Last year, 85 women and girls from ethnic minority communities, 44 from the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) and 41 from plain land, became victims of violence, according to "Human Rights Report 2015 on Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh".
The report published by Kapaeeng Foundation with support from Oxfam, an UK-based international development organisation, showed that since 2007, more and more women and girls from ethnic minorities had been falling prey to violence, which includes rape and gang rape, attempted rape, killing after rape, physical assault, abduction, sexual harassment and trafficking.
Pallab Chakma, editor of the report and executive director of Kapaeeng Foundation, explained that they gathered the data from the related reports published in different local and national newspapers and local network organisations, which in turn were often verified by Kapaeeng's staff.
The report was launched yesterday morning at a ceremony organised by Kapaeeng with Oxfam's support at the capital's The Daily Star Centre.
Out of the 69 incidents of violence against ethnic minority women and girls, which were documented last year, cases were filed against 46, and the rest were either resolved through local arbitration or not reported to police, read the report.
The report also mentioned that 78 percent of the perpetrators of these incidents were not from ethnic minority communities, 15 percent from ethnic minority, six percent unknown and one percent was security personnel.
The 208-page report has six chapters besides introduction and situation of women and girls, focusing on situation of civil and political rights, rights of land and natural resources, rights of youth, child and education, the CHT accord of 1997 and climate change.
The chapter on civil and political rights showed that there were a total of 52 arrests and detentions of ethnic minority people in CHT and 22 in the plains last year compared to five in CHT in 2014. It also mentioned seven cases of extra-judicial killings in CHT regions and three in the plains in 2015 compared to two and six respectively in 2014.
In 2015, destruction and looting of houses and properties of ethnic minority people were 84 in the plains, while 15 such incidents took place in 2014 in CHT and 10 in plain land.
Violence over land mostly took place among plain land ethnic minority communities in 2015, according to the report, which mentioned eviction of 45 families, and one person getting killed.
The incidents cited in the report were from different parts of the country including Rajshahi, Naogaon, Gaibandha, Natore, Gazipur, Moulvibazar, Mymensingh, Rangamati, Khagrachhari, Bandarban and Teknaf.
Calling everyone to unite to fight for the rights of the marginalised, chief guest of the ceremony, human rights activists Sultana Kamal said the Liberation War was fought not for the freedom of a few but for the rights of all.
"Why did the indigenous people suddenly become ethnic minority?" questioned Ayesha Khanam, president of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, noting that a certain kind of political mindset perhaps worked behind the sudden change.
Rana Dasgupta, general secretary of Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Council, noted that the fate of religious and ethnic minority communities did not change in independent Bangladesh.
Rabindranath Soren, chairperson of Kapaeeng Foundation, pointed out the divisiveness even among the ethnic minority people and how Santals because of their dark skin often faced racial hatred from other locals.
MB Akhter, programme director of Oxfam, Nirupa Dewan, member of National Human Rights Commission, and Sanjib Drong, a noted columnist also spoke.