Bangladesh is a country of cultural and ethnic diversity, with over 54 Indigenous Peoples speaking at least 35 languages, along with the majority Bengali population. According to the 2011 census, the country’s Indigenous population numbers approximately 1,586,141 which represents 1.8% of the total population. Indigenous Peoples in the country, however, claim that their population stands at some 5 million. The majority of the Indigenous population live in the plains districts of the country, and the rest in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).
The state does not recognise Indigenous Peoples as “Indigenous”. Nevertheless, since the 15th amendment of the constitution, adopted in 2011, people with distinct ethnic identities beyond the Bengali population are now mentioned. Yet only cultural aspects are mentioned, whereas major issues related to Indigenous Peoples’ economic and political rights, not least their land rights, remain ignored.
Villagers of the Mro community face eviction threats from eight of their ancestral villages at Chimbuk hill in Bandarban district in the Chittagong Hill District, Bangladesh due to the construction of a five-star hotel in their ancestral lands.
Press Statement: International Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission
June 26, 2020, Dhaka
The International Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission is alarmed at the reports of allegations of human rights violations, especially against the indigenous peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past few months, as the pandemic spread into the three hill districts, widespread human rights violations have been reported by the security forces and the police, as well as vigilante groups, which includes cases of harassment, intimidation, arbitrary house searches, attack on religious places of worship, abduction and threats against indigenous leaders, activists and prisoners. While the pandemic has affected the indigenous people in various ways in terms of food shortage and access to medical services, the harassment and intimidation by the security forces and the activities of these vigilante groups have continued to aggravate the situation.