Bangladesh: Progress on internal displacement response needed
Internally displaced indigenous people in the Chittagong Hills Tract. IDMC, 2006
- Country Statistics
- Latest IDP figure:
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- Number of refugees:
- (Originating from the country)
10,161 (UNHCR, as of January 2013)
- Total Population:
- 156.6 million (UNFPA, 30 October 2013, p.106)
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31 December 2012
No recent information was available on the number of people internally displaced as a result of armed conflict and violence in Bangladesh. IDPs are widely dispersed, and the fact that internally displaced Bengalis are not always counted also makes estimating figures difficult.
In September 2012, dozens of people were injured and more than 100 houses and shops burned down during communal violence between Bengalis and non-Bengalis in the south-eastern Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) region. Around 1,000 non-Bengali families, or 5,000 people, were reported to have been internally displaced.
Tensions between Bengalis, the majority community, and non-Bengali tribal people known as Jumma go back to the 1970s. After independence in 1971, Jumma living in CHT demanded greater autonomy. The government rejected their demands, and in 1973 armed conflict broke out between the national army and Shanti Bahini, the armed wing of the United People’s Party of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (PCJSS). At the same time, the government settled Bengalis from the country’s central plains in CHT.
A peace accord was signed in 1997, which provided for cultural recognition and partial self-government for the Jumma, the withdrawal of the army, an end to the settlement of Bengalis in CHT and the rehabilitation of the several hundred thousand IDPs. The agreement, however, was still to be fully implemented as of the end of 2012. Acts of violence and discrimination continued and land disputes remained unresolved. Neither the government’s task force on returning refugees and IDPs nor the country’s land commission met their objectives. The government also criticised the international community’s involvement in the CHT issue and increased its control over international donations for Bangladeshi NGOs.
25 June 2009: Land grabbing and violence against indigenous groups continue
On 13 June, 74 families including 56 indigenous families, were evicted from their land in a series of attacks at Khatirpur in the north-western sub-district of Porsha. The attack was led
by 200 armed supporters of a Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) adherent, allegedly backed by the police. Some days later, attackers tried to occupy
land of 17 more indigenous families in Nachole sub-district. Protestors on 21 June called for
the property to be returned to evicted families and the land grabbers arrested.
Meanwhile, in Khagrachari district in the south-eastern Chittagong Hill Tracts, indigenous people and settlers clashed
over disputed land. The indigenous people launched protests
against continuing attempts to grab their land, in response to reports that they had attacked the settlers to take back control of land settled between 1981 and 1982.
Twenty years of armed struggle in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), pitting the armed forces and Bengali settlers against indigenous groups seeking greater autonomy, formally ended in 1997 with the signing of the CHT Peace Accord. The accord granted cultural recognition and a degree of self-government to indigenous groups and foresaw the rehabilitation of internally displaced people (IDPs), but the situation of displaced indigenous people and Bengalis has not been resolved.
Insecurity continues to generate new displacements. These go largely undocumented because of restrictions on independent reporting, but some sources suggest that tens of thousands of people have been affected. Insecurity is also preventing IDPs from achieving a durable solution to their displacement. Most who are unable to return to their places of origin cite a combination of insecurity and a lack of guarantees for political activity as their main obstacles.
There is disagreement over who should be recognised as an IDP. Under the CHT Peace Accord, all parties recognise displaced indigenous people as IDPs, but the indigenous groups refuse to accept the Bengali settlers they have displaced from recently occupied land as such. Their position is not in line with the common definition of an IDP, which does not require a person to have lived in a place for a long period before they can be recognised as displaced from it. Given the background to the conflict, it may make sense to offer settlers compensation and safe alternatives to their discontinued occupation of the land in question, but any attempt to do so should be on the basis that they too should be recognized as IDPs and treated as such under the accord.
There is a also a general lack of up-to-date information and monitoring of internal displacement, some of whom were displaced as many as 35 years ago, so it is unclear what their settlement intentions might have been and whether they have achieved a durable solution.
Disputed land rights remain the most important issue. Given a context of continuing forced evictions and expropriation of ancestral lands, the commission set up to settle disputes needs to establish land ownership rights prior to undertaking a cadastral survey. By doing so, land would be registered to its original owners rather than the land grabbers.
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30 December 2011
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Internal Displacement Profile
"Causes and Background ","Background","Causes of displacement"
"IDP Population Figures","IDP Population Figures"
"IDP Population Movements and Patterns","IDP Population Movements and Patterns"
"Physical Security, Integrity and Access to Justice","Physical Security","Integrity and Access to Justice"
"Property, Livelihoods, Education and Other Economic, Social and Cultural Rights","Land","property and durable solutions","Economic","Social and Cultural Rights","Access to Livelihoods","Access to Health","Access to Food","Access to Education"
"Protection of Special Categories of IDPs (Age, Gender, Diversity)","Gender-Women and Men","Boys","Girls and Adolescents"
"Durable Solutions (Return, Local Integration, Settlement Elsewhere in the Country)","Durable Solutions"
"National and International Response","National Response","International Response"
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