The Parliamentary Caucus on Indigenous Peoples on Sunday proposed setting up of a ‘National Commission’ to protect indigenous people’s rights to their ancestral lands as a means to ensuring their social-economic and cultural well-being.
The parliamentary caucus also placed a draft law titled ‘Bangladesh Indigenous People’s Rights Act’ and urged the government to formulate a law in light with the draft.
The developments came at a meeting of the caucus at a convention centre in the capital.
“The proposed legislation will lay down the legal framework for addressing indigenous people’s poverty in order to alleviate their plight,” Mesbah Kamal, general secretary of Research and Development Collective, said while placing the proposals.
“The law will also stipulate that the indigenous peoples and their communities have the responsibility to maintain ecological balance, restore denuded areas, and adhere to the spirit and intent of the act.”
Kamal, a professor of history at Dhaka University, said the law would also uphold indigenous people’s rights of self-governance and empowerment.
On the proposed commission, he said, it will monitor and oversee implementation of the law.
Rashed Khan Menon, chief of the parliamentary caucus, noted the existing laws are not adequate to ensure rights of the indigenous people.
“We need a comprehensive legal framework where all existing laws will be incorporated,” Menon, also president of Workers Party said.
“Indigenous people are always ignored, we are yet to ensure their rights on lands in the hill areas,” he said, adding that the government had formed a land commission which has failed to perform its duties as expected.
Shapan Adnan, a member of Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission, said the Land Commission has failed to recover indigenous people’s lands grabbed by local influentials.
He also said indigenous people have been badly affected due to “traditional development” in the CHT areas.