Incursion into the forest threatens the survival of about 7,000 mostly Catholic villagers in 13 villages n Mymensingh Diocese
A group of Christian indigenous people in the central region of Bangladesh held a demonstration on Sunday, May 16, to protest what they described as the incursion and destruction of the Madhapur forest by the government.
In recent months, Bangladesh’s Forestry Department has been building a botanical garden, a research center, and a guest house in the area as part of an eco-park and eco-tourism project.
“We strongly protest the work by the Forestry Department in the forest,” said John Jatra, president of the Bangladesh Garo Chhattro Songothon, a group of indigenous students.
“They want to evict us from the forest,” he was quoted as saying by AsiaNews in a report. “Instead of saving the forest, we see the department destroying it,” he said.
The Madhapur forest is host to 44 villages, including 25,000 indigenous people. It is also home to various species of animals, including monkeys, snakes, and birds.
Jatra said the Garos, an indigenous people in the central region of Bangladesh, should be given the responsibility of taking charge of the forest.
The Forestry Department has also been reported to have set up a “barrier” in the forest.
“Inside the barrier there are about 50 tombs,” said Alik Mree, secretary general of Bangladesh Adivasi Chatra-Sangram Paris. “We demand that they stop this kind of work.”
Early this year, indigenous people in the area protested a notice issued by the Forest and Environment Ministry that declared 1,945 acres of land in Madhupur to be rezoned as forest reserve.
Villagers and rights activists said the move threatens the survival of about 7,000 mostly Catholic villagers in 13 villages under the Corpus Christi Catholic Church and St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Mymensingh Diocese.