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Friday, July 1, 2011

Raja Devasish Roy on constitutional reform

Raja Devasish Roy on constitutional reform

From: Devasish Roy
Sent: Fri, July 1, 2011 01:24:35 AM
Subject: Bangladesh Constitutional Reform Developments on 30 June, 2011 & Adibashi Rights Issues

Dear Friends and Colleagues,
The Constitution (15th Amendment) Bill, 2011 has been passed, today, 30 June, 2011, without any changes to the draft proposed by the special constitution reforms committee, with perhaps one no vote or abstention (not counting the absent BNP, JI, etc) a few abstentions.
The bill includes the unacceptable phrases “upa-jati, khudro-nrigoshthi/jatishotta/shmprodai”, state religion, Islam (with recognition of equal rights of other religions), Bismillah, state language: Bengali (without protection for other languages), etc.
Left-wing MPs, Rashed Khan Menon and Hasanul Haque Inu tabled proposals on citizenship on identity and citizenship (Bangladeshi or Bangali and other ethnic groups), state religion (“no”), replacement of “upajati, khudro” etc with “bhinno bhinno jatishotta o shomprodai”, inclusion of adibashis in the non-discrimination and affirmative action clauses, etc. Rejected, of course. H H Inu explained why the “upajati” epithet was unjust and etymologically incorrect. Perhaps a footnote in history! Reminds us of M. N. Larma.
But M N Larma’s bold, farsighted and wise stand in 1972 still stands as an inspirational example to not just Jummas, but progressive Bangalis as well. I often say, if Larma’s proposal on a multicultural Bangladeshi identity had been accepted, the false dichotomy and conflict between Bangali and Muslim identities may perhaps have been averted. I thanked the two  opposition MPs. Abhilash Tripura SMSd, thanking them. I urge you all to do the same.
After our meeting with the Law minister on 28 June (wherein he advised us that the only way he could intervene with the prime minister was if amendment bills were formally placed in parliament), we went to parliament to meet MPs Rashed Khan Menon, Hasanul Haque Inu and Fazle Hossain Badshah. Prof Mesbah Kamal and Sanjeeb Drong were with me. At our request, the MPs drafted amendment proposals, as mentioned above (which they later tabled). There were no visible interventions from the Law Minister!
Earlier today (30 June), at 11 am, Prof Mesbah Kamal, Goutam Kumar Chakma (CHTRC member), Advocate Rana Dasgupta (Sec-Gen, Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Unity Council), Shamsul Huda (ED, Association for Land Reform and Development: ALRD) and myself addressed a press conference at the National Press Club on the comment of the Law Minister that we had “moved away from our earlier demand on the recognition of adibashi/indigenous identity”.
We explained our position that we had not moved away from our demand on the recognition of adibashi/indigenous identity just because we had suggested alternative phrases to upajati etc. We explained how we had explained the justification of the adibashi/indigenous identity to the minister citing BD law, international law, international development agency policies (World Bank, ADB, etc), hisprical facts, anthropological theories, etc. We reiterated that we – including Sanjeeb Drong, Goutam Kumar Chakma, Mangal Kumar Chakma, Dr. Dalem Chandra Barman and myself – stood by our demands in writing that we endorsed, along with the five indigenous MPs (members of the present ruling coalition), which were submitted to the Constitutional Reforms Committee and the Prime Minister.
At 4-30 pm today, the law minister attended, as Chief Guest, the launching of the book, “The CHT Regulation, 1900”, co-edited by myself and Advocate Pratikar Chakma, and published by ALRD. When giving a presentation on the new book, I referred to the mis-representation of our stand on our allegedly having moved away from our demand on the recognition of adibashi/indigenous identity, and reiterated that this was incorrect, inaccurate and baseless.
I said it was unfair for the government to pick up from the dustbin, the phrase ("upajati") that it had rejected in 2010 {and replaced with “khudro-nrigoshthi” (unacceptable to us) and “adibashi” (acceptable to us) in the Khudro Nrigohsthi Sanhkritik Protisthan Act of 2011}! (, and place it on a pedestal – in the constitution, in 2011 – when it had itself I write in my future publication that this equivalent to inserting the phrase “nigger” in the Constitution of the USA!),
The minister kept silent.
In the morning and afternoon, left parties, JSS and Bangladesh Adivasi Forum staged demonstrations against the constitutional reform bill. There were clashes with the police and minor injuries.
The battle may have been lost, but the war is far from over. Struggles for rights cannot be won in the short term. As long as we remain united, steadfast, vigilant, courageous and strategic, we will overcome, some day.
In solidarity,
Raja Devasish Roy
Chakma Raja
Barrister & Advocate
Supreme Court of Bangladesh
UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Rajbari, Rangamati 4500
Chittagong Hill Tracts

courtesy: Bidhayak Chakma

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