Protect ancestral land of Khasi people
Thirteen environmentalists, rights activists and prominent citizens have issued a letter to Sylhet divisional commissioner, demanding protection of the ancestral and customary land of the Khasi people living in Daluchhara and Belkuma Khasiapunji, located in the Kulaura upazila of Moulvibazar.
They issued the letter on Saturday upon receiving news that the so-called "beneficiaries" of Kulaura Upazila administration, police, forest department and social forestry of Moulvibazar will "forcibly" implement the plantation of trees on the land of Daluchhara Khasia Punji today.
The signatories said the forest department implementing a flawed project such as this one in the name of social forestry raises serious questions, and requested the administration not to undertake any such project that destroys natural forests.
The Khasis have been living in their ancestral lands for ages. Various international charters, including the United Nations, have recognised the indigenous culture of preserving ancestral lands, and the Bangabandhu regime also ratified the ILO Convention 107 in 1972, recognising the ancestral land rights of the indigenous people, the letter stated.
The letter also highlighted that the forest department unilaterally listed the beneficiaries without any discussion with the Khasis and ignored the social forestry policy as well, creating several issues and complications between the beneficiaries and the Khasis.
Some miscreants have already destroyed the betel nut jum/garden owned by the Khasis and attacked them, claimed the signatories in the letter. The media has shed light on this issue very recently, prompting a meeting between the Khasi ledearship and the forest and environment minister to solve the issues.
Besides, the Moulvibazar court has imposed a ban on this land too, according to the issued letter.
The letter was signed by Sultana Kamal, president, Bapa; Khushi Kabir, coordinator, Nijera Kori; Prof Dr Mizanur Rahman, former chairman, National Human Rights Commission; Advocate Rana Dash Gupta, general secretary, Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council; Prof Dr Mesbah Kamal, vice chancellor, Prime Asia University; Syeda Rizwana Hasan, executive director, Bela; Shamsul Huda, executive director ALRD; Sharmin Murshid, former member, National River Conservation Commission; Sharif Jamil, general secretary, Bapa; Nirmal Rozario, president, Bangladesh Christian Association; Sanjeeb Drong, general secretary, Bangladesh Adivasi Forum; Father Joseph Gomes, regional coordinator, Adivasi Poribesh Rokkha Andolon; Abdul Karim, general secretary, Bapa Sylhet.