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Thursday, June 30, 2011

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

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