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Saturday, June 17, 2023

Bangladesh’s Patience is Waning for Rohingyas in Need


Bangladesh has taken the brunt of Myanmar’s Rohingya exodus. Officials are anxious to send the 1.2 million refugees home, but rights groups say that they must not be pressured to return without guarantees of safety. Myanmar’s military government still does not recognize their citizenship, and many Rohingya fear they would be heading into new prisons if they return.

Despite receiving advisory notes from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and warnings from Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Washington, Bangladesh has shown indifference to the potential dangers faced by Rohingya refugees upon their forced return to Myanmar. These dangers include persecution and apartheid at the hands of the Myanmar military junta, not to mention the risk of natural disasters.

Meanwhile, China has engaged in intense diplomatic negotiations with the Myanmar military junta, urging them to address the Rohingya crisis to avoid potential repercussions from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), where Myanmar faces charges, brought by the Gambia, of genocide against the Rohingya ethnic minorities. The UN described the genocide of the Muslim Rohingya as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” which Myanmar has repeatedly denied.

An exodus of millions

The genocidal campaign sparked the worst refugee crisis in South Asia, forcing a million to flee from the restive Rakhine state in Myanmar. Bangladesh has struggled to shelter 1.2 million Rohingyas in squalid camps in the southeast of the country.

An estimated 3.5 million Rohingya have dispersed worldwide, of whom a large percentage are in Bangladesh. Others are in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Pakistan. An estimated 600,000 Rohingya who remain in Rakhine State are victims of the Myanmar security forces’ persecution, deliberately confined 140,000 to guarded camps and villages without freedom of movement, and access to adequate food, health care, education, and livelihoods for more than 10 years.

Bangladesh, unfortunately, does not recognise these stateless people as refugees and instead describes them as “forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals.” Dhaka has yet to ratify the UN’s 1951 Refugee Convention, which protects the rights of asylum seekers. HRW has lamented that Bangladeshi authorities are also intensifying restrictions on work, movement, and education, creating a coercive environment designed to force people to consider premature returns.

Myanmar’s “all-weather friend” China stands beside the regime as it tries to weather a series of economic sanctions from the West, which slammed it after its persecution of Rohingyas and ouster of the country’s former democratically-elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest since the military coup in February 2021.

China has been pushing the junta to initiate a so-called pilot “family-based repatriation” project, aiming to repatriate nearly a thousand refugees in the first phase.

Myanmar has an untrustworthy plan

Myanmar’s military junta wishes to appear as if it has undergone a sudden change of heart, ostensibly displaying compassion by committing to repatriate 6,000 Rohingyas by the end of the year. Myanmar has deemed these individuals foreign intruders or “illegal migrants,” denying them citizenship and subjecting them to abuse and discrimination.

In March, a delegation of Myanmar officials visited refugee camps in Bangladesh to conduct interviews and carry out a “verification” process for the pilot repatriation initiative.

“The figure of 6,000 Rohingya is a drop of water in an ocean,” says Asif Munier, a Rohingya refugee expert. The repatriation is a face-saving project of Myanmar amid country-wide embattlement with ethnic rebellions and economic crises that have worsened after economic sanctions by the United States, Canada and several European countries.

A delegation of Rohingya refugees, along with Bangladeshi government officials, toured the Hla Poe Kaung transit camp and Kyein Chaung resettlement camp in Rakhine State’s Maungdaw township on May 5. After the day-long “go and see” visit, the delegation expressed their dissatisfaction over the arrangements and facilities made by the Myanmar authorities.

Rohingya and Bangladeshi representatives seem to have two different interpretations of what they saw there. Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mohammed Mizanur Rahman, who led the delegation, opined that “repatriation is the only solution to end the refugee crisis.” Rahman said Myanmar authorities did indeed prepare settlements for Rohingya under a pilot project. There are homes, employment opportunities and schools for Rohingya children as described by Myanmar officials.

The junta claims in the booklet that the UN Development Program, the UNHCR, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will be involved in the pilot project  Altogether 3,500 Rohingya will be accommodated in 15 villages, says Rahman.

The delegation, however, found that their villages have been erased from the map and instead security forces occupied their lands and erected military and police barracks, outposts and check-posts. The authorities “even changed the name of my village in Rakhine,” a frustrated member of the delegation complained. Rohingya refugees are reluctant to return to Myanmar to “be confined in camps” again. They will only repatriate voluntarily if their security is guaranteed and they will be granted citizenship.

Rohingya don’t want to return to their country to be placed in glorified cages. They want to return to their own villages, from which they were forced to flee during the ethno-religious strife of August 2017. “Myanmar is our birthplace and we are citizens of Myanmar and will only go back with citizenship,” said refugee Abu Sufian, 35, father of three children told Reuters. It is not enough to move the refugees from one temporary camp in Bangladesh to another, concrete one in Myanmar. Without freedom of movement and guarantees of citizenship rights, the program is a non-starter.

Second-class citizenship for Rohingyas, if that

Refusing full citizenship to the ethnic minority, the authorities offer the Rohingya a consolation prize: a national verification card (NVC), which Rohingya refugees regard as insufficient protection. The draconian Citizenship Law of 1982 requires individuals to prove that their ancestors lived in Myanmar before 1823, and refuse to recognize Rohingya Muslims as one of the nation’s ethnic groups or list their language as a national language.

“We don’t want to be confined in camps,” Oli Hossain, who was among the refugees who visited Rakhine State in early May. He said they will never accept the NVC, which would effectively identify Rohingya as foreigners.

“Myanmar officials said that the confirmation of citizenship is a long process and would take more time to complete. Therefore, Myanmar won’t provide citizenship to the Rohingya people who want to repatriate under this pilot project,” Rahman told Turkish news agency Anadolu.

The booklet “Resettlement of Displaced Persons on their Return under the Pilot Project,” dated April 2023 and written in Burmese, English, and Bangalee, states that returnees will be housed at the Hla Poe Kaung transit camp for up to two months, then relocated to one of two resettlement camps with prefabricated houses or a land plot in one of 15 “designated villages,” where they can build a home through a cash-for-work program.

Since the crisis, Bangladesh has been trying to repatriate displaced Myanmar citizens with rights and dignity. Several attempts to repatriate the refugees fell flat in 2018 and 2019. After the failed attempts, Bangladeshi authorities echoed the UN Refugee Agency catch-phrase of safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable repatriation of 1.2 million Rohingyas.

In April, in a crucial tripartite parley between senior Foreign Minister officials of Bangladesh, China and Myanmar in Kunming, China, the parties decided to expedite the repartition process to avoid further sanctions. Whether this will see any effects on the ground remains to be seen.

An official team from Myanmar arrived in Bangladesh for the second time in three months to build confidence among Rohingyas in early June. After the return of the Myanmar delegation from the camps in Cox’s Bazar, the refugees have been agitating to cancel the piecemeal plan, calling instead for ensurance of a dignified and sustainable repartition.

The UN Refugee Agency, after the visit of diplomats from eight ASEAN countries including Bangladesh to Rakhine State last March, said that “conditions in Rakhine State are currently not conducive to the sustainable return of Rohingya refugees,” adding that no refugee should be forced to return. Bangladesh’s hopes that the UN may be able to bring about a quick solution to the quagmire by going along with Myanmar’s pilot plan have been frustrated due to ongoing western sanctions against the military regime.

In a flurry of diplomatic consultations in Dhaka in early May, Bangladesh’s foreign minister sought the opinion of several European and North American diplomats, as well as the UN Refugee Agency. The diplomats insisted that Myanmar should restore the citizenship of Rohingya and ensure safety, security, and access to livelihood, education, healthcare and freedom of movement which were restricted after they were declared “alien” more than 40 years ago.

Western, Bangladeshi, Myanmarese, Chinese, and UN officials are all pushing for a resolution to the crisis, but the path forward remains unclear. What is certain is that no one wants a resolution more than the Rohingya people; still, they will not sacrifice their safety, liberty, or dignity for the sake of speed.

First published in the Fair Observer, 17 June 2023

Saleem Samad is an award-winning independent columnist and media rights defender based in Bangladesh. He became an Ashoka Fellow in 1991, and won the Hellman-Hammett Award in 2005. Saleem’s articles have appeared in top publications such as Time, India Today, Outlook, India Narrative, and The Times of India, and his research has been published by institutions like the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), the Kolkata Research Group, Jadavpur University, and the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies.

[Anton Schauble edited this piece.]

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Is US encouraging rise of Bangladesh’s Islamist party to counter Sheikh Hasina?


The next parliament elections are around the corner, expected in January 2024. The hardline Islamist political party Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) after 10 years of hiatus held its first rally in Dhaka, on June 10.

The three-hour-long event was held amid a huge deployment of riot police in armed gear and hundreds of armed officers in plain clothes, at the auditorium in the heart of the capital. Thousands of its members, who were unable to find space in the hall, spilt over in the compound and also occupied half of the streets. There was no law and order situation.

In a sudden move, the capital Dhaka’s police chief permitted on certain conditions, which raised eyebrows of the journalists, political observers, civil society and left-leaning parties.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan on Sunday said that Awami League’s policy regarding Jamaat-e-Islami has not “changed our position.”

Several political observers argue that the threat of the United States visa policy has given extra mileage in obtaining permission. The US visa policy for Bangladesh says it would clamp down restrictions on officials, governing party leaders and the opposition in defence of democracy. This includes those responsible for voter intimidation, vote rigging, denial of free speech or freedom of assembly, and violence that seeks to undermine free and fair elections.

Moving away from tough repressive measures against the opposition, the district civil officials and police administration in holding elections of the local government or by-elections to the parliament are extra cautious in violating compliance stated by the US State Department on May 3.

Thus, the Islamist party got the desired “verbal permission” on the eve of their rally, after the police cancelled an event of a youth wing of another political party at the same venue.

The JeI rally has brought together the party leaders and members on a three-point demand which includes: elections under a caretaker government; release of their leaders and members in prison; control of the prices of essential grocery items.

JeI leaders claimed that in 14 years of Awami League era, nearly 1.5 lakh legal harassment cases are on their heads, and nearly 14,000 leaders and members are languishing in prisons, including their national ameer (chief) Dr Shafiqur Rahman, nayeb-e-ameer (vice-president) ANM Shamsul Islam and secretary general Mia Golam Porwar.

In their list of demands are to open the JeI’s party offices across the country, and permission for political assembly, which they pointed out that has been guaranteed by the Constitution – the Constitution which they do not recognise.

The JeI leaders have offered dialogue with the government on developing a framework for an interim government to hold free, fair, inclusive and credible elections and also ensure a level-playing field for all political parties.

The Islamist calls JeI a political party, but a majority of the people in Bangladesh are aware of the organisation’s antecedent – their demonic role during the brutal war of independence.

Fearing streets violence, the police headquarters ceased permission for JeI from February 2013 after the arrests of the party’s key leaders including their national ameer Matiur Rahman Nizami, secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid, assistant secretary general Abdul Quader Molla and assistant secretary general ATM Azharul Islam indicted for war crimes in 1971.

In the 2008 election, Sheikh Hasina led Awami League had returned to power after a landslide victory. Her electoral promise to the nation was the trial of those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in 1971 must face the music of justice.

Bangladesh’s International (War) Crimes Tribunal awarded capital punishments to scores of JeI, other Muslim parties and Islamist leaders. The tribunal considering an elderly person gave sentences for imprisonment until death to Ghulam Azam, former JeI chief in 1971, for recruitment, aiding and abetting with the marauding Pakistan military.

The Islamic evangelist leader Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, a key figure with JeI and his Muslim militia were held responsible for the deaths and rape of hundreds of Hindu community and pro-independence compatriots in southern Bangladesh in 1971, says Barrister Tapash Kanti Baul, a prosecutor in the tribunal.

In the first year of Bangladesh’s independence, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the liberation war hero passed the world’s second secular Constitution after the Muslim majoritarian Turkey.

The Constitution had a blanket ban on religious political parties. The dreaded Jamaat-e-Islami party by default was struck off.

The newly born country has gone through the pains and agony of the bloody liberation war when Pakistan forces committed wanton war crimes and rape as a weapon of war. Their henchmen of the radicalised Muslim party, JeI in the name of Islam had committed genocide and extra-judicial killings of hundreds of intellectuals by a secret death squad Al Badr.

In a landmark judgement the Bangladesh High Court on August 1, 2013, deregistered the Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, thereby banning it from participating in future elections.

The court found several contradictions between the principles of the JeI party’s manifesto (available on their website and printed documents) with the Bangladesh Constitution.

The JeI wishes to establish an Islamic Republic [of Bangladesh] instead of a secular country for which it sacrificed in blood in 1971. The Quran & Sunnah will override the state Constitution; implement the strictest Islamic Sharia laws and protect the Hindus and other religious minorities in an Islamic country.

The petitioner of the public interest litigation for the deletion of JeI’s registration with the Bangladesh Election Commission (EC) in the High Court, Maulana Ziaul Hasan, fails to understand how the EC will act JeI’s plans to participate in the elections after being deregistered.

Hasan, who is also the president of Bangladesh Sommilito Islami Jote (United Islamic Alliance), a like-minded platform against political Islam and an outspoken secularist is obviously worried about the rise of Islamism.

JeI documents claim their founder was controversial Islamic leader Syed Abul A’la Maududi, founder of Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan. He is responsible to instigate the worst racial riots in 1953 after the partition, which killed 200 Ahmadiyya Muslims after Maududi’s disciples heard his ‘Fatwa’ which mandates the Sunni Muslims in Pakistan to kill the heretics and infidels.

Barrister Tania Amir, a leading human rights lawyer argued in the court on behalf of the PIL against JeI registration that, “The Jamaat in principle does not recognise the powers of the Republic which belongs to the people, nor does it accept the undisputed power of the people’s representatives to make laws. The party discriminates against people based on religion and, therefore, should have its registration cancelled long ago.”

In December 2018, as the general election was approaching, the Bangladesh Election Commission scrapped its registration in accordance with the higher court’s verdict. Thus, JeI was rocking in troubled waters, as they were not eligible to participate in the elections and the party was in jeopardy.

The JeI members hurriedly negotiated with their all-weather ally, the rightist Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to be able to contest more than 20 seats, and they drowned.

For the last 12 years, the rhetoric of several top echelons of Awami League and senior Ministers reiterated their party’s position to make a law to ban Jamaat-e-Islami which ruthlessly opposed the independence of Bangladesh in being complicit to war crimes committed by Pakistan’s occupation military forces.

The policymakers did not hesitate to say that banning JeI is a matter of time. Now it seems those were empty promises.

The change of heart is understood by political analyst Sohrab Hasan. JeI has recently broken away from the BNP alliance. JeI is deemed an alternative to the government if BNP boycotts the upcoming elections, he wrote in the largest circulated newspaper Prothom Alo.

It seems that the same senior Ministers made a U-Turn on their rhetoric against JeI. As Dr Hasan Mahmud, Minister for Information and Broadcasting and also Joint General Secretary of Awami League said on Sunday that Jamaat-e-Islami was not banned. “Any political party can hold rallies. As long as it is not prohibited, they have the right to hold rallies,” he explained.

While Law Minister Anisul Huq said on Sunday that Jamaat-e-Islami should “not be termed guilty until the party is convicted.”

The judges have given their opinion that JeI should be banned based on sufficient evidence that came in the verdicts delivered by the war crimes tribunal.

The Saturday event has given a message that JeI is not weak and was able to brainwash thousands more youths in radical Islamic ideology.

After the war crimes tribunal indicted the key leadership of JeI, the party was demoralised but survived in a turbulent political climate.

After the tragic assassination of Sheikh Mujib in a military putsch in mid-August 1975, the regime of General Ziaur Rahman (later president) in May 1976 abrogated Clause 38 of the Constitution which bars the formation of a religious party.

Overnight the dreaded JeI resurfaced from the dead and began politicking, but of the tainted history of their engagement against the people of the country, they strategically changed its name to Islamic Democratic League.

The JeI bagged six seats in the 1979 parliament under a military dictator General Rahman. Surprisingly, the six JeI’s elected in the constituencies were all bordering the India-Bangladesh.

Fortunately, the people understood and rejected the Islamist party, which could be understood from the subsequent elections. JeI on average received nearly 4 per cent vote, said political scientist Dr Imtiaz Ahmed.

In the 1991 election after the departure of another military junta of General HM Ershad, JeI was elected in 18 seats, which was crucial for Khaleda Zia to form a coalition government. Despite a clear win, Awami League had to be seated on the opposition bench in the parliament as the party failed to muster a majority to form a government.

Awami League’s influential general secretary Obaidul Quader, hours after the event said the opposition BNP is behind Jamaat-e-Islami’s rally to conspire against the democratic process and jeopardise the forthcoming elections.

Indeed it’s rare in the world’s political history that a party which opposed the independence of a country had remained resilient and defiantly returned to politics, despite key leaders of the JeI leaders being handed down maximum punishment by the war crimes by the war crimes tribunal.

First published in the India Narrative, New Delhi, India on 14 June 2023

(Saleem Samad is an award-winning independent journalist based in Bangladesh. Views expressed are personal. Twitter: @saleemsamad)

Friday, June 09, 2023

Indigenous People in Bangladesh Suffer as Government Drags Feet


25 years ago, ethnic militias fighting in Bangladesh’s southeastern forest hills agreed to lay down their arms against the state in exchange for concessions of self-governance and land rights. To date, the government has not made good on its promises, leaving many ethnic minority farmers stranded, unable to reclaim the farmland on which they once made their livelihoods.

In the hill forest districts of Bangladesh, known collectively as the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), the inhabitants continue to suffer in agony. Many of these indigenous peoples speak Sino-Tibetan languages and practice Buddhist, Hindu, or other local religions, traits which set them apart as a minority in largely Indo-Aryan-speaking and Muslim Bangladesh. They are suffering because the government has not complied with the peace accord, celebrated at the time, which it signed 25 years ago with armed militias seeking autonomy in the region.

The United People’s Party of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (PCJSS), the political high command of the mainly Chakma, Marma, and Tripura guerillas called the Shanti Bahini (“Peace Force”), signed a peace accord with the government of Sheikh Hasina on 2 December 1997. The historic CHT Peace Accord brought to an end a protracted insurgency of more than two decades, a bush war that had cost many lives and livelihoods in southeast Bangladesh.

Parliament quickly ratified the accord, and the surrender of the combatants and their ordinance quickly followed. Finally, thousands of ethnic refugees, until then languishing in squalid camps in the neighboring Indian state of Tripura, were able to come home.

Implementation is taking forever

However, PCJSS leader Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, known as Shantu Larma, lamented that this silver jubilee is nothing to celebrate. The government has not been willing to implement it. Unfortunately, a quarter of a century after the signing of the accord, a peace audit claims that only 25 provisions and 18 clauses have been partially implemented, out of 72 provisions.

While the government celebrates the anniversary of the proclaimed peace, full-fledged governing councils have not been formed through direct elections, as promised by the peace accord, in any of the CHT’s three districts. The interim councils were formed with hand-picked ruling party members, mostly ethnic Bengalis from outside of the region and a few ethnic minority members. The government remains conspicuously silent when the implementation of the fundamental provisions of the accord is raised.

In spite of these headwinds, Shantu Larma is hopeful that the accord will see the light of day by its golden jubilee, if not earlier. And so it must, for unless the peace accord, signed during the first term of Sheikh Hasina’s government, is put into reality, peace will remain elusive for the indigenous peoples of these beautiful hills.

In the last 25 years, the CHT Peace Accord Implementation Committee has held only six meetings. This is a reflection of the government’s lack of seriousness.

Larma remains loyal to the Prime Minister, who is now in her fourth term. He argues that as she made a sincere political commitment to getting the peace deal inked and ratified, so will she surely strive to make progress in implementing the accord.

However, he reminded the national government that the responsibility to implement the peace accord lies with them and with no one else, not PCJSS or the former insurgents. He fears that the delay will cause frustration and anger among the hill people, creating a political divide in the community, especially among young people and students. In the years since the accord, young people have from time to time acted out violently in the hopes of putting pressure on the government to realize the accord’s implementation.

A roadmap to implement the accord to achieve peace was also agreed with the government. Those affected do not understand what is causing the delay in the implementation of the accord.

A history of discrimination

The PCJSS argues that, like previous regimes, the ruling Awami League party has been implementing a policy of Islamization, and, coupled with the crisis, it has intensified militarization in the CHT to completely eradicate the national identity of the hill people. In this, they see the continuation of a long and painful history.

The military dictator General Ziaur Rahman (1977-1981) attempted to Islamize the hill forest and pushed tens of thousands of landless Muslim Bengali settlers from the plains districts to outnumber the local ethnic population.

Parleys with the government’s liaison committee were initiated during the military junta of General Hussain Muhammad Ershad (1982-1990) when he offered an olive branch to the guerillas to surrender. The peace process was entrusted to a small group of immature military officers, who forced the community leaders to sign a halfhearted peace treaty. This treaty was rejected by the Shanti Bahini commanders.

Subsequently, when Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party came to power in 1991, she unilaterally declared a ceasefire in the hills and initiated peace talks with members of parliament. Her regime experienced hiccups as the liaison committee could not spell out a political solution to the crisis. The end result was zero. The dialogue was abruptly abandoned in 1996.

When Sheikh Hasina came to power a year later in 1997, a flurry of peace talks resulted in the CHT Peace Accord after the government recognized the crisis in the hill forest as the political problem it was. The Peace Accord was written with the supreme sacrifice of the blood of the hill peoples and the political vision of the Awami League government, but the effects of Bengali ethnic imperialism still continue.

Thousands of people in Bangladesh, especially those visiting the hill forests as tourists are not aware that de facto military rule continues and that the so-called Operation Uttaran, the government’s offensive, has not been withdrawn, despite what was agreed in the accord.

Rights groups complain that appalling human rights abuses, including illegal detention, extrajudicial deaths, enforced disappearances, legal harassment, and attacks against the hill people by Bengali settlers continued without any respite. The members of the CHT Citizens’ Council, an outfit of the Bengali settlers, have gained notoriety for forced conversion of native girls to Islam, kidnapping for ransom, looting of produce from native farmers, land grabbing, and other crimes. Human rights organizations have recorded evidence from parents and guardians that indigenous children have been taken away by force and admitted to madrasas (Islamic schools) in other areas of the country and converted to Islam without the knowledge of their parents.

Native administrations disempowered

The authorities are presently making systematic efforts at forced demographic transformation of the region—further marginalizing the natives who have protected the hill forest, the flora and fauna for centuries.

Law and order, police, land and land management, forest and environment conservation, communication infrastructure development, and other competencies stipulated by the accord have not been handed over to the district councils. Alas, district police forces have not been formed. And despite the decision of the Accord Implementation Committee, the jurisdiction to issue “Permanent Resident Certificates,” vital for the recognition of indigenous identity and of the incumbent rights to vote and to receive restitution according to the peace agreement, has not been turned over to the native administrations as promised.

It is an ongoing tragedy that the refugees who have returned from India have not yet gotten their land back, in violation of the accord. Internally displaced refugees have regained their land either, Mangal Kumar Chakma recently wrote in The Daily Star.

The list of permanent residents of the three hill districts, who are the ones eligible to vote there, has not yet been prepared, again despite the accord’s mandate. Even the electoral rules and election rules for the hill district councils have not been formulated.

This undemocratic and partisan path sends the wrong message to the hill people, demonstrating the government’s dearth of political commitment. The land occupation and eviction of ethnic minorities remain an apple of discord between the Bengalis settled and protected by the military and the ethnic nationalities of the hill forests. The hill people are constantly losing their lands and being evicted from their homesteads in the absence of a functional CHT Land Commission and with the sluggish progress of the implementation of the peace accord.

The Land Commission mandated under the CHT Peace Accord has not progressed at all. The commission was supposed to demarcate the ancestral lands of the minorities to establish their legal rights against encroachers. So far, the light at the end of the tunnel still appears distant.

First published in the @myfairobserver, 9 June 2023

Saleem Samad is an award-winning independent columnist and media rights defender based in Bangladesh. He became an Ashoka Fellow in 1991, and won the Hellman-Hammett Award in 2005