Address the grievances
For over a decade, the indigenous population of Madhupur has been vociferously protesting the Forest Department’s move to encroach upon their lands to set up a national and Eco Park to promote ecotourism. It is unfortunate that not only has the Forest Department repeatedly ignored the pleas of the local community which depend on these lands for their lives and live hoods, but it has also allegedly filed false cases against those protesting the move. According to the indigenous people, as many as 1,098 false cases have been filed by the forest department against 184 local indigenous families. This is a serious allegation, which if true, is a gross violation of basic human rights and constitutional guarantees.
The Forest Department initiated the Forest Conservation and Eco Tourism Project in 2000 to build an Eco Park on 3,000 acres of the forest in Madhupur. The indigenous people have waged a movement against the park since 2004, but their protests were met with harassment and even violence, with one indigenous youth shot dead and another 25, including women and children, injured with bullet wounds as the police and forest guards opened fire on a protest march in the same year. Since then, the community has faced different forms of harassment and violence, including filing of false cases.
It is counter- productive and counter intuitive to us that an Eco Park is being built displacing the local indigenous community, in whose lives and culture, the land and nature plays an important part. What, we wonder, is the point of development if it wrecks and displaces lives?
We urge the government to withdraw these false cases immediately, ensure traditional land rights of the community and include them in decision-making processes that affect their lives.
Source: The Daily Star, December 15, 2015