Do not evict minorities from forests: speakers

Staff Correspondent

Bangladesh Adivasi Forum holds a rally in front of National Press Club in Dhaka on Friday, protesting at the moves to evict Garo people from Madhupur forest area. — New Age photo

Politicians, academics, cultural activists and ethnic minority leaders at a human chain in the city on Friday called on the government to abandon projects in Modhupur forest of Tangail and Sreemangal of Moulabhibazar which intended to acquire ethnic people’s land.
Bangladesh Adivasi Forum and a few other ethnic minority organisations formed the hour-long human chain in front of the National Press Club, protesting against eviction of the fringe community members from their ancestral lands.
‘The government is nakedly trying to acquire our lands. The administration has delineated pure ethnic people’s land, such as, church, graveyard and even school, in favour of a proposed reserved forest in Madhupur’ Sanjeeb Drong, general secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum told New Age.
Pankaj Bhattacharya, president of Oikya NAP, said that the smaller minorities were being attacked on and off across the country, especially those living in remote areas.
He called on the government to cancel the reserved forest project in Madhupur forest and not to acquire ethnic minorities’ lands.
Playwright and actor Mamunur Rashid said the government should ensure equal rights for all of the country’s citizens.
He urged the government to hold opinion polls among the national minorities before taking any reserved forest project on their lands.
Dhaka University teacher Robayet Ferdous called both on the political parties and the citizens to rally behind the minorities to protect their rights.
Sanjeeb Drong said the government is deliberately trying to take away some 3,000 acres of ethnic people’s land. Sanjeeb, who chaired the human chain, called on the government to cancel the proposed ‘reserved forest’ at Madhupur and not to evict 700   Khasia families from their Sreemangal lands.
The district administration of Moulvibazar already served notices to the Khasia families– through two headmen– to evict their homestead and adjacent lands by June 12, he said.
Other leaders of the minority organisations also addressed the human chain.

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