They condemn violence and discrimination against the Khasia people
More than a dozen noted environmentalists and rights activists have asked the government to refrain from destroying the natural forests of Khasia Punji in Doluchhara of Kulaura in Moulvibazar.
In a statement sent to media by Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (Bapa) on Sunday, the eminent citizens also demanded that the government uphold the spirit of human rights in the cases of the Khasia and other ethnic minority groups.
They also handed over a letter to the Sylhet divisional commissioner, Md Khalilur Rahman, through a representative on Sunday, demanding that the plan to plant saplings in Doluchhara Khasia area on Monday under the social forestry scheme be scrapped immediately, terming it flawed.
Kualura Upazila administration is set to launch the social forestry initiative along with officials of the Forest Department, police and local beneficiaries.
The activists allege that the Forest Department has prepared a list of beneficiaries unilaterally and flouting guidelines of social forestry, and bypassing a court injunction. The decision has created tension among the beneficiaries and the Khasia people, according to the statement.
They label this initiative as a conspiracy to evict the Khasia people from their land. Miscreants are cutting down trees in the forests, destroying betel plants, which is the Khasia people’s livelihood in Doluchhara and Belkuma areas, filing false cases, and obstructing their movement.
The signatories include Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon President Sultana Kamal and General Secretary Sharif Jamil, former National Human Rights Commission chairman Prof Dr Mizanur Rahman, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers’ Association Executive Director Syeda Rizwana Hasan, Nijera Kori Coordinator Khushi Kabir and Primeasia University Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Mesbah Kamal.
Others who signed the statement are General Secretary of Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council Rana Dasgupta, Bangladesh Adivasi Forum General Secretary Sanjeeb Drong, Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD) Executive Director Shamsul Huda, former member of National River Conservation Commission Sharmeen Murshid, Bangladesh Christian Association President Nirmal Rozario, Regional Coordinator of Adivasi Poribesh Rokkha Andolon Father Joseph Gomes, and Bapa Sylhet unit General Secretary and Surma River Waterkeeper Abdul Karim Kim.