Rights activists on Sunday said the discrimination against the Dalits was still high in absence of any law to protect their rights.
In a discussion on the Dalit community in Bangladesh in the context of SDGs, speakers also called for immediate enactment of the proposed Anti-Discrimination Bill 2014 to protect the rights of the marginalised community.
Mentioning the law a tool to curb discrimination against the Dalits, human rights activist Hamida Hossain said, ‘Many laws have been passed in last few years in parliament, but why has the proposed anti-discrimination law not been passed yet?’
National Human Rights Commission member Meghna Guhathakurta in her keynote speech said that discrimination against the Dalits would not stop without formulating a new law and thus Bangladesh would fail to achieve the goals of Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations.
She also said that most of these people were landless.
Nagarik Udyog executive director Zakir Hosain said there was no data on Dalits in 2011 census and it revealed that the Dalits were not specified.
PRIP Trust executive director Aroma Dutta said the Dalit people were losing their traditional jobs to the mainstream people. She also stressed the inclusion of Dalits in the local governance, through which they could be empowered.
CPD distinguished fellow Mustafizur Rahman said without the development of these people the overall development would never come. ‘Bangladesh is stepping into the phase of a middle income country from least developed country but still Dalit people are earning so less than the average income of a poor person in the country,’ he added.
Sharing the information that government had asked the job-less Dalits to leave the government houses they had been occupying for generations, Dalit leader Moni Rani Das said, ‘In one hand, mainstream people are taking up our jobs leaving us jobless and on the other hand, the government asks us to leave the houses as now many of us do not have jobs.’
GED member of the planning commission Shamsul Alam said the government had many financial and social security allowances for the Dalits, while information minister Hasanul Haq Inu chaired and CPD distinguished fellow Debapriya Bhattacharya moderated the discussion.

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