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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Indigenous peoples demand constitutional safeguard of indigenous languages in a seminar at Birisiri Small Ethnic Groups’ Cultural Academy

Indigenous peoples demand constitutional safeguard of indigenous languages in a seminar at Birisiri Small Ethnic Groups’ Cultural Academy

The indigenous peoples claimed constitutional safeguard of indigenous languages and cultures of the Bangladesh. They placed the demand at a seminar entitled “The practice and development of the indigenous languages: what is to be done”, organized by Small Ethnic Groups’ Cultural Academy (SEGCA), Birisiri, Netrokona. The seminar was presided over by Mr. Dipak Chambugang, member of executive committee, SEGCA while Mr. Mong Sing Neo, coordinator of Kapaeeng Foundation presented the keynote paper, which was jointly written with the advisor of Kapaeeng foundation Mr. Mangal Kumar Chakma.
Reverend Monindranath Marak, ex-super, P.T.I. Mr. Motilal Hajong, member of executive committee, SEGCA, Mr. Remond Areng, member of executive committee, SEGCA were present as predetermined discussants on the keynote paper at the seminar.
In his keynote paper Mr. Mong Sing Neo said, the right to mother language of indigenous peoples was recognized in several international standards prior to the declaration of `international mother language day’ of 21 February by UNESCO. He said; according to the ILO convention 107 indigenous students have the rights to mother language instruction in the country. He added that, according to the CHT accord and Hill districts council’s acts the mother language instruction of the indigenous students of the CHT has been recognized officially.
He said, indigenous peoples are facing obstruction to introduce and practice their own languages due to the constitutional identity crisis of indigenous peoples linguistically and ethnically. There is a disguised deficiency in the education system in Bangladesh. There is no positive themes for indigenous students related to the own language and culture in the curriculum, which will teach the students to be interested and analytic. The language difficulty is the one of the problems which is regarded as the obstacle to acquire the education of the indigenous students. The teachers provide the instruction in Bengali but an indigenous student comes to the school in the company of a dissimilar language. The Bengali is an unfamiliar and incomprehensible for the indigenous students the same as English is unfamiliar and incomprehensible for the Bengali students.&n! bsp;                     
In his keynote paper Mr. Mong Sing Neo placed several recommendations to develop the indigenous languages. He emphasized on the lobby and campaign to influence the government decision for constitutional safeguard of indigenous languages and cultures. He also put recommendation to include special measures along with the Article 3 related to the state language in the constitution of Bangladesh to develop and patronize indigenous languages. He also recommended including special measures along with the Article 23 of the constitution in order to preserve and patronize the culture, language, custom, tradition, norms, literature, arts and heritage of the indigenous peoples. He said, it is necessary to translate the laws, declarations, documents of the government and indigenous related treaties, laws and documents in indigenous languages. He identified few areas to subm! it an application of the indigenous languages and scripts, such as literature, conversion literature, public education, public health, public relations, and publicity of news letters, social programs, national and local elections, documentations of customary laws, mother language instruction and so on. He gave importance to initiate and expansion of transmitting the programs of indigenous languages and literatures in national media. He said, it is essential to increase the activities related to the indigenous language and culture in the small ethnic groups’ cultural academies in Bangladesh. It is important to generate scripts for those who don’t have the typescripts. He said, there is an inevitability to create dictionary and to translate the creative literatures and the texts of modern sciences.
The establishment of the indigenous language academy, the establishment of a separate education board for indigenous peoples and instruction of the indigenous students in bilingual and multilingual systems, providing suitable guidance for indigenous teachers and incorporation of the indigenous languages and cultures in the curriculum were also recommended in his discussion.  
Mr. Motilal Hajong said, although we live in a free state, but there is no opportunity to practice our own languages. The indigenous peoples were termed as Bengali, when the constitution was being formulated after the independence. The indigenous children come to the school, they find that their language dissimilar with the language of instruction. The indigenous students can not express their attitude in the school. In the experience, there are fewer drops out rate, which had the mother language instruction in the pre-primary level. He said, we should work for constitutional recognition of indigenous languages. We should also work for preserve the languages so that these will not vanish and can be practiced. There are a few indigenous languages in the plain lands, which had been already omitted. The existing languages are also going to be omitted. He emphasized! on the strong network between the CHT indigenous peoples and the plain land indigenous peoples.
Mr. Remond Areng said, the indigenous languages are losing their existence everyday in the world. Bangladesh government has ratified the ILO convention 107, which is related to the development of indigenous languages. But the national laws have not been reformulated in accordance with ILO convention. The main reason of the extinction of indigenous languages is the lack of political will. The same thing is to blame in losing the land and cultures. Indigenous leader of CHT Manabendra Narayan Larma, demanded the constitutional recognition of indigenous peoples during the formulation of the constitution. But his demand was denied. Now indigenous peoples do want a place in the constitution.
Reverend Manindra Marak said, the government has termed the indigenous peoples as `small ethnic groups’. That means there are only two groups in Bangladesh. The first group is `Big’ and the second group is `small’. But there are no `people’. But when the head of the state provides any speech, in that case, uses the term `indigenous peoples’. Although there is a disagreement to recognize the indigenous  peoples constitutionally. But we ought to pose the demands about our rights continuously. We should learn the indigenous languages as well as the national and international languages. It is necessary to take assistance of indigenous peoples during the formulation of the text books. The indigenous teacher should be appointed in the indigenous populated schools.
In the open discussions and evaluation session several participants took part to express their views in the program. Mr. Hamingtan Kuby, Birisiri, Mr. Probal Areng, Mr. Swapan Hajong, Mr. Topon Gagra, Mr. Jems Barendra Drong, Mr. Uttam Marak and Mr. Remond Areng also discussed at the session.

---- Kapaeeng Foundation
(A Human Rights Organization for Indigenous Peoples of Bangladesh)
Shalma Garden, House # 23/25, Road # 4, Block # B, PC Culture Housing, Mohammadpur, Dhaka-1207, Telephone: +880-2-8190801
E-mail: kapaeeng.foundation@gmail.com, kapaeeng.watch@gmail.com

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