous peoples have been denied recognition in Bangladesh policies and international instruments like the recently adopted UN Declaration on IP Rights where Bangladesh abstained. Please comment.
A>We are telling government that Bangladesh is a member of the UN committee that Bangladesh has many Adibashi peoples. We tell government about tough lives of Indigenous Peoples, violation of human rights and land rights. We tell government to come out and resolve these issues and support these in the international level.

September 2007

Source: Discourses on Policy Perspectives on Land Rights of the Adivasis of Northwest Bangladesh, by Gina Dizon, Published by Voluntary Service Overseas Bangladesh-Indigenous Community Rights Programme, April 2008

1 comment:

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