DHAKA, Bangladesh (The Daily Star/ANN) - We urge the government to take serious note of the matter and ensure adequate protection to the land and lives of the Rakhines, who are as much citizens of Bangladesh as the rest of us
Reportedly, the Rakhine community in Bangladesh has been forced out of their homes over successive years, as a result of systematic oppression and land grabbing by influential quarters. The situation is so dire, notes a citizens group, that their number has gone down from 100,000 to only 2,500 over several decades.
In southern Barguna and Patuakhali districts, for instance, where the situation is the worst in the country, there were 144 and 93 Rakhine paras (small villages) respectively in 1948. However, there are only 26 and 13 paras left in these areas, highlighting the appalling extent to which forced evictions have taken place. Land grabbers have not even spared their places of worship – while there were 19 Buddhist temples in the area, there is now only one left.
Grabbing of minority land in Bangladesh has become a common practice. The land encroachers, usually people in positions of power within a particular area, either evict the Rakhines from their homes through violent means, or create such a hostile situation through threats and intimidation that they are compelled to leave, fearing for their lives. Rather than give protection to the minority communities, the law enforcers and local administration often turn a blind eye towards the violence and violations perpetrated by land grabbers, creating a culture of impunity that triggers further encroachments.
We urge the government to take serious note of the matter and ensure adequate protection to the land and lives of the Rakhines, who are as much citizens of Bangladesh as the rest of us.