Joint Statement in Support of Garo (Mandi) People of Madhupur Garh, Bangladesh who fear eviction from their land

Joint Statement in Support of Garo (Mandi) People of Madhupur Garh, Bangladesh who fear eviction from their land

We the undersigned organizations across the world condemn the act of eviction of local indigenous communities from their land by the declaration of National Park, Eco Park and reserve forest in the name of recovering forest land by the Bangladesh governments’ Forest Department. The Forest department is conspiring against the local indigenous community consisting of Garo, Koch and Barman in order to capture their inherited lands from their ancestors.

According to a report published in the different national dailies, the government has decided to recover the country’s occupied forest lands. The eviction drive is supposed to start from January 30. We have also learnt that this drive will start from Gazipur first and Tangail has been kept second in the list. Local indigenous people have been passing days in fear of eviction.

Image courtesy of IMCS

In this regard, Indigenous people of Tangail’s Madhupur Upazila staged a demonstration in the Upazila on 31st January 2021, bringing an allegation that the forest department is attempting to evict them from their own land in the name of recovering forest lands. Terming the forest department’s attempt to evict them a conspiracy, hundreds of people from Garo, Koch and Barman communities brought out a procession and formed a human chain in Madhupur bus stand area. They also submitted a memorandum to the prime minister through Madhupur Upazila Nirbahi Officer Arifa Zohura.

Article 10 of the UNDRIP says, “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return.” Article 19 of the declaration says, “States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.” As a member country of the United Nations, Bangladesh needs to follow the UNDRIP properly.

The United Nations has recognized this customary and traditional land right and called on member states to take action. There are several UN declarations in this regard. The convention, namely ILO Indigenous and Tribal Population Convention 107 was ratified by the government of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1972. Article 11 of this convention says, “The right of ownership, collective or individual, of the members of the populations concerned over the lands which these populations traditionally occupy shall be recognised.”

Article 12 (1) says, “The populations concerned shall not be removed without their free consent from their habitual territories except in accordance with national laws and regulations for reasons relating to national security, or in the interest of national economic development or of the health of the said populations.” And article 12 (2) says, “When in such cases removal of these populations is necessary as an exceptional measure, they shall be provided with lands of quality at least equal to that of the lands previously occupied by them, suitable to provide for their present needs and future development. In cases where chances of alternative employment exist and where the populations concerned prefer to have compensation in money or in kind, they shall be so compensated under appropriate guarantees.”

Image courtesy of IMCS

On February 15, 2016, the Forest Department of the Environment and Forest Ministry issued a gazette notification declaring 9,145 acres of land in Madhupur Garh area—home to the Garo, Barman and Koch indigenous peoples—as reserved forest under the Forest Act 1927. The government made this decision without taking the free, prior, and informed consent of the indigenous peoples of Madhupur. It provoked fear that lives of more than 20,000 forest-dependent indigenous peoples living in the area would be adversely affected. The communities have since been protesting against this decision. Local indigenous leaders alleged that the main objective of the government’s move is to grab the lands of indigenous peoples by manipulating loopholes in the Forest Act, 1927.

We call upon the Government of Bangladesh to immediately stop this Eviction process. This is a blow against human rights. As per the ILO C107 Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention, 1957, the Bangladesh government should recognize the lands traditionally occupied by indigenous peoples at Madhupur Garh.

1.All India Catholic University Federation (AICUF)
2.Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP)
3.Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs (APAY)
4.Asian Lay Leaders Forum (ALL Forum)
5.Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum
6.Bangladesh Banai Development Organization
7.Bangladesh Catholic Students Movement
8.Bangladesh Jatiya Hajong Sangathon (BJHS)
9.International Movement of Catholic Students- (IMCS-Pax Romana)
10.International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs- (ICMICA-Pax Romana)
11.International Movement of Catholic Students (Pax Romana) Asia Pacific, Manila, Philippines
12.International Movement of Catholic Students, Nepal
13.North South Initiative (NSI), Malaysia
14.Union of Catholic University Students of the Republic of Indonesia
15.University Catholic Chinese Students Association (UCCSA), Taiwan
16.Eirini Freri – European Coordination (JECI-MIEC) International Young Catholic StudentsInternational Movement of Catholic Students, Brussels, Belgium
17.Jorge Parra Herrera, Latin America Coordination, European Coordination (JECI-MIEC) International Young Catholic Students- International Movement of Catholic Students, Quito, Ecuador