Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) is a military controlled area, where all the news are filtered by the military and the Bangladeshi government.CHT, where blood has shed for decades and hopes were burnt to ashes by the brutes, constitutes of people who want their voice to be heard. We are here to ensure that the voice of these unheard victims in CHT echo around the world despite the Bangladeshi government trying to suppress them in the biased state run media.
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On June 28, 2011 Jum Literature Young Society and Kapaeeng Foundation organised a programme on indigenous language at R C Mojumder Auditorium, Lecture Theatre Building of Dhaka University. More than 200 peoples attended the programme including law makers, Adivasi and Bengali poet, university teachers, political leaders, human rights defenders, indigenous rights activists, women rights activists, development workers, youths and students, academics and researchers.
The programme was supported by the International Labour Organisation.
The programme was divided into two parts. The first part was discussion on the indigenous culture, literature and language along with the necessity of the government patronage to protect such culture from extinction and the second part was a recitation programme of indigenous poems.
The discussion session was presided by: Sarat Jyoti Chakma, member, Jum Literature Young Society while lawmaker Jyotindra Lal Tripura also chairman of the Task Force on Rehabilitation of Returnee Refugees and the Internally Displaced People was the chief guest in the programme.
Teacher of Dhaka University Robaet Ferdous and Muhammad Samad who is also a poet, A K Sheram Adivasi poet and Abhilash Tripura representative of ILO Dhaka branch attended the programme as panel discussants.
In the first session, the speakers mainly emphasised on the government’s duty on patronising the languages of indigenous peoples’. The speakers also pointed out that, proper implementation of the ILO Convention No. 107 would help indigenous literature against becoming extinct as well as ensuring the culture’s development.
Muktasree Chakma Sathi, executive member of Kapaeeng Foundation delivered welcome speech and said indigenous people were living within the territory of this country since a long time. Indigenous people posses distinct culture, literature, own individual fonts and language. Such diversify culture needs patronisation from government, not only to spread their literature across the country also to protect such cultures from being extinct.
‘From the very beginning of our childhood, mainstream culture affected thoroughly our culture. Yes, we do respect Bengali language but I do believe and think we should start taking necessary steps which would help to save our language and traditional history.’Muktasree said.
Speaking on the occasion, Abhilash Tripura pointed out that, there are around 700 languages around the world and 5000 languages among them belongs to indigenous people.
‘But unfortunately, everyday, in the world 14 languages are becoming extinct, mainly for the lack of patronage, particularly by the governments. We all know, in Bangladesh there are more than 45 languages, as more than 75 groups of indigenous peoples are living in the country. Undoubtedly the government needs to take proper suitable steps to save these languages including Adivasi culture and literature.’ Abhilash Tripura added.
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.
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.’
Stressing the need for ensuring the cultural rights of the ethnic communities, famous Bengali poet Muhammad Samad also a teacher of Dhaka University said, ‘As we all believe in unity in diversity, the government needs to take the necessary steps to prevent these colourful languages from becoming extinct.’
He also gave an assurance that he would try his level best to supervise any cultural programme particularly for the upcoming FOBANA conference to include a specific period of time for the indigenous communities’ cultural presentation.
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.
He also expressed satisfaction over organising such programme and said ‘We were not able to organise such kind of innovative programs when we were students. Time has changed. None other then us (indigenous people) have more responsibility to nourish our literature and represent it throughout the world. The present government is also trying to patronise the Adivasi culture and literature. I hope that Adivasi literature will play an important role in the world.’
Emphasising the necessity of government’s patronization for such languages, Lina Jesmin Lushai of ILO said, ‘As we all believe in unity in diversity, the government needs to take the necessary steps to prevent these indigenous languages from becoming extinct.’
Later on, more than 25 poems in 15 different indigenous languages, including Bangla, were recited in the programme. The recitation programmes’ theme was ‘The beauty of the Indigenous song and poem will bliss the plain and hills.’
The indigenous poem was recited by Jameson Amlai, Prianka Chak, Boren Tripura, Abhilash Tripura, Srijani Triipura, Surja Kanta Mahato, Sabuj Boraik, Sohel Nokrek, Sohel Hajong, Babu Marma,Nirnita Chakma,Jiten Chakma,Trijinad Chakma, Batayan Chakma, Gour Koach, Engsai Khumi, Rangsong Mro.