CHT leaders blast move to deny their indigenous status
Leaders of ethnic minority groups and political parties in the Chittagong Hill Tracts on Thursday blasted the move not to recognise them as ‘indigenous people ’in the Constitution.
They termed the move as a ‘conspiracy’ to deny the groups their ethnic status and their constitutional right to land and of self determination.
They slammed the co- chairman of the parliamentary special committee for constitutional amendment, Suranjit Sengupta, for saying that ‘no minority community will be recognised as indigenous people.’
After Tuesday’s meeting of the committee, Suranjit said that the definition of indigenous people given by the United Nations was not applicable to the situation in Bangladesh.
He said that it could be applicable for some countries like Australia where indigenous people were ousted from state power by others.
But the other members of the special committee differed with Suranjit’s view. They said no such decision was taken at the committee meeting.
Rashed Khan Menon, a member of the special committee and chairman of parliamentary standing committee on education ministry, told New Age, ‘What Suranjit said was his personal opinion.’
‘No such decision was taken at the meeting,’ said Menon.
He said that the committee members only had primary discussions to accord constitutional recognition to the ethnic minority groups.
He also said that all the members of the committee reached a consensus on the issue in principle.
Menon described Suranjit’s explanation of the term ‘indigenous’ as his personal opinion.’
The Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti condemned Suranjit’s statement on the issue. The PCJSS publicity secretary Mangal Kumar Chakma described Suranjit’s interpretation of the term ‘indigenous’ as ‘incorrect and his own.’
He said that a statement like this from a ruling party lawmaker creates the impression that the government do not want to recognise the indigenous people’s right to land and their fundamental rights.
The United People’s Democratic Front in a statement said Suranjit’s statement had disappointed the people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
The UPDF central committee member Ujjwal Smriti Chakma said, ‘The artificial and unnecessary debate over recognition of “indigenous people” is nothing but a conspiracy to deny the ethnic minorities of their constitutional right to land and the right to self determination.’