Heli Chakma: Message from an Indigenous Woman Human Rights Defender from Bangladesh

I am from Rangamati of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. I do not actively work on Human Rights per se but I try to support those who actively work as much as possible. Since my birth the problem I feel is the land issue, which is a major problem for indigenous peoples in Bangladesh. On paper, I know it for sure that the land is mine, but someone else is cultivating on that land before my eyes. I have no alternative but to see it. I have no right to touch or use that land. That has completely been given to somebody else. Who do I make understand the pain amassed on my mind? Or who would listen to that? Since I achieved cognizance, I have been listening that women cannot freely move in the marketplace or here and there because always a sense of insecurity prevails among indigenous families. Because indigenous women often fall victim of violence. In many cases, it is observed that women are targeted first to evict indigenous peoples from their lands. If it doesn’t work, rape, killing after rape, kidnapping etc. are committed. Mainly in this fashion, a constant process of grabbing the villages or lands of indigenous peoples is going on. Moreover, there are different kinds of communal attacks centering around the lands of indigenous peoples. For example, you would often see reports of arson attacks on indigenous localities in the newspapers of Bangladesh. I think these problems can be resolved only when we would be able to actively raise these issues nationally as well as internationally. Those who are trying hard to defend the rights of indigenous peoples, I have one appeal to them – they raise our problems properly to all people of the world. I thank you all.

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