The Rakhine community in Patuakhali and Barguna has decreased significantly due to oppression and land grabbing by influential people in the areas, said a group of citizens who recently visited the areas.
The community had around one lakh people several decades back, but now it has only around 2,500, they said at a press conference at Dhaka Reporters Unity yesterday.
The citizens went on a two-day visit to Rakhine areas in Taltoli upazila of Barguna and Kolapara upazila of Patuakhali on August 26.
People of the Rakhine community are being suppressed in different ways and they are being evicted from their land all over the country, but the situation in Barguna and Patuakhali is the worst, said Robayet Ferdous, associate professor, Department of Mass Communication and Journalism of Dhaka University, who read out the keynote paper.
Robayet said Rakhine people started living in the areas in the beginning of 1800s. There were 144 paras in Barguna and 93 in Patuakhali in 1948, but now the number has come down to 26 and 13 respectively.
Most of the Rakhines have gone to Myanmar due to suppression and land grabbing, he added.
The land grabbers did not even spare worship places, Robayet said, adding they grabbed most of the land of the century-old Kuakata Bouddha Bihar.
He said there were 19 Buddhist temples in the areas but now there is only one.
Noted columnist Syed Abul Maksud demanded that the government form an investigation team led by a retired district judge or former secretary to investigate the team's findings and take necessary steps to solve problems of the Rakhine.
If the government does not give proper attention to the Rakhine, their number will go down to zero, said Sanjeeb Drong, general secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum.
The team demanded that the government provide security to the Rakhine people still living there. They also demanded that all the land grabbed from Rakhines be returned to them.
Among others, Numan Ahmed Khan, executive director of the Institute of Environment and Development, and Pankaj Bhattacharya, president of Oikya NAP, addressed the briefing.