Bangladesh Adibasi Forum on Thursday demanded financial incentives for marginal ethnic minorities, whose lives and livelihoods were affected due to the COVID-19 crisis, and part-time jobs for at least 10,000 such families to meet their family needs.
The forum, in a virtual press conference on ‘COVID-19 and the Indigenous People’s Resilience’ on the occasion of International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, also demanded constitutional recognition of the ethnic minorities.
It also sought proper healthcare services in the remote ethnic minority localities across the country and initiatives to stop the dropout of ethnic minority children from educational programmes.
Reading out a written statement, the forum’s general secretary, Sanjeeb Drong, urged the government to ensure the ethnic minorities’ participation in the implementation of the sustainable development goals.
He also voiced the demand for ending communal attacks on them, lodging cases on false allegations against them and their harassment.
He demanded the full implementation of the Chattogram Hill Tracts Treaty and a separate ministry for the ethnic minorities in plain lands and a separate land commission for them.
Sanjeeb demanded recognition of the ethnic minorities’ traditional right to land, justice for the violation of rights of Santals in Gobindaganj of Gaibandha, giving their lands back to them, cancellation of the gazette that declared the Modhupur forest area as reserved forest and ensuring ethnic minorities’ ownership of lands there.
He also demanded ending of the harassment on ethnic minority rights defenders and nationally observing International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on August 9.
Addressing the virtual press conference, Oikya NAP president Pankaj Bhattacharya said that ethnic minorities had taken part in all the movements in the country and stressed the need for an end to the violation of their rights.
Dhaka University history professor Mesbah Kamal stressed the need for the full implementation of the CHT Treaty and questioned the political will to implement the treaty.
DU journalism and mass communication professor Robayet Ferdous stressed the need for equal rights for both the Bangalees and the ethnic minorities in building a humane, scientific, language-neutral, ethnicity-neutral and secular society to materialise the liberation war dreams.
Ajoy A Mree, the forum’s vice-president, also spoke.