Speakers at a seminar yesterday demanded that the government make a guideline for implementation of the relevant International Labour Organization (ILO) convention to protect the land rights of the country's indigenous people.
Convention No. 107 states that the right of ownership, collective or individual, of the indigenous people over the lands which they traditionally occupy shall be recognised, Prof Mesbah Kamal of Dhaka University said in his keynote speech.
The Indigenous Peoples Development Services (IPDS) with support from ILO organised the seminar on “Indigenous and tribal peoples and Adivasis in the plain land” at the capital's CBCB Centre.
The indigenous people who live on a land and cultivate it but do not have any paper, own the land for generations, the professor said, adding that if anyone wanted to take the land forcibly from them, it would be a violation of the ILO convention and hence a violation of human rights.
Mesbah suggested that the indigenous people prepare a map of their lands of their own accord and register the lands which are still under their possession.
Addressing the seminar, lawmaker Ushatan Talukder said though the government ratified Convention No. 107, it was not implemented so far.
"The government is saying there are no indigenous people in the country, then how will their (indigenous people's) rights be protected?" he asked.
Chairman of National Human Rights Commission Prof Mizanur Rahman said the commission had been demanding the full implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) peace accord as the problem of CHT could not be solved without its full implementation.
Convention No. 107 mainly deals with the land rights of indigenous people.
Speakers also demanded that the government ratify ILO's Convention No. 169, which calls for recognition of the cultural and other specificities of indigenous people.
Sanjeeb Drong, president of IPDS, also spoke.