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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Constitution amendment: Indigenous communities left unrecognized and shall be known as Bangalee

Constitution amendment: Indigenous communities left unrecognized and shall be known as Bangalee

Finally, the 15th constitution amendment bill of Bangladesh has been passed into law today(Thursday) by 291-1 vote and the indigenous communities of Bangladesh, never recognised constitutionally as "indigenous", have been left out again.

According to clause 2(ka) Islam as state religion and religion-based politics have been retained and under clause 6(2) - The people of Bangladesh shall be known as Bangalee as a nation.

Salient features of 15th amendment of Constitution

Salient features of the 15th amendment of the Constitution passed by parliament Thursday.

1. Caretaker system abolished

2. Elections to be held under incumbent cabinet

3. Islam as State religion and ‘Bismillah-Ar-Rahman-Ar-Rahim’ retained

4. Revival of Article 12 to restore Secularism and freedom of religion

5. The people of Bangladesh shall be known as Bangalees as a nation and citizens of Bangladesh shall be known as Bangladeshis

6. Inserted articles 7A and 7B in the Constitution after Article 7 in a bid to end takeover of power through extra-constitutional means

7. Basic provisions of the constitution are not amendable

8. In the case of a dissolution Parliament by any reason, election should be held within 90 days of such dissolution

9. Increasing the number of women reserve seats to 50 from existing 45.

10. The Supreme Command of the defense services shall vest in the President and the exercise thereof shall be regulated by law.

11. The Chief Justice shall be appointed by the President, and the other judges shall be appointed by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice.

12. The portrait of the Father of the nation Bangbandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman shall be preserved and display at the offices of the President, the Prime Minister, the Speaker, and the Chief Justice and in head and branch offices of all government and semi-government offices, autonomous bodies, statutory public authorities, government and non-government educational institutions, embassies and missions of Bangladesh abroad.

13. Incorporation of historic speech of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on March 7, 1971, declaration of independence by Bangabandhu after midnight of March 25, 1971 and the proclamation of Independence declared at Mujibnagar on April 10, 1971.

PCJSS press release (Bangla) protesting adoption of Constitution (Fifteenth Amendment) Bill 2011

PCJSS press release (Bangla) protesting adoption of Constitution (Fifteenth Amendment) Bill 2011

PCJSS Press Release (30 June 2011)

Source: PCJSS

Police foil march of left parties

Police foil march of left parties

Dhaka, June 30 (bdnews24.com)—Police have foiled the street march by Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) along with seven left-leaning parties of the ruling Grand Alliance, 15 minutes into start.

Supporters of the eight parties and Gana Forum and Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti started parading down the streets around 12:30pm from the Central Shaheed Minar towards parliament, but were intercepted at Shahbagh around 12:45pm.

The bar came when parliament was in a process to pass the Constitution (15th Amendment) Bill-2011.

The other parties are Workers Party, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JaSaD-Inu), Bangladesher Samyabadi Dal, National Awami Party, Ganatantrik Party, Ganatantrik Majdur Party and Gana Azadi League.

Police charged batons on the agitators when they threw brickbats at the law-enforcers on being obstructed.

Some 500 activists of the organisations took part in the agitation. Following that, the demonstrators sat in front of the National Museum and were holding a rally.

The programme was declared protesting some provisions of the constitution amendment bill which they claim run contrary to the original constitution of 1972.

The programme was declared after a joint meeting of the parties held at the CPB headquarters at Naya Paltan on Wednesday.

CPB general secretary Mujahidul Islam Selim told reporters that nine parties and PCJSS voiced their stiff opposition to the constitution amendment bill, saying there were some provisions that went against the original constitution of 1972.

"The leaders opposed retaining state religion and Bismillah, allowing religion-based politics and non-recognition of the indigenous people," Selim added.

A delegation of the parties later in the day informed speaker Abdul Hamid about the decisions.

courtesy: bdnews24

Hill bodies ask ethnic minority, leftist lawmakers to vote against 15th amendment

Hill bodies ask ethnic minority, leftist lawmakers to vote against 15th amendment

New Age Staff Correspondent 

Five organisations of the hill people in a joint statement on Wednesday called on the lawmakers from ethnic minority communities and leftist parties to vote against the 15th Amendment Bill to ensure the separate identities of nationalities other than Bengalis.

The Democratic Youth Forum, Pahari Chhatra Parishad, Hill Women’s Federation, Sajek Bhumi Raksha Committee and Sajek Nari Samaj made the appeal to ethnic minority lawmakers Jatindralal Tripura, Dipankar Talukder, Bir Bahadur, Pramod Mankin and Aye Thin Rakhain and the lawmakers from the leftist parties.

‘You cannot give your consent to the bill which identifies all the minority nationalities as Bengalis,’ the statement said.

The organisations asked the lawmakers to clear their stand on Bengali nationalism, Bismillah, Islam as state religion and secularism. ‘Do not go against the sentiment of your electorates and forget your identities in exchange of power and some benefits,’ the statement read.

Leaders of the organisations reminded the consequence of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s command to the ethnic minorities to be Bengalis and said, ‘The ethnic and linguistic minorities in Chittagong Hill Tracts and elsewhere in the country are in no way Bengali nationals.

Each of the communities has their own national identity and culture. Imposing Bengali nationalism on people speaking different languages by the might of absolute majority indicates sheer undemocratic and fascist attitude,’ the statement said.

Democratic Youth Forum president Natun Kumar Chakma, Pahari Chhatra Parishad president Aongya Marma, Hill Women’s Federation general secretary Konika Dewan, Sajek Bhumi Raksha Committee vice-president Jyotilal Chakma and Sajek Nari Samaj general secretary Nirupa Chakma signed the statement.


courtesy: New Age 

INDIGENOUS RECOGNITION: Chakma Raja counters Shafique

Chakma Raja counters Shafique 

(bdnews24.com) — Law minister Shafique Ahmed has said that the indigenous leaders have changed their stance on the issue of their recognition.

But Chakma Raja Devasish Roy, who attended the meeting on Tuesday, said no such decision was arrived at during the talks, which was also not a formal one.

He was accompanied by Bangladesh Adivasi Forum general secretary Sanjeeb Drong, rights activist Mesbah Kamal, senior lawyer Rana Dasgupta and anthropologist H K S Arefin.

After the meeting at the Secretariat, Shafique told reporters, "They [delegation] dissented with the word tribal and suggested use of different nationhood (Bhinno Jatisotta)."

"They also don't have any objection over the word ethnic minorities and it'd be an honour for them," he said, but Devasish protested.

Later over phone, the indigenous leader told bdnews24.com that they did not agree with the term 'ethnic minorities'. "We suggested exploring terms other than tribal and ethnic minorities.

"We also asked to clarify if the Adivasis are within the ambit of 'special measures' guarded by the provisions of Sections 28 and 29 of the constitution."

Devasish, a former special assistant to the caretaker chief, said they also explained why the word indigenous or Adivasi was appropriate, citing International Labour Organisation conventions 169 and 170.

Bangladesh signed the ILO Convention 107 (Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention, 1957), but did not ink its amended version, ILO Convention 169 (Indigenous and Tribal people's Convention, 1989).

"The law minister did not give any decision on the issue. Rather told us to place a bill in parliament so that the matter comes up for discussion," he told bdnews24.com.

Devasish also said we arranged the meeting and delivered our suggestions. "We're not representing the whole indigenous people. We couldn't talk to the indigenous leaders too."

The government has been declining to recognise the indigenous or Adivasi people of Bangladesh, though it uses the word on different occasions.

The minister also quoted Section 23 (Ka) inserted in the amendment proposal to the constitution, which says, "The state will preserve culture and tradition of the tribal and ethnic minorities towards their development."

Shafique earlier said, "Indigenous are those who have been forced out by a foreign conqueror, which was what happened after Christopher Columbus had discovered America. The same did Britain and Australia. Our situation is different."

Devasish, a listed barrister in the Supreme Court, also criticised the special committee on constitution amendment for not inviting any indigenous to the talks before placing the recommendations in parliament.

The issue of recognition raised its head towards May-end again, at the 10th session of the UN Permanent Forum of Indigenous Issues, where Iqbal Ahmed , first secretary of the Bangladesh Mission in the United Nations, said Bangladesh had no indigenous population and claimed that the forum did not have any standing in discussing issues related to the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord of 1997.

On Apr 27, prime minister Sheikh Hasina at a press conference said the same thing, "No indigenous, but the Santals."

Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti chief Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma alias Santu Larma, rights activist Sultana Kamal , National Human Rights Commission chairman Mizanur Rahman, Appellate Division judge S K Sinha and former chief justice Habibur Rahman are among those advocating for the recognition.
courtesy: bdnews24

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ongoing conspiracy and media manipulation against the indigenous population of Bangladesh and an email from Raja Devasish Roy

Ongoing conspiracy and media manipulation against the indigenous population of Bangladesh and an email from Raja Devasish Roy

News on ongoing constitution amendment process aired yesterday (Tuesday), on all the major TV channels of Bangladesh created frustration among the indigenous population of Bangladesh.

The TV channels broadcasted Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Barrister, Shafiq Ahmed, declaring that the Indigenous populations of the country have stepped back from their demand for constitutional recognition and they don’t want constitutional recognition as ‘Indigenous’ people anymore.  He declared it right after having a meeting with Chakma King Debashish Roy, rights activist Mesbah Kamal, Prof Dr. H. K. Arefin, Sanjeeb Drong and Advocate Rana Dasgupta, at the secretariat.

The indigenous populations of the country were surprised and frustrated hearing that the two prominent indigenous representatives, Chakma King Devasish Roy and Bangladesh Adivasi (Indigenous) forum’s general secretary Sanjeeb Drong have changed their stance on the Indigenous issue.

However, when we asked Raja Devasish Roy regarding this, he confirmed that the Law minister’s statement is not true and there was no agreement on such proposal.

Well, this is not the first time Bangladesh Government plotted such conspiracy theory and created unnecessary debates on this particular issue. In addition to that, now days some anthropologists of the country are taking the side of the government and inflaming problems.  They are taking part in different TV talk shows and newspaper editorials, trying their best to prove that the Indigenous populations of Bangladesh do not deserve to be recognized as “indigenous” in the constitution of Bangladesh, thus misguiding common people-- as a part of government’s conspiracy theory-- against the Indigenous people of Bangladesh.

Following is the email from Raja Devasish Roy explaining his stance on Indigenous Issue:

From: devasish roy 
Sent: Wednesday, 29 June 2011 4:02 AM
Subject: Television Report on Adibashi Issues on 28 June, 2011

Dear Friend and Colleagues,
Thoughts on Constitutional Reform & Indigenous Peoples’ Rights
I take this opportunity to share with you some of my thoughts on the current issue of constitutional reform in Bangladesh and the inclusion of provisions on the identity, integrity and rights of the indigenous peoples of Bangladesh.

I enclose herewith part of an article on the issue that I had an understanding with the “Nee Age’, Dhaka, to publish. Since I sent the draft to them, some 3-4 days ago, they have been silent. I may send the draft for publication to another newspaper soon. Meanwhile, I send a part of the draft for your information and use, as appropriate;
Current Dynamics & Media Report: 28 June, 2011
Time is of the essence and the overall dynamics of the issue show a hurried process of constitutional reform in which our indigenous peoples are being sidelined again. Even today, 28 June, 2011, the electronic media – I am told (I had no time and opportunity to see or hear the news items myself, as I was busy in meetings with the Law Minister and members of Parliament, lobbying for our cause) – projected a slanted and inaccurate account of the meeting I had – along with General Secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum, Sanjeeb Drong, Prof Dr. H. K. Arefin (Dhaka University, Dept of Anthropology) and Prof Mesbah Kamal (Dhaka University, Dept of History) – with the Law Minister, Barrister Shafique Ahmed. Please note: the minister faced the television cameras. We did not have that opportunity. We do not have the same or similar access to the electronic media as the minister does. But we will try to also address the media and press.
Current Expected Press Note on 29 June and Likely Press Conference on 30 June

Apparently, some sections of the electronic media reported that we had “moved away” from the demand on the recognition of Adibashi identity. This is incorrect, inaccurate and misconceived. We hope that the discrepancies will be corrected through a press statement that we will issue tomorrow (29 June), and through a press conference that we hope to address on the issue on 30 June. Raja Devasish Roy and Sanjeeb Dong are on record as having endorsed a set of demands – along with other indigenous leaders, including the five indigenous members of the Bangladesh parliament- who demanded recognition of adibashi identity, integrity and rights, that were presented to the Constitutions Reform Committee and to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. 
Discussions with Law Minister on 28 June

The meeting with the Law Minister was arranged by Sanjeeb Drong, General Secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum. It was not on the invitation of the Government of Bangladesh, although we are grateful to the Law Minister for his time and attention. At the request of Sanjeb Drong, I agreed to join the group to discuss pertinent issues with the minister. It was not a formal meeting, and merely a forum to exchange ideas.

We wished to start the discussion with the proposals of the Constitutional Reform Committee, but at the request of the minster, we started the discussion with the justification of the indigenous and adibashi dentity.
Adibashi & Indigenous Identity

The minister asked us to explain the basis of our demands for indigenous and adibashi identity, since he said that he felt that these concepts – adibashi, indigenous and aboriginal – although relevant to Australia and the United States, had no application in Bangladesh, including within the context of the ILO Convention No. 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (of 1989).

Our team explained to the minister, the following, among others:
Indigenous within the Context of ILO Conventions 169 and 107
The position that the indigenous peoples of Bangladesh, including those in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) and in the plains, are indigenous peoples on the basis of the following:

§  That we are the descendants of “the populations which inhabited the country, or a geographical region to which the country belongs, at the time of conquest or colonization” {article 1(1)(b), ILO Convention No. 107};

§  That, “irrespective of [our] legal status, [we] live more in conformity with the social, economic and cultural institutions of that time than with the institutions of the nation to which [we] belong”. {article 1(1)(b), ILO Convention No. 107};

We explained to the minister - citing historical, legal, anthropological, and other evidence – that all the indigenous peoples of the CHT, and those in the plains,

·       are “descendants of the populations which inhabited the country (Bangladesh), or a geographical region to which the country belongs (South and Southeast Asia), at the time of conquest (1750-60s by the British East India Company) or colonization (1860, in the case of the CHT);

·       “live more in conformity with the social, economic and cultural institutions of that time than with the institution of the nation to which [we] belong {the institutions of chief, headman and karbaries (evolution of roaza, lal, dewan, dhamai, amu, etc), oza, baidya, in the CHT and majhi, myntri, nokma, gaon bura, etc in the plains.

Referring to a videographed interview of Bohmong Raja Aung Shwe Prue Chowdhury, in which he said that they [the Bohnong family?] were neither “uajati nor adibashi” but immigrants from Myanmar (Burma), it was pointed out that this ancestry may be true for the Bohmong family, but not applicable to the other Marma of the CHT (most of whom lived in the CHT at the time of conquest (1760s, by the British East India Company) and colonization (1860; by the British Indian Government), nor to the other ten indigenous peoples of the CHT. It was pointed out that the Chakmas, for example, were in the Chittagong-CHT region at least as early as 1550 (Joa de Barros’s map of 1550s, and references in the J. J. Campos’s History of Bengal). 

Outdated Concept of Indigenous Identity with Austro-American Orientation 
The minister’s stance was that there were indigenous or aboriginal people in Australia and the USA, but not in Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, he reiterated, there were only tribal people. This was controverted with the explanation that the “Austro-American” orientation of indigenous identity was no longer relevant or valid in current human rights and indigenous rights discourses within United Nations and international human rights instruments (e.g., the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, ILO Conventions No. 107 and 169) or processes (the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of indigenous Peoples, etc.).  [We cannot expect the United Nations and the international processes to set the clock back and establish different forums for ‘indigenous’ and ‘tribal’ peoples. The ILO Conventions NO 107 and 169 clarify that the rights mentioned in the conventions apply to both indigenous and tribal groups, without distinction or differentiation]. 

Separate Forums for Indigenous & Tribal Peoples? 
It was pointed out that, if the Austro-American concept of indigenous identity were still relevant and valid, the United nations would have established (i) separate forums for indigenous (only Autro-American) peoples and ‘tribal’ (sic!) peoples. There would have been separate declarations for indigenous and tribal peoples. But that is not the case. The current discourse on indigenous identity includes both the Austro-American peoples and peoples in Asia, Africa and Europe (the UN Permanent Forum and Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has members from Asia, Africa and Europe, as well as from Australia and the Americas).

It was pointed out to the minister that when Bangladesh ratified the ILO Convention No. 107 in 1972, under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Government of Bangladesh did not state that there were “tribal” people in Bangladesh but no “indigenous” people. Having not done so in 1972, to do so in 2011, is discriminatory, and unacceptable (as was done by the representative on the Un Mission of Bangladesh in New York at the UN Permanent Forum’s session in May, 2011).

It was pointed out to the minister that national terminology cannot change international law, whatever term national governments employ to address or identify indigenous peoples. The example of the Indigenous Peoples Policy of the World Bank was cited, in which the Bank clarified that it would regard as indigenous, all those peoples who were termed ‘hill tribes’, ‘scheduled tribes’ ‘ethnic minorities’ and so forth.  

Problems with terms: ‘Upa-Jati’, ‘Khudro-Nri-Gohsthi’ etc. 
It was pointed to the minister that the term ‘upjati’ is incorrect, derogatory and unacceptable. In the ‘Khudro-Nrigoshthi Sanskritik Protishtan’ Act, 2010, the government replaced the term ‘upajati’ with ‘khudro-nrgoshthi’ (although this term too is unacceptable to the indigenous peoples) and ‘adibashi’. To re-insert the rejected term of 2010 in 2011, and in the national constitution, is discriminatory, mala fide, and inacceptable. The term ‘upjati’ is an incorrect translation of ‘tribal’. It was also pointed out that ‘khudro’ or ‘small’ cannot be a distinguishing feature of a people, because of the hierarchical and discriminatory implications of big (“brihottor’) and small (“khudrotor”).

The team pointed out that other terms may be acceptable, but not desirable or those that meet the inspirations of the peoples concerned, and urged him to engage in discussion (pointing out that the Constitutional reforms Committee did not see fit to invite even one indigenous person to consult!). It was not a compromise formula for negotiation. The fact that he did not have the mandate to negotiate on behalf of the government was made clear when he declared that he could not do much (although he agreed with the logic of several explanations offered by the team) while advising the team the that the only way to get the issue on the agenda brought to the forefront, and to the attention of the prime minister, was to have the issue tabled in parliament through a proposal from an MP seeking to amend the constitution. And we were engaged for the better part of the late evening of 28 June in dialoguing with MPs belonging to some small numerically small opposition parties (hen I could not attend to several telephonic calls, SMSs and emails!).    

Friends and Colleagues, we now have to try to influence the ruling party and its leader, the Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

The bill, and hopefully also the opposition member amendment bills, are expected to be tabled in parliament on 29 or 20 June, 2011.

Please do what you feel is right at this moment.

We stand by our demands for indigenous identity, integrity and rights! We have not changed our stance on adibashi/indigenous identity, integrity and rights!

Let’s work on this together.

Warm regards,

Devasish Roy

Raja Devasish Roy
Chakma Raja
Barrister & Advocate
Supreme Court of Bangladesh
UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Rajbari, Rangamati 4500
Chittagong Hill Tracts

UPDF leaflet and programmes against constitutional amendment bill

Khaleda says AL creating division between ethnic people, Bangalis

Khaleda says AL creating division between ethnic people, Bangalis


New Age Staff Correspondent

The leader of the opposition and BNP chairperson, Khaleda Zia, said on Tuesday that Constitution amendment as planned by Awami League led government would create a division between the Bangalis and the country’s ethnic population.

She said the government move to change the Constitution would plunge the country into chaos and anarchy.

Khaleda was speaking at her Gulshan office welcoming seven leaders of Chittagong Hill Tracts’ indigenous groups joined BNP under the leadership of retired Lieutenant Colonel Monis Dewan.
She said, ‘You have joined the nationalist forces at the right time.’

She said more patriotic people would join BNP in the coming days. 

Khaleda said that the Awami League government was out to ‘unsettle the settled issues’ in the name of changing the Constitution of the Republic.

It is going to change 51 Articles of the Constitution and the nationality of Bangladeshis, she said.
Khaleda said, ‘our nationality as well as election time non-party caretaker government system are settled issues.’

She said that Awami League was planning to abolish from the Constitution the system of election time caretaker administration so that it can hold elections under its own supervision to ensure its return to power as it knows too well that the people would not vote for them in the next election.

She criticised the Awami League led regime for its all round failure.

She said that over the last two and half years Awami League led government utterly failed to do anything for the betterment of the people of the country because it remained busy across the country in plundering and looting public resources through snatching, tender terrorism, grabbing and terrorism.
She said the government took no actions against Awami League elements who looted and plundered crores of taka from the share market for which the small investors lost all their investment.

Khaleda alerted the nation against a deep conspiracy being hatched against the country and its people.
Khaleda called for national unity to save the people and the country against a conspiracy to handover the country to foreign forces.

She called upon nationalist, patriotic and democratic forces to be united to foil the anti national designs.

BNP standing committee members Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, Mahbubur Rahman and ASM Hannan Shah, chairperson’s adviser Osman Faruk, joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi and Rangamati district BNP president Dipen Dewan were present at the joining ceremony.


courtesy: New Age

UPDF announces programme against constitution change

UPDF announces programme against constitution change


New Age Staff Correspondent 

The United People’s Democratic Front has announced programmes against the move to ignore ethnic and linguistic minorities in the Constitution (15th Amendment) Bill 2011, retaining state religion and other contradictory provisions.

The party will hoist red flags and bring out a procession carrying red flags on June 30, demonstrations in district and upazila headquarters on July 3, form a human chain on July 4 and hold a signature campaign in June 29–July 5.

The party’s president Prasit Bikash Khisha in a statement on Tuesday said the ethnic and linguistic minorities in the Chittagong Hill Tracts and elsewhere in the country would not accept the contradictory amendment moves. ‘None of our ancestors were Bengali. We have our own national identity and we want its constitutional recognition,’ he said.

‘We will not accept any imposed identity instead of our national identity. It is our basic right,’ he added.

The UPDF raised six objections to the constitution amendment bill. It found that retention of state religion and Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim in the constitution and reintroduction of secularism totally contradictory. ‘The bill has proposed to make people of other religions second-class citizens and it is a discriminatory move,’ the party said.

The party said that the bill has denied the existence of all other people in Bangladesh but the Bengalis. It also said that the amendment bill fully denies the contributions of national minorities to the war of independence.


courtesy: New Age

UPDF to hold protests

United Peoples Democratic Front (UPDF) yesterday announced a series of agitation programmes protesting the move of the government of mentioning different ethnic communities of the country as Bangalee in the bill of fifteenth amendment.

Programmes including hoisting red flags in important places, organising procession with red flags on June 30, arranging demonstration in districts and thana levels on July 3, forming human chain on July 4 and collecting signatures of different prominent persons on the issue on July 5.

UPDF President Prosit Khisha in a written statement yesterday said different ethnic communities in the country will not accept the Bangalee nationality as their predecessors were not Bangalee.

courtesy: The daily star

Ethnic languages need government patronage to survive

Ethnic languages need government patronage to survive


New Age Staff Correspondent 

Academics, students, poets and rights activists on Tuesday called upon the government to patronise the languages of ethnic communities to prevent them from becoming extinct.

‘Everyday in the world 14 languages are becoming extinct, mainly for the lack of patronage, particularly by the governments,’ said speakers at a recitation programme.

The recitation programme, titled ‘Recitation of mother languages of the indigenous communities’, was jointly organised by the Jum Literature Young Society and Kapaeeng Foundation.

The poets of the ethnic communities expressed their concern over insufficient patronage of the ethnic cultures, languages and literature by the government.

Speakers pointed out that in Bangladesh there are more than 45 languages as more than 75 ethnic communities are living in the country.

Lawmaker Jatindra Lal Tripura, who is also chairman of the Taskforce for Repatriation of Tribal Refugees and the Rehabilitation of Internally Displaced People, said that this diversity of languages and cultures in the country needs to be preserved and necessary steps need to be taken to nurture the languages and cultures of ethnic communities.

Poet AK Sheram, who is a member of the Monipuri ethnic community, said, ‘Sufficient steps need to be taken at the national level, otherwise these colourful languages will be lost. I believe that would be quite regrettable, irrespective of the communities’ identity.’

Dhaka University’s Professor Robayet Ferdous said that the recognition of 21 February as International Mother Language Day did not only mean the patronisation of the Bangla language. Such recognition also demands that the government understands and shows love and respect for the languages of other communities also.

Stressing the need for ensuring the cultural rights of the ethnic communities, Abhilash Tripura of ILO said, ‘As we all believe in unity in diversity, the government needs to take the necessary steps to prevent these ethnic languages from becoming extinct.’

Poets Muhammad Samad and Sarat Jyoti Chakma, and rights activist Lina Jesmin Lushai also took part in the discussion, along with others.

Later on, more than 25 poems in 15 different ethnic languages, including Bangla, were recited in the programme.


courtesy: New Age

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Follow-up Meeting of Regional Consultation on ILO Conventions and Indigenous Peoples Issues in Bangladesh

Follow-up Meeting of Regional Consultation on ILO Conventions and Indigenous Peoples Issues in Bangladesh

On 20 June 2011 a day-long follow up meeting titled ‘Follow Up Meeting of Regional Consultation on ILO Convention no: 107 &169 and Indigenous Peoples Issues in Bangladesh’ was held at Padakhep Institute of Development and Management auditorium (2nd floor), Adabar, Dhaka. The meeting was jointly organized by Kapaeeng Foundation and International Labour Organization.
The inaugural session of the meeting was chaired by Rabindranath Soren, chairperson of the Kapaeeng Foundation while Mr. Saktipada Tripura, organizing secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples’ Forum, indigenous researcher Kirti Nishan Chakma and Mr. Abhilash Tripura, national coordinator of ILO Pro 169 was present as special guests.
Starting the inauguration session, Mr. Rabindranath Soren said, ‘As we have been struggling regarding many issues including land rights and constitutional recognition for long time it is now time to be more united and find out a strategy to fight against all odds.’ He said, ‘The problems of indigenous peoples are mainly political. The political problems should be solved politically. The friends of indigenous peoples are doing many things for them. But they will not be successful if they don’t stand determinedly. The rights can not be established without the struggle of the people who are the victims.’
Mr. Kirti Nishan Chakma in his speech said that continuation of movement for the cause of indigenous peoples is a must and such continuation would help for placing the rights of indigenous peoples. He also emphasized on Kapaeeng news circulation through the internet and advised to do it in a more effective and regular basis.
Mr. Abhilash Tripura said that there had been eight regional consultation meeting on ILO convention no:107 & 169 across the country since 2008. He also said ILO would provide supports to create opportunity where dialogue could happen between the government and indigenous peoples.
Mr. Abhilash Tripura, later, gave a presentation. In his presentation he provided an overview on the case of Bangladesh regarding the ratification of ILO convention 169.In his overview on government policy of Bangladesh, he identified a few problems that, there is no single formal policy regarding indigenous peoples in Bangladesh; sectoral policies largely bypass indigenous peoples’ issues except education and health; there are no representations of plain land indigenous peoples in decision making; land and resources rights  are being violated.
In the context of CHT he emphasized on the implementations of the local instruments including CHT Regulation 1900, Hill District Council Acts 1989, CHT Regional Council Acts 1998, CHT land Disputes Resolution Commission Act 2001, CHT Regulation (Amendment) Act 2003, Customary personal laws in accordance with governance, administrative and development processes generally on a  par with ILO convention 169. He focused on a few positive developments in policy level, which include constitutional provisions-non discrimination (article 27), affirmative action safeguards (article 28), preservation of cultural diversity (article 23), quota policy (jobs and education), CHT accord 1997, PRSP-1 and PRSP-2 (some consultation with IPs), Awami League election manifesto, constitutional
amendment process, draft 5th  five year plan and so on. !
Mr. Abhilash Tripura declared that, the implementation of ILO convention 169 will help Bangladesh in several ways. Such as, it will promote inclusive development, democracy, good governance and conflict resolution, it will demonstrate commitment to achieving consensus and collectively addressing indigenous peoples’ issues at national level, it will provide framework for much needed coordinated action for indigenous peoples’ development, it will provide commitment based platform for establishing harmonious and cooperative relationship between indigenous peoples and State, it will ensure the positive reflection for international  human rights record for Bangladesh. The implementation of ILO convention 169 will also reinforce implementation of CHT Accord, open way for ILO supervision and technical assistance, ensuring systematic and long term follow up! , promote partnerships (government, donors and indigenous peoples) as well as it will attract donor funding, as indicates commitment to protection of human rights of vulnerable groups and democratization in general.
He said, ILO convention 169 is a natural progression as Bangladesh is a signatory of ILO convention 107.There are some provisions in ILO convention 169 in-line with spirit of constitution of Bangladesh (non-discrimination, special measures,); sectoral policies (e.g. education, health),CHT accord and other national laws. He said, it is positive substance that, PRSP (2009-2011) and 5th five year plan incorporate indigenous peoples concern and recommend ratifying ILO convention 169, National Human Rights Commission included advocacy and support for C169 ratification in their strategic plan, Awami League election manifesto stated the indigenous peoples concern as well as prime minister Sheikh Hasina voiced support to adoption and implementation of United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Mr. Abhilash Tripura’s presentation was followed by Mr. Mangal Kumar Chakma’s presentation. Mr. Chakma, advisor of the Kapaeeng Foundation gave an overview on ILO regional consultations meetings which were held nationwide. He also discussed on sharing of the experiences and achievements of previous regional consultation.
He illustrated that, indigenous peoples are facing historical injustices in the country for long time. They are facing the discrimination and injustices, marginalization and minoritization, extreme poverty, conflict, dispossession from ancestral land, undermined livelihood and culture.
Mr. Mangal Kumar Chakma also expressed his concern over inclusion of the words such ‘tribals, small nationalities, small ethnic groups and communities’ in the constitution which only deals with cultural rights of indigenous peoples.
He said ‘If here the government even includes the word indigenous peoples, it will not ensure our any rights of us. Until and unless, fundamental rights of indigenous peoples including participation and representation at decision-making level, land rights, reservation of seat at parliament and local government bodies, indigenous peoples-inhabited status of Chittagong Hill Tracts, constitutional guarantee of CHT Accord and laws enacted as per as CHT Accord are not recognised in the constitution; only recognition of culture and heritage in the constitution is meaningless.’
He pointed out Article 6 of the constitution which is likely to be included that “all peoples of Bangladesh shall be known as Bengali as nation and citizens of Bangladesh shall be known as Bangladeshis”. According to Mr. Mangal Kumar Chakma, such introduction of citizens would definitely hamper identity of indigenous peoples who posses different identity, language, customs and culture than the mainstream people.
Mr. Mangal Kumar Chakma’s presentation was followed by a group workshop where four different groups were formed. These four groups are – Chittagong Hill Tacts group, North Bengal group, Coastal Region group and Sylhet, Mymansingh and Dhaka Region group.
These four groups identified some problems regarding ensuring indigenous rights as well as also recommended suggestions to combat these problems. These groups also recommended some suggestions over the regional consultation meeting on ILO convention no: 107 and 169.
The identified problems regarding ensuring indigenous rights are as follows-
  • Identity problem.
  • Land dispute.
  • Non implementation of CHT Accord- 1997.
  • Lack of access in the service.
  • Low access in education.
  • Derogatory presentation of indigenous community peoples in the school books.
  • Discrimination in all sectors.
  • Cultural threat by the mass community’s culture.
  • Extinction of customary laws.
  • Racial discrimination in judicial system.
  • No exemplary punishment for the perpetrators who violates indigenous rights. 
  • Encroachment of land of indigenous in the name of eco-park, and reserve forest.
  • Problems created by the Vested Property Act.
  • Decrease in using herbal medication system.
  • Lack of awareness on rights those IP people posses.
  • Lack of knowledge on international instruments.
  • Lack of collaboration between the indigenous organizations.
  • Lack of coordination among the indigenous leaders.
  • Lack of representatives in policy making system.
  • Unwillingness of the arm forces and government employees to establish the rights of indigenous peoples. 
The participants also suggested recommendation in order to combat these problems. They are as follows-
  • Create awareness from the grass roots level to the national level.
  • Inclusion of mass people in such training and workshops which deals with indigenous rights.
  • Build awareness among the Union Parishad chairman, members, journalists, civil society about indigenous rights.
  • Organizing capacity building training particularly for the local indigenous organizations.
  • Inclusion of a curriculum on indigenous rights at the public service commission.  
  • Build awareness against racial discrimination especially in the judicial system.
  • Proper implementation of CHT Accord.
  • Introduction of multi- lingual education system.
  • Introducing customary laws.
  • Proper implementation of the reserved quotas.
  • Create a network among the national indigenous organization.
  • Emphasize on media campaign.
  • Empowering Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples’ Forum.
The participants also spontaneously made some recommendation for the ILO, which are as follows:
  • Follow up the recommendations of the regional consultation meeting.
  • Create a platform which will help to organize dialogue between the indigenous peoples and the policy makers such as ministers and member of the parliaments. 
  • To start a project on Indigenous population. (Adivashi Census).
  • Translating the ILO convention 107 and 169 in different indigenous language.
  • Organize training for the non governmental organizations on indigenous rights.
Later on, Ms. Srijony Tripura, Mr. Sishir Deo, Advocate Babul Rabi Dash also took part in the open discussion of the group workshop.
Finally Mr . Abhilash Tripura pointed out the issues which can be undertaken for future actions and Mr. Dipayan Khisa, vice chair person of Kapaeeng Foundation concluded the daylong meeting.                                                                                                                 

---- 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

Civic groups demand for constitutional recognition of fundamental rights of indigenous peoples

Book launching programme

Civic groups demand for constitutional recognition of fundamental rights of indigenous peoples


Civic groups demanded specific provisions in the Constitution of Bangladesh enshrining civil, political, cultural and land rights of all indigenous peoples of the country. ‘It’s necessary for building peace,’ they said.

Speakers of the event said they were surprised to learn that Special Committee on constitution amendment has recommended indigenous peoples be dubbed as “tribals, national minorities, small ethnic groups and communities” whereas a law enacted last year had replaced “tribal” with their preferred description as “indigenous” population.

They were speaking at the launching of a book containing national and international laws on indigenous peoples hosted by Kapaeeng Foundation and Oxfam-GB at the National Planning Academy on 27 June 2011.

Chakma circle chief Devashish Roy, assistant attorney general Pratikar Chakma and lawyer Shirin Lira, jointly edited the book, ‘Compendium on National and International Laws and Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh.’

As chief guest of the launching programme, former chief justice and caretaker government chief adviser M Habibur Rahman said it would be good for all, not to create new conflicts. He said that reconciliation alone could provide a solution. Justice Rahman called for ensuring the community based right to land and the customary rights of the indigenous peoples.

Justice S K Sinha of the Appellate Division expressed the hope that following amendment specific provisions would be incorporated in the Constitution enshrining the rights of the country’s population groups having their own culture and customs that make them distinct from the country’s mainstream population. “Actually it is not a book of laws but history. It recognises the fact that under circumstances, traditional norms have also been recognised as laws,” said Justice S K Sinha.

Raja Devashish Roy, a lawyer of Supreme Court and traditional chief of Chakma circle in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, said that Constitutional recognition of ethnic peoples, particularly their customary laws and contracts like CHT Accord 1997, was a must for upholding rule of law and justice.

He said that for the implementation of the CHT Accord it was essential for it to have constitutional recognition. Otherwise, he said, the constitutionality of implementation of the CHT Accord and the legality of the CHT Regional Council formed in according with the Accord could be questioned as it happened recently. He recalled a recent HC decision which struck down the CHT Regional Council as unconstitutional. He said it was, therefore, essential for the CHT Accord to have constitutional recognition. He said that the HC questioned the legality of the Accord as it lacked the recognition.

Raja Devashish said, ‘Recognition in the constitution is a must to ensure our rights.’ He said that the word ‘tribal’ and its bangla version ‘Upajati’ is derogatory and unacceptable. He added that it would be totally unacceptable to use the term ‘tribal’ in the amended Constitution to describe the ethnic minorities.

He said, “We expect the government to identify indigenous people by a term, at least accepted by the people themselves.” He also criticized the Special Parliamentary Committee on constitution amendments for not inviting any indigenous representatives to discussions.

Oxfam-GB programme manager M B Akhter and programme officer Saikat Biswas, Kapaeeng Foundation chairperson Rabindranath Soren, Human rights and legal education committee chairman Z I Khan Panna spoke, among others.

source: Kapaeeng foundation

Monday, June 27, 2011

INDIGENOUS RECOGNITION Raja Devasish wins key backing

Raja Devasish wins key backing 

Dhaka, June 27 (bdnews24.com)—Chakma Raja Devasish Roy's fresh demand for the recognition of the indigenous people in constitution has won backing of men no less than Appellate Division judge S K Sinha and former chief justice Muhammad Habibur Rahman.

A former caretaker government advisor, Raja Devasish renewed the demand at the cover unveiling of a book on indigenous laws that he edited at the Supreme Court premises on Monday.

An enlisted barrister at the Supreme Court, he said the word 'tribal' or 'Upajati' was in all government documents before the Small Ethnic Groups' Cultural Organisation Law-2010 had been enacted.

"With that, we threw the word 'tribal' in the dustbin. But the government is now trying to retrieve that word from the dustbin."

The government has been declining to recognise the indigenous people of Bangladesh. Law minister Shafique Ahmed recently said there were no indigenous people in Bangladesh and the marginalised communities 'are tribal'.

The prime minister at a press conference on April 27 said there were no indigenous people in the country but the Santals.

The former advisor to the previous caretaker government differed with the use of 'tribe' and suggested that the words scheduled casts and Janajati, used in India, would be more appropriate.

The indigenous people have long been demanding their recognition to safeguard their existence.

Rights activist Sultana Kamal and National Human Rights Commission chairman Mizanur Rahman are among those advocating for the recognition.

Raja Devasish also criticised the special parliamentary committee on constitution amendment for not inviting any indigenous to the talks.

He also demanded that the 1997 Peace Accord be recognised in the constitution.

"Many laws have been enacted after the deal was signed and those have been questioned in the High Court and more questions may be asked in future," he reasoned in defending the demand.

Senior judge S K Sinha hoped the government would take an initiative for the recognition, "since the country is going to amend its constitution".

"Indigenous people have been recognised in many countries across the world," he said.

Habibur Rahman, a former caretaker government head, favoured discussion for resolving the problems rather than creating conflicts anew.

"We should not be frustrated and don't need to get angry too as problems centring indigenous people are present around the globe," he added.

Shafique at a programme on June 8 said that the constitution review panel in their recommendations included a provision for the indigenous, which says: "The state will preserve culture and tradition of the tribal and ethnic groups towards their development."

Raja Devasish at a press conference last month in New York had said: "The Bangladesh government is one of the few in the world which officially denies the existence of indigenous people within its borders."

He led a 12-strong team of indigenous people to the 10th session of the UN Permanent Forum of Indigenous Issues, where Iqbal Ahmed, first secretary of the Bangladesh Mission in the United Nations, said Bangladesh had no indigenous population and claimed that the forum did not have any standing in discussing issues related to the peace accord.


courtesy: bdnews24

Left parties reject constitution amendment bill

Left parties reject constitution amendment bill


Staff Correspondent

Three major left parties on Sunday condemned the 15th amendment to the constitution bill tabled at the parliament on Saturday following the report of the special committee on constitution amendment, which recommended keeping Islam as the state religion and the provision allowing religion-based politics and political parties.

The parties – the Communist Party of Bangladesh, Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal, and Jatiya Mukti Council – demanded restoration of the constitution of 1972 instead.

The CPB leaders from a protest rally in front of the National Press Club called on all left and democratic political parties and organisations to launch a united movement for restoring the constitution of 1972.

The bill placed in the Jatiya Sangsad on Saturday by law minister Shafique Ahmed is contrary to the spirit of the independence war, CPB presidium member Mohammad Shah Alam told the rally.
He said the state should not have any religion, and secularism and a state religion could not remain together.

CPB leaders said the party would hold rallies across the country on July 6 in protest against the bill.
CPB presidium member Shahdat Hossain and central leaders Ruhin Hossain Prince, Ahsan Habib Lablu, and Sazzad Zahir Chandan, among others, also addressed the meeting chaired by the party’s presidium member Syed Abu Zafar.

Earlier in the day, a presidium meeting of the party at its central office also expressed concern over the bill. The meeting chaired by CPB president Manzurul Ahsan Khan, in a resolution, demanded restoration of the constitution of 1972.

Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal general secretary Khalequzzaman in a press statement on Sunday said one of the key aims of the independence war, to establish a secular and democratic Bangladesh, was ignored in the report of the special committee.

Jatiya Mukti Council president Badruddin Umar and secretary Foezul Hakim in another press statement termed the report ‘anti-people’ and called on the government to withdraw the bill.
They also trashed the bill for not recognising the country’s indigenous peoples.

Jatisattwa Mukti Sangram Parishad also held a rally in front of the National Press Club on the day and demanded withdrawal of the bill from the parliament.

Central leaders of the organisation Foezul Hakim, Hasibur Rahman, and Uzzal Smriti Chakma, among others, addressed the rally, which was followed by a protest procession.   

Bangladesh Chhatra Union president Ferdaus Ahmed and general secretary SM Shuva in a press statement also condemned the constitution amendment move and announced that the student organisation would hold countrywide demonstrations against it on June 30.


courtesy: New Age

Saturday, June 25, 2011

What’s holding Bangladesh back from implementing the CHT accord? - an article by Asif Farooq

What’s holding Bangladesh back from implementing the CHT accord? - an article by Asif Farooq

indigenous people -banderbanThe status quo of the CHT crisis has become a ‘sticky’ matter for Bangladesh. The government, both under the ruling and the opposition parties, have taken a very similar approach of not recognising the indigenous people in the constitution. This implies GoB’s unwillingness to provide special privileges to the country’s tribal minorities as indigenous population. Over a decade after the CHT ‘peace’ accord, the abysmal slow process of its implementation can only suggest two possible reasons behind the delay: either the GoB does not want to implement the peace accord or it doubts the political wisdom of the accord, that it only wants to take a passive approach of dawdling. However, neither stance can produce anything but an intractable crisis, which can only destabilise the region unnecessarily.

The conventional wisdom of military pundits is to establish its authority in a disputed region and use force to quell any unrest. The practice and record of Bangladesh Armed Forces in the CHT testifies this very well. As such, it is not surprising at all that the presence of military with an excuse for ‘security’ has become a severe contentious issue in the CHT. The underlying security dilemma is bound to spiral into an ever worse scenario. As a consequence, one after another tussle in CHT in every year has only been aggravating this crisis.

Furthermore, the GoB has taken a simultaneous political sponsorship of settlers in the CHT with downright denial of such policy. The scarcity of land is the only excuse that is manufactured behind this ‘normal’ migration. The fact is that when most of the arable land in CHT is already submerged under the Kaptai Lake and only the indigenous people have been well accustomed to the jhum cultivation, the disillusion of migration for a promised land only fuels anger among the settlers. This is further accentuated by growing competition for land between the settlers and the indigenous people. Not surprisingly, after just over a year of the incident in the villages of Baghaihat and Khagrchhari, another fight erupts in Ramgarh in mid-April this year. Subsequently what follows is a blame game, which is another facade that veils the true evil which is nothing but the sticky status quo of the GoB policy regarding the CHT. The misery it inflicts among both the settlers and the tribal communities questions the very pillar of the nation’s conscience. The poor victim’s hopeless fate is strangled into oblivion by the very policy of the GoB, or perhaps is gagged into another crisis — yet to unfold! It is a pity that the GoB fails to realise the ineptitude of its policy when years to date, it only kept the crisis alive, if not made it worse.

First, there should not be any question in the wisdom of the CHT Accord. It is the best possible alternative to a protracted low level insurgency in the CHT. The wisdom of the CHT Accord is that it is a political solution, not a military one. With the disarmament process of the Shanti Bahini, Bangladesh was fortunate to avert an intractable insurgency. The geography of the CHT demonstrates the impossibility of a successful counter insurgency (COIN). Moreover, the methods and records of the COIN itself by various military forces, not to mention the neighbouring India’s failed effort against the Maoists, only demonstrates how arduous and perennial task it is. It drains a nation’s resources, corrupts its morals and conscience, puts enormous stress to numerous lives, and leaves a black hole in anything it takes prides for its history. Even the US armed forces encountered enormous difficulty in COIN operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Also, Sri Lanka’s precedents of excessive use of force against Tamil militants is not an alternative either to the CHT case which can result in possible war crimes. It will undo the pride every Bangladeshi takes into its history. Therefore, there is no alternative to a political solution. However, the GoB appears to provide more importance to what the military elites have to say. The minutes from the ministerial meeting held in January demonstrates that the GoB is more keen to listen to the military commanders in curbing access to the CHT area. Their saleable excuse is ‘the foreigners’ hidden agenda’. The government must realise that as long as it has a clear, strong and effective policy and is adamant to implement it with credible initiative, no quarter can exploit the CHT issue whether they be external forces or the internal ones. This facade of blame game of ‘hidden agenda’ has to stop for national interest.

Furthermore, the recent development of natural gas exploration in the CHT region is very relevant to this topic and need some elaboration. A very recent report by the Financial Express Bangladesh illustrates the Chinese state companies’ interest in gas exploration in the CHT region. The scepticism that the GoB’s ineffective policy of status quo is to maintain its command over the CHT’s natural resources — yet to be explored, will soon become obvious in every quarter. Marginalising ethnic minorities for natural resource has set grave precedents from Nigeria, Sudan, Kurds in Iraq, Timor-Leste to the obvious brutal history of former colonial powers. Also, in very few cases natural resource became a boon to its country’s development when that country is still struggling to develop economically. The natural resource being a ‘resource curse/trap’ for the developing world has already drawn considerable attention. There is reason to be concerned that how much the people of Bangladesh can actually benefit from the natural resource revenue when the practice of corruption is endemic in the country. Bangladesh is not even a member of the EITI (Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative) for a transparent and accountable exploration and utilisation of natural resources by the government and the extractive companies.

Moreover, China’s policy of ‘no question asked’ for exploiting a country’s natural resource does not serve positively for that country. This is well obvious from China’s practice of resource exploitation in Africa. The apparent ‘lucrative’ deals with the Chinese state companies without such mechanisms of transparency and accountability will only accentuate the GoB’s perverse interest to use force to maintain its command over the CHT region. The 2nd May press release by the CHT Commission, which shows the unnecessary and infringing practice of intimidation by the NSI agents at a media workshop on CHT issue, already provides the snippet of more possible encroachment in future by the military quarter on the civil society. This has to stop immediately if the GoB is sincere to establish and consolidate peace in the region.

Finally, for any political solution to be an effective and a sustainable one, it has to be a win-win solution. The CHT Accord is indeed one such political solution. It accepts many demands by the indigenous people, albeit it falls short of giving them regional autonomy. It assures land rights, self-governance and practice of their customs. On Bangladesh state’s end, the accord promises sustainable peace and stability for the whole region. Moreover, it ensures security for Chittagong being a crucial port adjacent to the CHT area. However, the success of the accord’s implementation lies mostly on settling the land right issue for the indigenous communities. This is a very sensitive matter but an imperative one to pave the way to greater stability for the region. As such, the GoB has to demonstrate an honest willingness and take effective measures to stop sponsoring settlers indirectly and furthermore, craft a consensual deal between the existing settlers and the tribal community. The GoB must realise that there is no alternative to that and the more they loiter redressing the land issue, the more adverse it will get in future.

The GoB’s ignorance will turn the competition for land more aggressive, ending in more frequent and bloodier unrest between the settlers and the indigenous people. Frustration and sense of being treated unfairly and unjustly will only stoke the anger further, setting the whole region a perfect breeding ground for armed hostilities. In fact, the current trend of arsons, armed attack and resistance from both groups further testifies that the process has already started.

The GoB must accept the fact that any form of unabated injustice to a minority further facilitates perverse interest in its community. It does not help to assimilate them to the greater community through normal social mobility. ‘Force’ cannot be the answer, instead ensuring education and employment is the only way to help them assimilate to the greater economic prosperity. Second, the geography in the CHT illustrates that massive logging and systematic hill-cutting are the only solution to materialise the illusion of promised abundant and untouched land for the settlers to grab. This is neither a practical solution nor is it deserved for environmental reason since it can lead to frequent mudslides, draining of natural resources, destruction of natural habitat and further economic costs. Therefore, it is in Bangladesh’s national interest, that the GoB acknowledges that there exists a settlers problem in the CHT area and takes effective and clear measure to redress it. The situation is still ‘ripe’ to intervene and implement the CHT Accord.

The incident that took place in Ramgarh on 17th April is a very sad case. In fact, it is outrageous that such incidents are allowed to take place incessantly in the CHT region, year after year. The civil society is urging the GoB for an immediate and appropriate action. The victims are still looking forward to a political solution. The government should not deny the indigenous people recognition in the constitution and stay away from a real problem of the crisis. Bangladesh should set precedents of keeping its promises instead of colonising in its own territory by marginalising its ethnic minorities. That will be the other side of Bangladesh nationality, a rather dark one. Then, one fears there will be no doubt to recognise the ethnic minorities as indigenous in future when the Bengalis brutalise them in their own land. Then the current Foreign Minister Dipu Moni will have a reason to regret in retrospect for saying, “Bangladesh does not have any indigenous population.”

Asif Farooq is a graduate student of Political Science at the University of Waterloo, Canada. He is also the co-founder of RiFF, a Canadian based charity group.


article courtesy: bdnews24

PCJSS statement (booklet) on recommendations of SPCCA on constitution amendment and constitutional recognition of IPs

PCJSS statement (booklet) on recommendations of SPCCA on constitution amendment and constitutional recognition of IPs 
PCJSS Booklet on Consttn Amendment & Consttn Recognition of IPs

Friday, June 24, 2011

Press conference: PCJSS demands constitutional recognition of fundamental rights of indigenous peoples

Press conference: PCJSS demands constitutional recognition of fundamental rights  of indigenous peoples

PCJSS demanded constitutional recognition of fundamental rights indigenous peoples and cancellation of some recommendations made by Special Parliamentary Committee on Constitution Amendment (SPCCA) terming those contradictory to the fundamental principles of state policy of the constitution made in 1972.

On behalf of PCJSS, its president Mr. Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma (Santu Larma) declared party’s stance on recommendations of SPAAC on constitution amendment and recognition of indigenous peoples at a press conference at Sundarban Hotel in Dhaka on 23 June 2011. Information and Publicity Secretary of PCJSS Mr. Mangal Kumar Chakma and Organisiing Secretary of PCJSS Mr. Shakti Pada Tripura were present at the press conference. Besides, among others, Presidium member of Gono Forum Mr. Pankaj Bhattacharya, eminent columnist Mr. Syed Abul Moqsud and General Secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum Mr. Sanjeeb Drong attended the conference as guest.

Mr. Larma said that PCJSS submitted its memorandum to the SPCCA demanding constitutional recognition of national entities, languages and cultures of indigenous peoples; special governance arrangement of CHT region for the protection of political, economic, cultural and religious rights of CHT; seat reservation for indigenous peoples including women in the parliament and local government councils; constitutional provision with a guarantee that no amendment of constitutional provisions and laws relating to indigenous peoples will be made without the prior consent of indigenous peoples; the rights to control over land, territory and natural resources of indigenous peoples; and constitutional recognition of CHT Accord signed in 1997 and laws formulated under this Accord.

Mr. Larma alleged that the SPCCA completely ignored demands of the PCJSS. He said that the SPCCA recommended a disregarded and confusing provision regarding preservation and development of culture and heritage terming indigenous peoples as “tribals, small nationalities, ethnic groups and communities”. "The proposal terming indigenous peoples as “tribals, small nationalities, ethnic groups and communities” is disgraceful and confusing to the indigenous people's identity", he added. He also said that the SPCCA did not consider PCJSS proposal to include a list of all indigenous ethnic group by inserting a new Schedule in the constitution.

He added that only recognition of preservation and development of culture and heritage ignoring recognition of fundamental rights of indigenous peoples is nothing but meaningless, incomplete and motivated in regard to constitutional recognition of indigenous peoples. He demanded constitutional recognition of fundamental rights of indigenous peoples as mentioned in the memorandum of PCJSS submitted to the SPCCA on 26 October 2010.

Mr. Larma also rejected the recommendation of the SPCCA which mentions that “all peoples of Bangladesh shall be known as Bengali as nation and citizens of Bangladesh shall be known as Bangladeshis”. He said that indigenous peoples are Bangladeshi as citizens, but they are not “Bengali” as nation/community. Indigenous peoples are known as Chakma, Marma, Tripura, Garo, Santal, Munda, Khasi, Barban etc. as nation. They all are a separate nation possessing separate identity, culture, customs, language and society.

He said that such kind of proposal is a reflection of colonial mindset of the ruling class. ‘The way Bengalis will not want to be treated as Chakma, thus Chakmas will not want to be Bengali,’ Larma reasoned. He demanded that the proposed provision to label all the people of Bangladesh as Bengali be withdrawn. "It is valueless, motivated and can never be accepted by the indigenous people" he said.
Mr. Larma also protested the government move to retain Islam as the state religion. ‘A state cannot have a religion.’ He demanded that “Bismillah-er-Rahmanir-Rahim” and Islam as state religion should be dropped from the constitution terming it discriminatory. ‘It would turn people of other religions to second-class citizens,’ he observed.

Pointing at the 1997 CHT Accord, Larma said the Accord and other related laws must be recognised in the constitution.


Santu Larma rejects charter review proposals (press statement of PCJSS)

Santu Larma rejects charter review proposals 

Dhaka, June 23 (bdnews24.com)—

Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti (PCJSS) has rejected the proposals made for amending the constitution and demanded constitutional recognition of the indigenous or Adivasi people.

Chief of the pro-peace accord group Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma alias Santu Larma declared the organisation's stance on the issue at a press conference at a city hotel on Thursday.

He, however, did not elaborate what he would do if the demand is not met.

The indigenous people have long been demanding their recognition in constitution to safeguard their existence, which the government has so far refused.

Law minister Shafique Ahmed at a June 8 programme said: "Article 23 (Ka) will be added to the constitution during the current constitution amendment process".

"The state will preserve culture and tradition of the tribal and ethnic groups towards their development," the provision states.

Santu demanded that the proposed provision to label all the people of Bangladesh as Bangalee be withdrawn. "It's valueless, motivated and can never be accepted by the indigenous people."

He said the special parliamentary panel ignored the 14-point charter of demands provided by the indigenous communities.

"Instead, the proposal for insertion of a provision on culture and heritage is disgraceful and contrary to the indigenous people's identity."

Santu said indigenous people are Bangladeshi by citizenship, but not by a community. "All the individual groups must be recognised in the constitution," he demanded.

"The way Bangalees will not want to be treated as Chakma, thus Chakmas won't want to be Bangalee," Santu reasoned.

The matter of recognition of the indigenous people came to the fore recently following denial by Bangladesh's first secretary in the United Nations. At a session of the UN Forum on Indigenous Issues he had claimed there were no indigenous people in the country.

The law minister defined indigenous as being "those who have been forced out by a foreign conqueror, which was what happened after Christopher Columbus had discovered America. The same did Britain and Australia. Our situation is different."

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Apr 27 at a press conference said the same thing — "no indigenous", but the Santals.

However, many other government officials have been using the term 'indigenous' or 'Adivasi', while people in general also do the same.

The laws which bear the word indigenous include the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regulation of 1900, the Finance Act of 2010, the Small Ethnic Groups Cultural Institutes Act of 2010 and the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper of 2010.

Santu also protested the government move to retain Islam as the state religion. "A state can't have a religion."

He demanded that Bismillah should be dropped from the constitution terming it discriminatory. "It'll turn people of other religions to second-grade citizens," he observed.

Pointing at the 1997 peace accord, Santu said the deal and other related laws must be implemented immediately.

The accord signed between PCJSS and the Awami League recognises the CHT as a region inhabited by tribal people, acknowledges its traditional governance system and the role of its chief,s and provides building blocks for regional autonomy. 

courtesy: bdnews24 


Following is the report from The daily star:

'Recognise Adivasis as indigenous'

Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samity (PCJSS) yesterday rejected some proposals made by the parliamentary special committee on constitutional amendment terming those “confusing” and “communal”.

The samity leaders demanded constitutional recognition of indigenous people as “indigenous” rather than “ethnic minority communities” or “tribal” to protect their social, political and economic rights, says a press release.

The special committee completely ignored demands of indigenous people. Such kind of proposal is a reflection of colonial mindset of the ruling class. It is not acceptable to Jumma people, said Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma (Santu Larma) while addressing a press conference at a city hotel yesterday.

Demanding withdrawal of the proposed provision terming people of Bangladesh as Bangalee, he said "As citizens, we are Bangladeshi but we are not Bangalees as a community." 

As per the proposal no 23 (Ka), the state will preserve culture and tradition of tribal and ethnic groups towards their development, he said.

Bangladesh Adivasi Forum General Secretary Sanjeeb Drong, Gono Forum leader Pankaj Bhattacharjee, and columnist Syed Abul Maksud were also present.

courtesy: The Daily Star

 Following is the full press statement of PCJSS (in bangla)

সংবাদ সম্মেলন
২৩ জুন ২০১১

বাংলাদেশের সংবিধান সংশোধন সংক্রান্ত বিশেষ কমিটির সুপারিশ এবং আদিবাসীদের অধিকারের সাংবিধানিক স্বীকৃতি প্রসঙ্গে

প্রিয় সাংবাদিক বন্ধুগণ,

পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম জনসংহতি সমিতির পক্ষ থেকে আন্তরিক শুভেচ্ছা ও অভিনন্দন গ্রহণ করুন।

আপনারা নিশ্চয়ই জানেন যে, গত ৮ জুন ২০১১ সংসদ উপনেতা সৈয়দা সাজেদা চৌধুরীর নেতৃত্বে সংবিধান সংশোধনের লক্ষ্যে গঠিত বিশেষ কমিটি ৫১ দফা সম্বলিত সুপারিশ জাতীয় সংসদে পেশ করেছে। উল্লেখ্য যে, মহামান্য সুপ্রীম কোর্ট কর্তৃক পঞ্চম সংশোধনী আইনকে বাতিল ঘোষণা এবং সংবিধানকে ’৭২-এর সংবিধানের মূলধারায় ফিরিয়ে নেয়ার ঐতিহাসিক ও যুগান্তকারী রায় দেয়ার ফলে সরকার সংবিধান সংশোধনের উদ্যোগ গ্রহণ করে। তারই ধারাবাহিকতায় সংবিধানে আদিবাসীদের অস্বীকৃতির বিষয়টি সংশোধনের সুযোগ সৃষ্টি হয়েছে। সেই প্রত্যাশাকে সামনে রেখে পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম জনসংহতি সমিতির পক্ষ থেকে ২৬ অক্টোবর ২০১০ সংবিধান সংশোধন সংক্রান্ত বিশেষ কমিটির নিকট আদিবাসীদের জাতিগত পরিচিতি, ভাষা ও সংস্কৃতির স্বীকৃতি, পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম চুক্তির আলোকে প্রণীত আইনগুলোর আইনী হেফাজতসহ আদিবাসী অধ্যুষিত পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম অঞ্চলকে বিশেষ শাসিত অঞ্চলের মর্যাদা প্রদান, জাতীয় সংসদ ও স্থানীয় সরকার ব্যবস্থায় আদিবাসীদের জন্য আসন সংরক্ষণ, আদিবাসী অধিকার সম্বলিত বিধানাবলী সংশোধনের ক্ষেত্রে আদিবাসীদের মতামত ও সম্মতি গ্রহণ এবং আদিবাসীদের ঐতিহ্যগত ভূমি অধিকারসহ ভূমি, ভূখন্ড ও প্রাকৃতিক সম্পদের উপর অধিকার সংক্রান্ত ১৪টি সংশোধনী প্রস্তাব সম্বলিত স্মারকলিপি পেশ করা হয়েছিল।

কিন্তু অত্যন্ত উদ্বেগের বিষয় যে, সংবিধান সংশোধন সংক্রান্ত বিশেষ কমিটি যে সকল সুপারিশ পেশ করেছে তাতে পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম জনসংহতি সমিতি কর্তৃক পেশকৃত সাংবিধানিক স্বীকৃতির দাবিনামাকে সম্পূর্ণভাবে অগ্রাহ্য করা হয়েছে। এছাড়া উক্ত সুপারিশে আদিবাসী ও বাঙালী নির্বিশেষে বাংলাদেশের সকল জনগণকে ‘বাঙালী’ জাতি হিসেবে পরিচিত করা ও ’৭২-এর সংবিধানে গৃহীত চার রাষ্ট্রীয় মূলনীতির সাথে সাংঘর্ষিক বিধানাবলী সংযোজনের প্রস্তাব করা হয়েছে।

প্রিয় সাংবাদিক বন্ধুগণ,

আদিবাসীদের সাংবিধানিক স্বীকৃতি বিষয়ে পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম জনসংহতি সমিতির দাবীনামাকে সম্পূর্ণভাবে উপেক্ষা করে সংবিধান সংশোধন সংক্রান্ত বিশেষ কমিটি কেবলমাত্র সংস্কৃতি ও সংস্কৃতি সংক্রান্ত একটি নতুন অনুচ্ছেদ সংযোজনের প্রস্তাব পেশ করেছে। ‘২৩ক’ নামে ১৫নং সুপারিশে বিশেষ কমিটি প্রস্তাব করেছে যে-

“২৩ক। উপ-জাতি, ক্ষুদ্র জাতিসত্তা, নৃ-গোষ্ঠী ও সম্প্রদায়ের সংস্কৃতি।- রাষ্ট্র বিভিন্ন উপ-জাতি, ক্ষুদ্র জাতিসত্তা, নৃ-গোষ্ঠী ও সম্প্রদায়ের অনন্য বৈশিষ্ট্যপূর্ণ আঞ্চলিক সংস্কৃতি এবং ঐতিহ্য সংরক্ষণ, উন্নয়ন ও বিকাশের ব্যবস্থা গ্রহণ করিবেন।”

উক্ত সুপারিশে “আদিবাসী” শব্দের পরিবর্তে “উপ-জাতি, ক্ষুদ্র জাতিসত্তা, নৃ-গোষ্ঠী ও সম্প্রদায়” হিসেবে আখ্যায়িত করা হয়েছে যা আদিবাসীদের জাতিগত পরিচিতির ক্ষেত্রে অসম্মানজনক ও বিভ্রান্তিকর। আদিবাসীদের “আদিবাসী” হিসেবে স্বীকৃতি লাভের দীর্ঘদিনের প্রাণের দাবিকে সম্পূর্ণভাবে উপেক্ষা করে এবং আন্তর্জাতিকভাবে স্বীকৃত প্রত্যেক জাতির আত্মপরিচয়ের সহজাত অধিকারকে খর্ব করে অসম্মানজনক ও বিভ্রান্তিকর পরিচিতি চাপিয়ে দেয়ার দৃষ্টিভঙ্গি উপনিবেশিক, উগ্র সাম্প্রদায়িক, জাত্যাভিমানী ও আগ্রাসী মানসিকতারই প্রতিফলন বলে জনসংহতি সমিতি মনে করে। এ ধরনের প্রস্তাব আদিবাসীদের নিকট কখনোই গ্রহণযোগ্য হতে পারে না।

প্রসঙ্গত উল্লেখ্য যে, আদিবাসী জুম্ম জনগণের স্বতন্ত্র নৃতাত্ত্বিক পরিচিতি ও ঐতিহ্যগত সাংস্কৃতিক স্বকীয়তার আলোকে পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম বরাবরই একটি পৃথক শাসিত অঞ্চল হিসেবে শাসিত হয়ে এসেছে। তারই ধারাবাহিকতায় ১৯৯৭ সালের পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম চুক্তি মোতাবেক পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম আঞ্চলিক পরিষদ ও তিন পার্বত্য জেলা পরিষদ সম্বলিত বিশেষ শাসনব্যবস্থা কার্যকর রয়েছে। এই বিশেষ শাসনব্যবস্থাকে সাংবিধানিক নিশ্চয়তা বিধানের জন্য পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম জনসংহতি সমিতির পক্ষ থেকে পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম চুক্তির আলোকে প্রণীত ১৯৯৮ সালের পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম আঞ্চলিক পরিষদ আইন ও ১৯৯৮ সালের তিন পার্বত্য জেলা পরিষদ আইনসমূহকে সংবিধানের প্রথম তফসিলে ‘কার্যকর আইন’ হিসেবে অন্তর্ভুক্ত করাসহ সাংবিধানিকভাবে আদিবাসী অধ্যুষিত পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম অঞ্চলকে বিশেষ শাসিত অঞ্চলের মর্যাদা প্রদানের প্রস্তাব দেয়া হয়েছিল।

কিন্তু উল্লেখিত কোন প্রস্তাব বিন্দুমাত্র আমলে না নিয়ে বিশেষ কমিটি কেবলমাত্র সংস্কৃতি ও ঐতিহ্য সংক্রান্ত একটি বিভ্রান্তিকর নতুন অনুচ্ছেদ সংযোজনের মাধ্যমে তথাকথিত সাংবিধানিক স্বীকৃতির প্রস্তাব করেছে। এমনকি সংবিধানে নতুন একটি তফসিল সংযোজন করে সারা দেশের আদিবাসী জাতিসমূহের নামের তালিকা সন্নিবেশকরণের যে প্রস্তাব দেয়া হয়েছিল তাও সম্পূর্ণভাবে উপেক্ষা করা হয়েছে।
আদিবাসীদের রাজনৈতিক, অর্থনৈতিক, সামাজিক ও ভূমি অধিকারের স্বীকৃতি ব্যতীত কেবলমাত্র সংস্কৃতি ও ঐতিহ্য সংক্রান্ত একটি বিভ্রান্তিকর নতুন অনুচ্ছেদ সংযোজনের প্রস্তাব অর্থহীন ও উদ্দেশ্যপ্রণোদিত বলে জনসংহতি সমিতি মনে করে। বলাবাহুল্য আদিবাসীদের সাংবিধানিক স্বীকৃতির অর্থ হচ্ছে তাদের রাজনৈতিক, অর্থনৈতিক, সামাজিক, সাংস্কৃতিক ও ভূমি অধিকার এর স্বীকৃতি যা বিশ্বের বিভিন্ন দেশের সংবিধানে স্বীকৃতি প্রদানের উদাহরণ রয়েছে।

তাই পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম জনসংহতি সমিতি বিশেষ কমিটির ১৫নং সুপারিশ সম্পূর্ণভাবে প্রত্যাখ্যান করছে এবং সাথে সাথে “উপ-জাতি, ক্ষুদ্র জাতিসত্তা, নৃ-গোষ্ঠী ও সম্প্রদায়” হিসেবে নয়, “আদিবাসী” হিসেবে এবং সর্বোপরি আদিবাসীদের রাজনৈতিক, অর্থনৈতিক, সামাজিক, সাংস্কৃতিক ও ভূমি অধিকারের সাংবিধানিক স্বীকৃতির দাবি জানাচ্ছে।

প্রিয় সাংবাদিক বন্ধুগণ,

আপনারা জানেন যে, মহামান্য সুপ্রীম কোর্ট কর্তৃক পঞ্চম সংশোধনী আইনকে বাতিল ঘোষণা করে ’৭২-এর সংবিধানের মূলধারায় ফিরিয়ে নেয়ার যে ঐতিহাসিক ও যুগান্তকারী রায় দেয়া হয়েছে তাতে করে সংবিধানে একক জাতিরাষ্ট্রের বৈশিষ্ট্যের পরিবর্তে বহু জাতির, বহু ভাষার, বহু সংস্কৃতির প্রতিফলন ঘটানোর ক্ষেত্র তৈরী হয়। কিন্তু উদ্বেগের বিষয় যে, সংবিধান সংশোধন সংক্রান্ত বিশেষ কমিটির সুপারিশের ৬নং প্রস্তাবের মাধ্যমে আদিবাসী ও বাঙালী নির্বিশেষে দেশের সকল জনগণকে ‘বাঙালী’ হিসেবে আখ্যায়িত করা হয়েছে। উক্ত প্রস্তাবে বলা হয় যে-

“৬। নাগরিকত্ব।- (১) বাংলাদেশের নাগরিকত্ব আইনের দ্বারা নির্ধারিত ও নিয়ন্ত্রিত হইবে।
(২) বাংলাদেশের জনগণ জাতি হিসেবে বাঙালী এবং নাগরিকগণ বাংলাদেশী বলিয়া পরিচিতি হইবেন।”
বলাবাহুল্য বাংলাদেশ একটি বহু জাতির, বহু ভাষার ও বহু সংস্কৃতির বৈচিত্র্যপূর্ণ দেশ। এ দেশে সংখ্যাধিক্য বাঙালি জাতি ছাড়াও অর্ধ শতাধিক আদিবাসী জাতি স্মরণাতীত কাল থেকে নিজস্ব সমৃদ্ধ সমাজ, সংস্কৃতি, রীতিনীতি, ধর্ম-ভাষা ও স্বতন্ত্র নৃতাত্ত্বিক পরিচিতি নিয়ে এ অঞ্চলে বসবাস করে আসছে। বলাবাহুল্য, তাদের শাসনতান্ত্রিক ইতিহাস, সামাজিক রীতিনীতি, প্রথা, ভৌগোলিক পরিবেশ, দৈহিক-মানসিক গঠন, রাজনৈতিক, অর্থনৈতিক ও ধর্মীয় জীবনযাত্রা ইত্যাদি বাংলাদেশের সংখ্যাগরিষ্ঠ বাঙালী জনগোষ্ঠী থেকে সম্পূর্ণ স্বতন্ত্র। কিন্তু অত্যন্ত পরিতাপের বিষয় যে, এসব আদিবাসী জাতিসমূহকে বিশেষ কমিটির এই প্রস্তাবনার মাধ্যমে “বাঙালী” হিসেবে অভিহিত করা হয়েছে। বলার অপেক্ষা রাখে না যে, আদিবাসীরা নাগরিক হিসেবে বাংলাদেশী, কিন্তু জাতি হিসেবে কোনক্রমেই বাঙালী নয়। তারা জাতি হিসেবে চাকমা, মারমা, ত্রিপুরা, গারো, খাসি, সাঁওতাল, মুন্ডা, মাহাতো, বর্মন, ¤্রাে ইত্যাদি অর্ধ শতাধিক এক একটি স্বতন্ত্র জাতি।
উল্লেখ্য যে, আজ থেকে চল্লিশ বছর আগে ১৯৭২ সালে প্রণীত বাংলাদেশের সংবিধানের ৬নং অনুচ্ছেদে “...বাংলাদেশের নাগরিকগণ বাঙালী বলিয়া পরিচিত হইবেন” মর্মে বিধানের মাধ্যমে আদিবাসী জাতিসমূহকে “বাঙালী” হিসেবে আখ্যায়িত করা হয়েছিল। সে সময় তৎকালীন গণপরিষদের সদস্য মানবেন্দ্র নারায়ণ লারমা স্বতন্ত্র জাতিসত্তার অধিকারী আদিবাসী জাতিসমূহকে বাঙালী হিসেবে অভিহিত করার বিরুদ্ধে সংসদের ভেতরে ও বাইরে তীব্র ভাষায় প্রতিবাদ করেন। কিন্তু আজ চল্লিশ বছর পর আবার এসব আদিবাসী জাতিসমূহকে সংবিধানের নাগরিকত্ব সম্পর্কিত অনুচ্ছেদে অপ্রাসঙ্গিকভাবে নতুন করে “বাঙালী” হিসেবে পরিচিত করার প্রস্তাব করা হয়েছে যা সম্পূর্ণভাবে জাত্যাভিমান, আগ্রাসী মানসিকতা ও চরম জাতিগত বৈষম্যেরই প্রতিফলন বলে প্রতীয়মান হয়। এ থেকে এটাই প্রমাণ করে যে, বর্তমান ক্ষমতাসীন শাসকগোষ্ঠী যতই দিন বদলের প্রতিশ্রুতি ও অসাম্প্রদায়িক গণতান্ত্রিক উদার কল্যাণরাষ্ট্র প্রতিষ্ঠার অঙ্গীকার করুক না কেন তারা এখনো সেই অগণতান্ত্রিক, সাম্প্রদায়িক ও উগ্র বাঙালী জাত্যাভিমানের কুৎসিত খোলস থেকে বেরিয়ে আসতে পারেনি।
তাই পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম জনসংহতি সমিতি বিশেষ কমিটির ৬নং সুপারিশের “বাংলাদেশের জনগণ জাতি হিসাবে বাঙালী” অংশটুকু সম্পূর্ণভাবে প্রত্যাখ্যান করছে এবং সাথে সাথে এই অংশটুকু বাতিল করার জোর দাবি জানাচ্ছে।

প্রিয় সাংবাদিক বন্ধুগণ.

সংবিধান সংশোধন সংক্রান্ত বিশেষ কমিটি সংবিধানের মৌলিক অধিকার বিষয়ক তৃতীয় ভাগে “সংগঠনের স্বাধীনতা” সংক্রান্ত ১৭নং সুপারিশে যে সংযোজনী প্রস্তাব করেছে তা সংগঠনের স্বাধীনতার সাথে সামঞ্জস্যপূর্ণ নয় বলে পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম জনসংহতি সমিতি মনে করে। উক্ত সুপারিশে (সংবিধানের ৩৮ অনুচ্ছেদ) বলা হয়েছে যে-

“৩৮। সংগঠনের স্বাধীনতা।- জনশৃঙ্খলা ও নৈতিকতার স্বার্থে আইনের দ্বারা আরোপিত যুক্তিসংগত বাধানিষেধ সাপেক্ষে সমিতি বা সঙ্ঘ গঠন করিবার অধিকার প্রত্যেক নাগরিকের থাকিবে:
তবে শর্ত থাকে যে, কোন ব্যক্তির উক্তরূপ সমিতি বা সঙ্ঘ গঠন করিবার কিংবা উহার সদস্য হইবার অধিকার থাকিবে না, যদি- (ক) উহা নাগরিকদের মধ্যে ধর্মীয়, সামাজিক এবং সাম্প্রদায়িক সম্প্রীতি বিনষ্ট করিবার উদ্দেশ্যে গঠিত হয়; (খ) উহা ধর্ম, গোষ্ঠী, বর্ণ, নারী-পুরুষ, জন্মস্থান বা ভাষার ক্ষেত্রে নাগরিকদের মধ্যে বৈষম্য সৃষ্টি করিবার উদ্দেশ্য গঠিত হয়; (গ) উহা রাষ্ট্র বা নাগরিকদের বিরুদ্ধে কিংবা অন্য কোন দেশের বিরুদ্ধে জঙ্গী কার্য পরিচালনার উদ্দেশ্যে গঠিত হয়; বা (ঘ) উহার গঠন ও উদ্দেশ্য এই সংবিধানের পরিপন্থী হয়।”
সংবিধানের “সংগঠনের স্বাধীনতা” সংক্রান্ত মূল অনুচ্ছেদের সাথে উপরোক্ত যে শর্তাংশ সংযোজনের প্রস্তাব করা হয়েছে তা সংগঠনের স্বাধীনতাকে বা কোন জনগোষ্ঠীর সংগঠন গড়ে তোলার স্বাধীনতাকে যেমন খর্ব করবে তেমনি অত্যন্ত সুক্ষ্মভাবে জাতিগত বৈষম্য ও আগ্রাসনকে বৃদ্ধি করবে।
উল্লেখ্য যে, ’৭২-এর সংবিধানে উক্ত সংগঠনের স্বাধীনতা সংক্রান্ত অনুচ্ছেদের সাথে এই মর্মে শর্তাংশ ছিল যে, “তবে শর্ত থাকে যে, রাজনৈতিক উদ্দেশ্যসম্পন্ন বা লক্ষ্যানুসারী কোন সাম্প্রদায়িক সমিতি বা সঙ্ঘ কিংবা অনুরূপ উদ্দেশ্যসম্পন্ন বা লক্ষ্যানুসারী ধর্মীয় নামযুক্ত বা ধর্মভিত্তিক অন্য কোন সমিতি বা সঙ্ঘ গঠন করিবার বা তাহার সদস্য হইবার বা অন্য কোন প্রকারে তাহার তৎপরতায় অংশ গ্রহণ করিবার অধিকার কোন ব্যক্তির থাকিবে না।”
তাই পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম জনসংহতি সমিতি বিশেষ কমিটির সুপারিশে উল্লেখিত শর্তাংশ বাতিল করে ’৭২-এর সংবিধানে সন্নিবেশিত শর্তাংশ পুনর্বহালের দাবি জানাচ্ছে।

প্রিয় সাংবাদিক বন্ধুগণ,

মহামান্য সুপ্রীম কোর্ট কর্তৃক পঞ্চম সংশোধনী আইনকে বাতিলের মাধ্যমে একদিকে যেমন ধর্মীয় বৈষম্যমূলক বিধানাবলীর বিলোপ করতঃ ’৭২-এর সংবিধানের চার রাষ্ট্রীয় মূলনীতি পুনর্বহালের ঐতিহাসিক ও  যুগান্তকারী সুযোগ সৃষ্টি হয়েছে অন্যদিকে তার মাধ্যমে দেশের সংবিধানকে মৌলবাদী খোলস থেকে বের করে গণতান্ত্রিক ধর্মনিরপেক্ষ রূপদানের ক্ষেত্র তৈরী হয়েছে।
কিন্তু অত্যন্ত উদ্বেগের বিষয় যে, সংবিধান সংশোধন সংক্রান্ত বিশেষ কমিটি ১নং সুপারিশে সংবিধানের প্রারম্ভে ও প্রস্তাবনার উপরে “বিসমিল্লাহির-রহমানির-রহিম” সন্নিবেশকরণ এবং ৩নং সুপারিশে “প্রজাতন্ত্রের রাষ্ট্রধর্ম ইসলাম, তবে হিন্দু, বৌদ্ধ, খ্রীস্টানসহ অন্যান্য ধর্ম পালনে রাষ্ট্র সম-মর্যাদা ও সম-অধিকার নিশ্চিত করিবেন” মর্মে সংবিধানের ২ক অনুচ্ছেদে প্রতিস্থাপনের প্রস্তাব করেছে।
উপরোক্ত প্রস্তাব বিশেষ কমিটির রাষ্ট্রীয় মূলনীতি সংক্রান্ত ৯নং সুপারিশ (সংবিধানের ৮ অনুচ্ছেদ) এবং ধর্ম নিরপেক্ষতা ও ধর্মীয় স্বাধীনতা সংক্রান্ত ১২নং সুপারিশের (সংবিধানের ১২ অনুচ্ছেদ) সাথে সাংঘর্ষিক ও বিরোধাত্মক। “ধর্ম নিরপেক্ষতা ও ধর্মীয় স্বাধীনতা” সংক্রান্ত ১২নং সুপারিশে বলা হয়েছে যে-

“১২। ধর্ম নিরপেক্ষতা নীতি বাস্তবায়নের জন্য- (ক) সর্বপ্রকার সাম্প্রদায়িকতা, (খ) রাষ্ট্র কর্তৃক কোন ধর্মকে রাজনৈতিক মর্যাদাদান, (গ) রাজনৈতিক উদ্দেশ্যে ধর্মীয় অপব্যবহার, (ঘ) কোন বিশেষ ধর্ম পালনকারী ব্যক্তির প্রতি বৈষম্য বা তাহার উপর নিপীড়ন- বিলোপ করা হইবে।”
এটা বিশেষভাবে প্রণিধানযোগ্য যে, বিশেষ কমিটির সুপারিশে একদিকে ‘রাষ্ট্র কর্তৃক কোন ধর্মকে রাজনৈতিক মর্যাদাদান’ বিলোপ করার প্রস্তাব করা হয়েছে, অন্যদিকে ইসলাম ধর্মকে রাষ্ট্রধর্ম হিসেবে মর্যাদা দেয়ার পরস্পর বিরোধী প্রস্তাব প্রদান করা হয়েছে। বস্তুতঃ “রাষ্ট্রধর্ম ইসলাম” ও “ধর্ম নিরপেক্ষতা” একসঙ্গে চলতে পারে না। সংবিধানে “বিসমিল্লাহির-রহমানির-রহিম” ও “রাষ্ট্রধর্ম ইসলাম” রেখে কখনোই ধর্মনিরপেক্ষতা ও অসাম্প্রদায়িক রাষ্ট্র প্রতিষ্ঠা করা যায় না। বলার অপেক্ষা রাখে না যে, রাষ্ট্রের কোন ধর্ম থাকতে পারে না। রাষ্ট্র সবার, ধর্ম যার যার।
এই সংযোজনী প্রস্তাবে যদিও “হিন্দু, বৌদ্ধ, খ্রীস্টানসহ অন্যান্য ধর্ম পালনে রাষ্ট্র সম-মর্যাদা ও সম-অধিকার নিশ্চিত করার” কথা বলা হয়েছে কিন্তু কার্যতঃ এই প্রস্তাবের মাধ্যমে সংবিধানে ইসলাম ব্যতীত অন্য ধর্মাবলম্বীদের দ্বিতীয় শ্রেণীর নাগরিক হিসেবে দেখার রাষ্ট্রীয় ধারাকে আরো পাকাপোক্ত করা হয়েছে।
তাই পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম জনসংহতি সমিতি বিশেষ কমিটির “বিসমিল্লাহির-রহমানির-রহিম” ও “রাষ্ট্রধর্ম ইসলাম” সংক্রান্ত ১নং ও ৩নং সুপারিশ বাতিল করার জোর দাবি জানাচ্ছে।

প্রিয় সাংবাদিক বন্ধুগণ,

অতি সম্প্রতি বর্তমান সরকারের তরফ থেকে জোরেসোরে বলা হচ্ছে যে, বাংলাদেশে কোন আদিবাসী নেই। দেশে ভাষাগত সংখ্যালঘু যারা বাস করে তারা উপজাতি। আইএলও’র সংজ্ঞা অনুযায়ী কোনভাবেই তাদের আদিবাসী বলা যায় না। কারণ উপনিবেশিক শাসনামলের কারণে তারা কোনভাবেই আমেরিকা বা অস্ট্রেলিয়ার মতো উচ্ছেদ হয়ে যাননি। বাংলাদেশে সে পরিস্থিতি নেই।

এটা বলার অপেক্ষা রাখে না যে, আমেরিকা-অস্ট্রেলিয়ার মতো আদি বাসিন্দাদের পদানত করে দখল করার কোন বিষয় বাংলাদেশে ঘটেনি বলে যা বলা হচ্ছে তাও সর্বাংশে সঠিক নয়। আইএলও বিধান অনুযায়ী “যারা রাজ্য বিজয় কিংবা উপনিবেশ স্থাপনের কালে অথবা বর্তমান রাষ্ট্রের সীমানা নির্ধারণের কালে এই দেশে কিংবা যে ভৌগোলিক ভূখন্ডে দেশটি অবস্থিত সেখানে বসবাসকারী জাতিগোষ্ঠীর বংশধর” তাদেরকে আদিবাসী হিসেবে গণ্য করা হয়। বলার অপেক্ষা রাখে না যে, ব্রিটিশ উপনিবেশ স্থাপন-কাল অথবা বর্তমান রাষ্ট্রের সীমানা নির্ধারণ-কাল থেকে আদিবাসীরা এই ভৌগোলিক ভূখন্ডে বা দেশে বসবাস করে আসছে। এটা ঐতিহাসিকভাবে বিদিত যে, ১৭৫৭ সালে ইস্ট ইন্ডয়া কোম্পানীর নিকট বাংলা, বিহার ও উড়িষ্যার নবাবের যখন পরাজয় ঘটে তখন বাংলার প্রতিবেশী রাজ্য হিসাবে কোচ রাজ্য, অহোম রাজ্য, গারো ও খাসিয়া রাজ্য, ত্রিপুরা রাজ্য, চাকমা রাজ্য ও আরাকান রাজ্য ইত্যাদি ছিল। কালক্রমে এ সব রাজ্য ব্রিটিশ ভারতে অন্তর্ভুক্ত করা হয়। ১৯৪৭ খ্রিস্টাব্দে দেশ বিভাগকালে ব্রিটিশ ভারতকে বিভক্ত করে ভারত ও পাকিস্তানের জন্ম হয় এবং ১৯৭১ খ্রিস্টাব্দে বাংলাদেশের সৃষ্টি হয়।

পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রামের আদিবাসী জুম্ম জনগণ এ অঞ্চলের প্রথম জনজাতি বা ভূমিপুত্র তাতে কোন সন্দেহ নেই। দেশ বিভাগের সময়কালে চল্লিশ দশকেও পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রামের ৯৮.৫% লোক ছিল আদিবাসী জুম্ম বংশোদ্ভূত। বাকি ১.৫% ছিল বাঙালি জনগোষ্ঠী যারা চাকুরী ও ব্যবসায়িক উদ্দেশ্যে সেখানে সাময়িক অবস্থান নিয়েছিল। পরবর্তীতে পাকিস্তান ও বাংলাদেশের শাসনামলে অব্যাহতভাবে, বিশেষ করে ১৯৭৯ সাল থেকে সরকারী পৃষ্ঠপোষকতায় হাজার হাজার বহিরাগত বাঙালী পরিবারকে জুম্ম জনগণের রেকর্ডীয় বা ভোগদখলীয় বা প্রথাগত জুম ভূমির উপর বসতি প্রদান করে জুম্মদের জায়গা-জমি জবরদখল এবং জুম্মদের জোরপূর্বক উচ্ছেদ করা হয়েছে বা এখনো হচ্ছে। এভাবেই নিজভূমিতে তাদেরকে সংখ্যালঘুতে পরিণত করা তথা জাতিগত নির্মূলীকরণের নীলনকশা বাস্তবায়ন করা হচ্ছে।

অপরদিকে ময়মনসিংহের আদিবাসী অধ্যুষিত শেরপুর, শ্রীবর্দী, নালিতাবাড়ি, হালুয়াঘাট, দুর্গাপুর ও কলমাকান্দা এই ছয়টি অঞ্চলের আদিবাসী অধ্যুষিত এলাকাসমূহকে ‘আংশিক শাসন-বহির্ভূত এলাকা’ হিসেবে চালু ছিল যা আদিবাসী অঞ্চলেরই সাক্ষ্য বহন করে। উত্তরবঙ্গের শ্বাপদ-সঙ্কূল বরেন্দ্র অঞ্চলকে বা মধুপুর গড় অঞ্চলকে কর্ষণযোগ্য ও বাসযোগ্য করেছে খেটে-খাওয়া শ্রমজীবী এই আদিবাসীরা। কিন্তু তাদের জায়গা-জমি, পাহাড়-বন, আবাসস্থল শক্তির জোরে কেড়ে নেওয়া হয়েছে। তারা বর্তমানে নিজবাসভূমে পরবাসী একশ্রেণীর অসহায় মানুষে পরিণত হয়েছে। আধুনিক রাষ্ট্র গঠনের সময় থেকে তাদের উপর এই বঞ্চনা ও বৈষম্য আরো জোরদার হয়েছে।

অতি সম্প্রতি একটি প্রভাবশালী বিশেষ স্বার্থান্বেষী মহল কর্তৃক আদিবাসী হিসেবে স্বীকৃতি দিলে দেশের সার্বভৌমত্ব হুমকির মধ্যে পড়বে, পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম অঞ্চল ইন্দোনেশিয়ার পূর্ব তিমুর বা দক্ষিণ সুদানের মতো বিচ্ছিন্ন হয়ে যাবে বা খ্রিস্টান রাষ্ট্র প্রতিষ্ঠার বিদেশী ষড়যন্ত্র চলছে এমনি উদ্ভট ও উদ্দেশ্যপ্রণোদিত প্রচারণা চালানো হচ্ছে। সরকারের তরফ থেকেও এই প্রচারণার সাথে সুর মিলিয়ে আদিবাসী বিষয়ে চরম নেতিবাচক নীতি গ্রহণ করা হচ্ছে।

বস্তুতঃ আদিবাসী হিসেবে সাংবিধানিক স্বীকৃতি দেয়া হলে দেশের সার্বভৌমত্ব হুমকির মধ্যে পড়বে বা বৃহত্তর বাঙালী জনগোষ্ঠী অ-আদিবাসী বা বহিরাগত হয়ে যাবে এমন ধারণা সম্পূর্ণরূপে ভ্রান্ত, বর্ণবাদী ও উদ্দেশ্যপ্রণোদিত বৈ কিছু নয়। জাতিগত সমস্যা সমাধানের ক্ষেত্রে বিদ্যমান বৈষম্য ও বঞ্চনা যতই অধিকার-ভিত্তিক গঠনমূলক সমাধানের পথ গ্রহণ করা হয় ততই সংখ্যালঘু জাতিসমূহের মধ্যে রাষ্ট্রের প্রতি আস্থা ও বিশ্বাস গড়ে উঠে এবং সাথে সাথে ততই জাতীয় সংহতি ও অখন্ডতা অধিকতর সুদৃঢ় হয়ে উঠে। তাই পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম জনসংহতি সমিতি মনে করে যে, এসব জাতিসমূহকে ‘আদিবাসী’ হিসেবে এবং তাদের মৌলিক অধিকারগুলোকে সাংবিধানিক স্বীকৃতি প্রদানের মাধ্যমে দেশের গণতান্ত্রিক প্রক্রিয়া আরো শক্তিশালী হবে এবং দেশে সুশাসন প্রতিষ্ঠার ক্ষেত্র অধিকতর সম্প্রসারিত হবে। এতে করে এদেশের সাংস্কৃতিক বৈচিত্র্যতা ও নৃতাত্ত্বিক বহুমাত্রিকতা অধিকতর সমৃদ্ধশালী হবে।

তাই দেশের নাগরিক হিসেবে মূলস্রোতধারার কর্মকান্ডে যথাযথভাবে অংশগ্রহণের লক্ষ্যে এবং ধর্মীয় বৈষম্যমূলক সকল বিধানাবলীর বিলোপ করতঃ ’৭২-এর সংবিধানের চার রাষ্ট্রীয় মূলনীতি পুনর্বহাল এবং একক জাতিরাষ্ট্রের বৈশিষ্ট্যের পরিবর্তে বহু জাতির, বহু ভাষার, বহু সংস্কৃতির প্রতিফলন ঘটিয়ে ধর্ম-জাতি নিরপেক্ষ সংবিধান প্রবর্তনের লক্ষ্যে পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম জনসংহতি সমিতি নিম্নোক্ত বিষয়াবলী বাস্তবায়নের জন্য সরকারের নিকট জোর দাবি জানাচ্ছে-

(১) “উপ-জাতি, ক্ষুদ্র জাতিসত্তা, নৃ-গোষ্ঠী ও সম্প্রদায়” হিসেবে নয়, “আদিবাসী” হিসেবে সাংবিধানিক স্বীকৃতি প্রদান করা এবং নতুন একটি তফসিলে অর্ধ শতাধিক আদিবাসী জাতিসমূহের তালিকা সংবিধানে সন্নিবেশ করা হোক;
(২) কেবল আদিবাসীদের সংস্কৃতি ও ঐতিহ্য সংরক্ষণ, উন্নয়ন ও বিকাশের অধিকার নয়, সারা দেশের আদিবাসীদের রাজনৈতিক, অর্থনৈতিক, সামাজিক, সাংস্কৃতিক ও ভূমি অধিকারের সাংবিধানিক স্বীকৃতি প্রদান করা হোক;
(৩) ১৯৯৭ সালে স্বাক্ষরিত পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম চুক্তি এবং এই চুক্তির আলোকে প্রণীত আইনসমূহ সহ আদিবাসী অধ্যূষিত পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম অঞ্চলকে বিশেষ শাসিত অঞ্চলের মর্যাদার সাংবিধানিক স্বীকৃতি প্রদান করা হোক;
(৪) সংবিধানে “বাংলাদেশের জনগণ জাতি হিসাবে বাঙালী” মর্মে সংশোধনী প্রস্তাব প্রত্যাহার করা হোক;
(৫) সংবিধানে “বিসমিল্লাহির-রহমানির-রহিম” ও “রাষ্ট্রধর্ম ইসলাম” সংক্রান্ত সংশোধনী প্রস্তাব বাতিল করা হোক;
(৬) সংগঠনের স্বাধীনতা সংক্রান্ত বিশেষ কমিটির ১৭নং সংযোজনী প্রস্তাবের পরিবর্তে ’৭২-এর সংবিধানের ৩৮ অনুচ্ছেদে বর্ণিত শর্তাংশ প্রতিস্থাপন করা হোক।

আপনাদের সকলকে আন্তরিক ধন্যবাদ।

জ্যোতিরিন্দ্র বোধিপ্রিয় লারমা
পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম জনসংহতি সমিতি

বাংলাদেশের সংবিধান সংশোধন সংক্রান্ত বিশেষ কমিটির সুপারিশ এবং আদিবাসীদের অধিকারের সাংবিধানিক স্বীকৃতি প্রসঙ্গে সংবাদ সম্মেলন
২৩ জুন ২০১১, সকাল ১০.৩০ ঘটিকা, হোটেল সুন্দরবন, সোনারগাঁও রোড, ঢাকা

courtesy: PCJSS.