Sylhet Division borders India to the north, east and south sides where it is fringed by hills, but its main geographical characteristic is plain land. Sylhet Division has a population of 6.7 million people, the majority being Bengali Muslims, followed by Bengali Hindus. Indigenous peoples represent just about 1.5 per cent of Sylhet Division, and are situated mostly in tiny villages near to the Indian border, or in colonies on tea estates where they live and work as laborers.
Most of the indigenous people in Sylhet Division earn their living through agricultural work and live just above the subsistence level. The indigenous communities in Sylhet Division are scattered and disunited in preserving their traditional and cultural practices. They are very poor and have little opportunity to improve their socio economic condition. In most cases they are disadvantaged due to the fundamental and basic problems such as lack of access to safe water and sanitation, health facilities, education and opportunities of employment.
In addition, the isolated geographical location of most indigenous communities, particularly Khasi, Patro and Manipuri, means that they have limited access to Government resources and are also largely ignored from Government initiatives.
The indigenous people of plain land Sylhet Division have produced some unique problems that differ from the indigenous communities of Chittagong Hill Tracts region.
- The indigenous peoples of plain land are dispersed in small pockets of settlements that are surrounded by the areas inhabited by mainstream peoples.
- The plain land indigenous community’s self-government system is not formally recognized by the law.
- The indigenous people of Sylhet Division have no direct representation at the national level.
- Instances of land dispossession suffered by Indigenous peoples of plain land Sylhet Division is perhaps even more widespread than in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.