Ethnic minority leaders and academics on Tuesday said that the ethnic minorities of the country were deprived of their rights and became victims of discrimination and more vulnerable due to the COVID-19 crisis.
They made the comments in a virtual discussion organised by the Bangladesh Adibasi Forum marking the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.
Former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Mizanur Rahman, said that the corrupt people with political links had been grabbing lands of the ethnic minorities both in the hills and in the plain lands.
He demanded an effective and separate land commission for plain land ethnic minorities to save their lands from the clutch of the grabbers.
He said that the ethnic minorities had been facing various challenges almost everywhere, including their challenge in access to healthcare services.
Chakma Circle chief Raja Devasish Roy stressed the need for support of food and healthcare services from the government to the ethnic minorities in remote and semi-remote areas.
He said that each of several hundred ethnic minorities had got government support of only 10 kilograms of rice since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak and some others got only two to four kilograms of rice as support from the government during the time.
He demanded special relief for the ethnic minorities and job creation for them for their survival.
Presenting his welcome address, ethnic minority community leader Pallab Chakma focused on the discrimination and sufferings the ethnic minorities had been facing and demanded full implementation of the Chattogram Hill Tracts Accord to solve the problems of the CHT people.
The forum general secretary, Sanjeeb Drong, who conducted the meeting said that about 5,00,000 ethnic minority people had become poor due to the COVID-19 crisis. He demanded part-time jobs for 25,000 ethnic minority youths and financial support for 1,00,000 families.
Rishabh Kumar Dhir of ILO, Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact secretary general Gam Shimray, UN’s Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Binota Dhamai, CHT International Commission member and University of Tromso professor Tone Bleie, Hans Lambrecht of European Union, Thomas Baumgartner of Switzerland embassy and Chanchana Chakma of Adibasi Nari Network, among others, spoke.