Santu for movement to win recognition
Ethnic minority communities from across the country took to the streets in the capital on Friday demanding that they should be recognised in the constitution as ‘indigenous peoples’, not as ‘small ethnic groups’ as proposed by the parliamentary special committee on constitution amendment.
Bangladesh Adivasi Forum organised the rally at the Central Shaheed Minar.
The protesters marched through the streets condemning the government’s move to identify them as ‘small ethnic groups’ which they considered derogatory for them.
The forum president Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, better known as Santu Larma, said the incumbent government’s reluctance to recognise ethnic minority communities as ‘indigenous or adivasi people’ in the constitution was a part of a ‘conspiracy’ against the marginal communities.
Santu Larma, also president of Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti and the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council, also said there was no alternative to movement for adivasi communities to realise their rights.
‘The ruling class will not recognise us as indigenous people without a movement,’ he told the rally and urged them to prepare for the movement which, he said, would be launched anytime.
Politicians, activists, academics and journalists also expressed solidarity with the cause of the ethnic minority communities saying that the government would repeat the mistake of 1972 when the constitution was framed if they were not recognised as indigenous people.
The speakers also demanded constitutional recognition of the customary laws of the hill people and their rights to land and natural resources. They called for reconstitution of the CHT Land Commission and a separate land commission for ethnic communities living in the plains.
Former adviser to caretaker government and International Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission co-chair Sultana Kamal, Communist Party general secretary Mujahidul Islam Selim, Workers Party general secretary Anisur Rahman, Gana Forum presidium member Pankaj Bhattacharya, Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal leader Shuvrangshu Chakrabarty, Bangladesh Hindu-Bouddha-Christian Oikya Parishad general secretary Rana Dasgupta, columnist Syed Abul Maksud, Dhaka University vice-chancellor AAMS Arefin Siddique and teacher Mesbah Kamal spoke at the rally.
Sultana Kamal said, ‘We cannot uphold the spirit of independence if we do not recognise the indigenous people.’
Syed Abul Maksud said it would be suicidal for the government if it did not give the recognition. ‘The mistake done 40 years ago will be repeated.’
Mujahidul Islam Selim and Anisur Rahman said that progressive, democratic and anti- communal forces would continue to extend their support to the communities struggling for their rights.
Awami League lawmaker and co-chair of the parliamentary special committee on constitutional amendment Suranjit Sengupta on March 15 told media that the committee would identify them as small ethnic groups, not as adivasis or indigenous people.
The ethnic communities are also demanding recognition of the nationalities, languages and culture of at least 46 communities of the hills and plains.
courtesy: New Age BD