There is no alternative to setting up a separate land commission to protect the land rights of indigenous peoples in the plains of the country, according to experts.
They said that to create this land commission, a separate law should be enacted.
The experts were talking at a virtual advocacy dialogue organised by Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) on Wednesday.
Executive Director of MJF, Shaheen Anam, said that although a draft law for a separate land commission for ethnic groups in the plains was prepared and handed over to the government in 2015, no progress has been made so far in this regard.
"The indigenous peoples living in the plains of the country are losing their land rights. Their lands are being occupied for various projects. Local political leaders are also taking these lands," Anam added.
Sanjeeb Drong, secretary of the Bangladesh Indigenous Forum, said most indigenous people do not have any documentation for their lands as they have been inheriting those lands for generations. Taking advantage of this opportunity, many are plundering those lands, leaving indigenous people landless.
This is worsening the standard of living for ethnic minorities, Drong added.
Dr Mesbah Kamal, chairperson, Research and Development Collective, said the government should be sincere in setting up a separate land commission for ethnic peoples of the plains.
"The United Nations recognised the land rights of indigenous peoples many years ago. To make that recognition effective, there is no alternative to implementing a separate land commission by law," he added.
Indigenous leaders from different parts of the country participated in the discussion as well, raising land issues for their respective areas.
Fazle Hossain Badsha MP, convener, Parliamentary Caucus on Indigenous and Minorities, attended the event as chief guest.
Manoranjan Shil Gopal, MP, member, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Land, and Sohrab Hassan, joint editor, Prothom Alo, were also present at the event as special guests.