Young Garos protest the destruction of Madhupur Forest
Bangladesh’s Forest Department is building a barrier, a botanical garden, research centre and guest house as part of an eco-park and eco-tourism project. “We strongly protest the work by the Forest Department in the forest,” said Bangladesh Garo Chhattro Songothon president John Jatra. “They want to evict us from the forest.”
Tangail, (AsiaNews) – More than 50 young Garo Christians held a protest on Sunday over the destruction of Madhapur Forest in the Pachismail area, Tangail. The event was organised by various student groups.
John Jatra, president of Bangladesh Garo Chhattro Songothon, an indigenous Garo student rights group, said that the Forest Department recently built a barrier, botanical garden, research centre and a guest house to create an eco-park and develop eco-tourism that will severely affect forests and the people who live in them.
“We strongly protest the work by the Forest Department in the forest. Instead of saving the forest, we see the Department destroying it,” said John Jatra.
“The Bangladesh government has taken a million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, but Bangladeshi indigenous communities are facing a Forest Department conspiracy. They want to evict us from the forest.”
According to a local source, the Madhapur forest is home to 44 villages, including 25,000 indigenous people. Only 30 years ago, it abounded with monkeys, hanumans, squirrels, deer, fowls, porcupines, hares, wild boars, jackals, fishing cats, civets, lizards, different kinds of snakes, large pythons and birds. These days, such animals are rarely seen.
John Jatra wants the Garos to be in charge of forest management rather than the Forest Department staff. He also wants all development to stop in the forest.
Another student leader, Alik Mree, secretary general of Bangladesh Adivasi Chatra-Sangram Paris, also told AsiaNews that the Forest Department is building a barrier in the forest and developing tourism, affecting the lives of thousands of indigenous Garos.
“The Forest Department is establishing a barrier and developing eco-tourism,” he explained. “Inside the barrier there are about 50 tombs. We demanded they stop this kind of work during the protest.”
He also asked the Forest Department to stop development work in the park.
A Catholic priest who asked AsiaNews not to use his name noted that the lives of indigenous Garo Christians will be severely affected. However, since the ongoing development work is being conducted by the government's Forest Department, it is a sensitive issue, so no Church leader will protest.