Empowering Linguistic Minority to Realize Rights in Bangladesh

Empowering Linguistic Minority to Realize Rights in Bangladesh

Annual Report | June 2020 to May 2021 | Click for PDF File

Beneficiary Community: Approximately 300,000 Bihari Urdu speaking camp dwellers have been living in 116 camps of 13 regions in urban settings across Bangladesh. Bihari Urdu Speaking community is a political victim of 1971. Almost four decades they passed their life as stateless. However, they have ended their statelessness in 2003 and 2008. A group of young generation from Geneva Camp first time filed a writ petition in High Court and claimed as Bangladeshi citizens and after a year high court declared that the Bihari those are living in 116 Camps all over in Bangladesh they are Bangladeshi citizens and Urdu Speaking Bangladeshi. Bihari Urdu Speaking Community living in 116 in inhuman refugee like camps situation without having basic facilities as human being. All the Camps are urban based in Dhaka-Mohammadpur, Mirpur, Adamjee, Mymensingh, Rangpur, Bogura, Saidpur, Khulna, Ishwardi and Chittagong.

Project Justification:

However, in 2008, the High Court of Bangladesh confirmed that the Ur-du-speaking camp dwellers are Bangladeshi citizens, and this landmark verdict raises a hope among the young Urdu-speakers ending of decades-long struggle with statelessness. Due to lack of mass awareness on the High Court landmark verdict among the general people and government official, the camp dwellers have not only been deprived from their civil and political rights but also from their socioeconomic and cultural rights. The Urdu speaking camp dwellers are yet to enjoy the citizenship rights and have been facing difficulties to get their national identity card, enroll in voter list, passport and access to basic services provided by government and non-government service providers.

Considering their deprivation and sufferings to have full access to citizenship rights, since June 2013, in partnership with Naorik Uddyog and Council of Minorities funded by NAMATI-US have been working to promote their citizenship rights considering the following objectives:

  • To build an effective model for using legal empowerment approaches, specifically community-based paralegals, to facilitate the acquisition and use of identity documents to gain access to rights and opportunities part of the core content of citizenship;
  • To develop robust evidence on the relationship between identity documentation and statelessness, including current government practice and discrimination that may contribute to an ongoing lack of effective citizenship, despite the possession of identity documents;
  • To encourage use of this evidence for national litigation and national or international advocacy efforts related to gaining access to effective citizenship rights, if necessary.

Project overview:

To respond to these justice challenges, in 2013 the Council of Minorities and Nagorik Uddyog partnered to establish a network of community-based paralegals in Urdu-speaking camps funded by NAMATI-US in Dhaka (Mirpur and Mohammadpur), Mymensingh, Khulna, Chittagong, and Saidpur under the project of “Empowering Linguistic Minority to Realize Rights in Bangladesh”. Community-based paralegals can bridge the gap between law and real life. They use knowledge of law and government, and skills like negotiation, community education, organizing, and advocacy to seek concrete solutions to instances of injustice. In addition to serving as a dynamic “frontline” of justice service providers, paralegals focus on empowerment. They not only work alongside clients to resolve a legal issue, but also leave each client in a stronger position to deal with similar problems in the future – critical in the Urdu-speaking community, which has been marginalized through statelessness, discrimination, and poverty.

In total 14 paralegals are working in six paralegal centers in Dhaka- Mohammadpur, Mirpur, Saidpur, Mymensingh, Khulna and in Chittagong. Paralegals are working three ways that are

  • i) Assist to the Camp dwellers to achieve civil documents
  • ii) Awareness on legal education and access to justice
  • iii) Capacity building of community

Challenge of Covid-19:

The COVID-19 pandemic in Bangladesh is a part of the worldwide pandemic of corona virus disease 2019.  The virus was confirmed to have spread to Bangladesh in March 2020. The first three known cases were reported on 8 March 2020 by the country’s epidemiology institute, IEDCR. Since then, the pandemic has spread day by day over the whole nation and the number of affected people has been increasing.

In order to protect the population, the government declared “lockdown” throughout the nation from 23 March to 30 May and prepared some necessary steps to spread awareness to keep this syndrome away from them. Infections remained low until the end of March but saw a steep rise in April. On 13 June, the number of cases in Bangladesh exceeded the number of cases in China, the country where the outbreak began. First three months of country lockdown from March to May our paralegals activities were completely stop because our working areas the camps are densely populated urban spaces, in which social distancing was impossible.

Assist to the Camp dwellers to achieve civil documents

Paralegals are assisting the camp dwellers to achieve civil documents like Birth and Death Certificates, Councilor Certificate, National Identity Card, Passport, Tread License, General Dairy, Opening Bank Account, Health Support, Education Support, Old Age Allowance, Disable Allowance, Ration Card & Waris Certificate.

Civil documents achieved in six centers from June 2020 to May 2021

Center Birth Certificate Councilor Certificate NID Card Passport Trade License General Dairy Adult Allowance Bank Account Disable Allowance Health Support Death Certificate Education Support Waris Certificate Ration Card Total
New Re-New New Re-New New Re-new
Mohammadpur 761 9 34 11 3 0 0 0 7 43 11 2 44 1 0 0 0 926
Mirpur 539 17 91 37 6 5 3 0 43 0 3 0 40 1 5 2 0 792
Saidpur 165 22 1 0 0 0 0 0 25 0 8 0 18 1 3 4 0 247
Chittagong 164 40 13 10 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 19 4 41 1 1 296
Mymensingh 40 22 0 0 0 0 4 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 3 10 87
Khulna 52 30 0 0 2 0 0 0 1 2 12 2 95 0 15 0 0 211
Total 1721 140 139 58 12 5 7 4 80 45 36 4 216 7 64 10 11 2559

Testimonial of civil documents

Name: Abul Hashem (63)
Address: 1 No. Camp, Khliashpur, Khulna
Cell: 01972232672

Paralegal: Naj Parvin

Name: Mst. Husne-Ara (40)
Address: Rasulpur Camp, Saidpur
Cell: 01715748989

Paralegal: Nagma Parveen

Awareness on legal education and access to justice

After the end of country lockdown in end of May 2020 our paralegals again started their daily door to door outreach inside the camps. Paralegals are building awareness on Covid-19 awareness, legal education and access to justice within the camp community through door to door outreach, organizing community group meeting and screening legal awareness documentary film in the camps. These three ways they are disseminating the message of legal education and access to justice.

Daily Outreach:

Every day paralegals are doing outreach inside the Camp. During the outreach in Covid-19 situation they are minting social distancing issue and wearing face mask and using hand sanitizer while in the field. Through the outreach   they disseminate the message of Covid-19 protection and importance of Covid-19 vaccine, 2008 high court judgment, importance and uses of the civil documentation like birth certificate, national identity card, passport, trade license and other many services.  Every day they are assigned to visit at list 5 houses in their rotational weekly plan.  Through the daily outreach paralegals reached 42,126 Camp dwellers and disseminated the message of 2008 high court judgment, uses and importance of the   civil documentations in in their daily life.

Area Beneficiaries(At the field level)
No. of Families Female/Girls Male/Boys Total
Mohmmadpur 2502 5987 6896 12883
Mirpur 1283 3105 3017 6122
Chittagong 2143 5235 5002 10237
Saidpur 1530 3469 3580 7049
Mymensingh 875 1978 1889 3867
Khulna 463 1062 906 1968
Total 8796 20836 21290 42126

Community Group Meeting:

Paralegals organize community group meeting and they invite 15 women, men, boys and girls to attend the community group meeting. In the group meeting they disseminate the message of 2008 high court judgment and realize them how Biharis have ended their statelessness through the high court. In the group meeting they discuss about the importance and uses of the civil documentations in their daily life. In June 2020 to May 2021, project period paralegals organized total 504 group meetings with the participants of 7,560 community members.

Community Group Meeting on Legal Identity & Legal Education
June 2020 to May 2021
Area No. of GM Beneficiaries  Total
Male Female Boys Girls
Mohmmadpur 108 0 1175 40 405 1620
Mirpur 144 0 1711 49 400 2160
Chittagong 72 0 772 41 267 1080
Saidpur 108 0 1156 94 370 1620
Mymensingh 36 0 388 35 117 540
Khulna 36 0 392 25 123 540
Total 504 0 5594 284 1682 7560

Covid-19 Awareness Meeting and Assist for Vaccination

Paralegals organized awareness meeting on Covid-19 in the most risky and red zone areas in Mirpur, Mohammadpur & Mymensingh. Through this community meeting they discriminate the message of social distancing issue, hand wash, using face mask and avoid the public places. They also described the importance of covd-19 vaccine.

Covid-19 awareness meeting in the camps  June 2020 to May 2021
Area No of Meeting Beneficiaries Total
Male Female Boys Girls
Mohmmadpur 4 0 48 0 12 60
Mirpur 15 0 197 5 23 225
Mymensingh 2 0 20 2 18 40
Total 21 0 265 7 53 325

Pro-bono Workshop for capacity building of the community

In June 2020 to May 2021 we have organized 24 pro-bono workshop in 6 paralegal centers and invited 40 community members consist of 20 women and 20 boys & girls together in each center. We have educated them to learn the making of civil documentation themselves without anyone’s help and inspired them to assist others to get these civil documentations. Community people expressed their gratitude to Council of Minorities and NAMATI for their initiative and hard work for the camp dwellers. They also demand to continue this project because civil documentations are one of the key element for the camp dwellers to claim them self as Bangladeshi Citizens.

Workshop on Legal Identity & Legal Education June 2020 to May 2021
Area No. of WS Beneficiaries (Pro bono)  


Women Group Youth Group
Female Boys Girls
Mohmmadpur 4 40 9 31 80
Mirpur 4 40 9 31 80
Chittagong 4 40 13 27 80
Saidpur 4 40 13 27 80
Mymensingh 4 40 10 30 80
Khulna 4 40 11 29 80
Total 24 240 65 175 480