Ethnic minorities demand recognition as indigenous peoples
Leaders and activists of minority ethnic communities from across the country, defying the pouring rain, took to the streets in the capital on Monday to press home their demand for being officially recognised as ‘indigenous peoples’, not as ‘small ethnic groups’, in the Constitution.
They held discussions, brought out processions, formed human chains and arranged cultural programmes in different places of the country to observe the International Day of Indigenous Peoples.
They marched through the streets, chanting slogans in protest against the government’s move to describe them as ‘tribes’, and demanded full implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tract peace accord.
The Bangladesh Adivasi Forum staged a rally at the Central Shaheed Minar, in which its president Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, better known as Santu Larma, warned Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that if her party and government continue to be undemocratic and communal, only she and they would be responsible for the results.
Larma, also president of the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti and the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council, said they would not accept the 15th Amendment to the Constitution.
‘Each person has the right to retain his true identity, but the present government has foisted on all of us the Bengali identity. But we can’t accept that. We want constitutional recognition of our true identity,’ he said.
He also said that Sheikh Hasina had failed to fulfil her promise to implement the CHT accord. ‘The government has not taken any positive initiative to implement the accord in spite of being in power for two and a half year.’
Larma also denounced foreign minister Dipu Moni’s recent statements on the country’s ethnic minorities. On July 26 she claimed that ‘the CHT people are tribal and not indigenous’.
Larma urged the ethnic minority communities to launch a strong movement to realise their rights.
The chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Mizanur Rahman, as chief guest of the rally said that recognition of ethnic minorities as ‘indigenous’ is inevitable and ‘it should be done immediately’.
He also stressed the need for immediate implementation of the CHT accord to establish the rights of the hill people.
Sultana Kamal, former adviser to the caretaker government and co-chair of the International Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission, inaugurated the rally which was conducted by Sanjeeb Drong, the Adivasi Forum’s general secretary.
Politicians, activists and academics also expressed solidarity with the cause of the ethnic minority communities, saying that the government has made them second-class citizens by not giving them due recognition in the Constitution. They also said that the government has repeated the mistake of 1972 when the ethnic minorities were not recognised as ‘indigenous people’ in the Constitution, which was a historical blunder.
Member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Raja Devasish Roy, Communist Party of Bangladesh’s president Manjurul Ahsan Khan, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal’s president Hasanul Haque Inu, Workers Party of Bangladesh’s presidium member Fazle Hossain Badshah, Gana Forum’s presidium member Pankaj Bhattacharya, Bangladesh Hindu-Bouddha-Christian Oikya Parishad’s general secretary Rana Dasgupta, Dhaka University teachers HKS Arefin, Mesbah Kamal and Robayet Ferdous were among those who addressed the rally.
Ethnic minority peoples joined the four-hour rally, wearing their traditional dress, in spite of the continuous downpour. A cultural programme, featuring the traditional culture of various ethnic groups, followed the rally.
The Jatisatta Mukti Sangram held a discussion on ‘15th Amendment to the Constitution and rights of different minorities’ at the RC Majumdar Arts Auditorium of Dhaka University.
The Coalition of Local NGOs also held a discussion at the National Press Club.
New Age’s Khagrachhari correspondent reported that the local chapter of PCJSS and Adivasi Forum, and the Ganatantrik Jubo Forum, the youth forum supported by the United Peoples Democratic Front, organised rallies, brought out processions and formed human chains in the town, demanding constitutional recognition of all ethnic minor groups as ‘indigenous’.
The PCJSS formed a human chain on the road adjacent to the court and staged a rally at Khagrapur Community Centre. The Adivasi Forum staged a rally at Khagrachhari Mukta Mancha.
The Ganatantrik Jubo Forum staged a rally and brought out procession which paraded various roads of the town.
New Age’s Rangamati correspondent reported that the Adivasi Forum organised a reception for elderly people of ethnic minorities and held a discussion in the Rangamati Municipality Auditorium. Later they brought out a procession which paraded several roads of the town.
This year the indigenous people’s day, amidst debate on recognition of ethnic minorities as ‘indigenous’, was observed with the slogan: ‘Indigenous Designs: Celebrating Stories and Cultures, Crafting Our Own Future’. The day has been observed since 1995 to uphold the rights of indigenous people, now numbering about 370 million around the globe.
The United Nations’ secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, called upon everyone to recognise the unique identities of indigenous peoples around the world. He urged all to work for ensuring their rights.
-------------- courtesy: New Age ------------------------------------------
|Bangladesh Adivasi Forum brings out a procession in Khagrachhari town yesterday marking International Day of the World's Indigenous People. Photo: STAR|
Leaders of different ethnic communities in Rangamati yesterday urged the government to ensure political, economic and social rights of indigenous people, reports our Rangamati correspondent.
They criticised the foreign minister for her statement that there are no indigenous people in Bangladesh and blamed the government for failure to solve land dispute in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).
Many indigenous families were evicted from their ancestral land and homesteads as the outsider Bangali settlers grabbed their lands, and the trend is still going on in the hills, indigenous leaders said at a discussion on the premises of Rangamati Municipality office.
Renowned civil society leader Binoy Kumar Dewan addressed as chief guest at the meeting presided over by Prakriti Ranjan Chakma, president of CHT unit of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum.
Our Khagrachhari correspondent reports: Marking International Day of the World's Indigenous People, Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samity (PCJSS) yesterday formed a human chain in front of Khagrachhari Press Club with the banner "We want to get constitutional recognition as indigenous people, not ethnic minority".
Later, at a rally organised by the party at Khagrapur Community Centre in the district town, speakers demanded annulment of the 15th amendment to the constitution and full implementation of the CHT Peace Accord.
Bangladesh Adivasi Forum Khagrachhari district unit brought out a procession in the district town and arranged a rally at Khagrachhari Mukta Mancha.
Democratic Youth Forum, a front organisation of United Peoples Democratic Front, an anti-CHT Peace Treaty organisation, brought out a procession in Khagrachhari town and held a rally held at Shanirbar Bazar area marking the day.
Our Thakurgaon Correspondent adds: Thakurgaon unit of Jatiya Adivasi Parishad yesterday organised several programmes with the assistance of Eco-Social Development Organisation, RDRS Bangladesh, Sharp and Karitas in observance of International Day of the World's Indigenous People.
After a colourful procession that paraded different streets of the town, they formed a human chain in front of DC office.
Later at a discussion, the speakers demanded realisation of their nine-point demand including establishing constitutional rights of indigenous people and formation of a separate land commission to protect land rights of the indigenous people living on plan lands.
Our RU Correspondent adds: Ethnic minority students of Rajshahi University (RU) yesterday arranged a day-long photo exhibition on the campus marking International Day of the World's Indigenous People.
Prof Golam Sabbir Sattar, student adviser of the university, inaugurated the photo exhibition arranged by the students under the banner of Adivasi Students Association of Rajshahi University, an organisation of ethnic minority students of plain land, on the premises of the central library of the university.
A total of 150 rare photographs on the life and tradition of the ethnic minority people were put on display at the exhibition.
-------------- courtesy: The daily Star --------------------------
|Rain seems to have ignited enthusiasm in the performers. Manipuri artists perform their traditional dance at the Central Shaheed Minar yesterday marking the International Day of the World's Indigenous People, 2011. Photo: Shawkat Jamil|
Expressing solidarity with them, rights defender Prof Mizanur Rahman hinted the decision of recognising indigenous people as "tribal" or "ethnic minorities" was wrong. He added the National Human Rights Commission would act as the barrier to implementing any wrong decision.
No effective measures have been taken to implement the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord, said indigenous leader Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, who signed the accord with the previous Awami League government in 1997.
Larma, president of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum, was addressing a rally styled "Indigenous designs: Celebrating stories and culture, crafting our own future" at the Central Shaheed Minar in the city marking the International Day for Indigenous People.
Addressing the rally, NHRC Chairman Prof Mizanur Rahman said it is the government's duty to protect the rights of the indigenous people and recognise them constitutionally.
On the debate over "Tribal" or "Indigenous", he said, according to the ILO convention 169, there is no major difference between them in terms of providing facilities.
In the NHRC's annual report that was submitted to the president, the commission recommended recognising them as indigenous, Prof Rahman informed.
Chakma Circle chief Raja Devashish Roy criticised the government for not discussing with representatives of indigenous people before amending the constitution.
CHT commission co-chair Sultana Kamal said some ill-motivated sections are occupying the land in hill tracts illegally. If the government recognises the people as "indigenous", a self land management system will have to be introduced, putting these sections in trouble.
"The sections include army personnel and business tycoons, who have invested money there. We should find out that whether the sections are influencing the government or not," she added.
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal President Hasanul Haq Inu demanded formulation of indigenous rights act to protect the rights of the indigenous people and establish a national indigenous commission to uphold their values, cultures, norms, customs and traditions.
Manusher Jonno Foundation Executive Director Shaheen Anam urged the government to ensure security of the indigenous women, as they become doubly victims of all violence.
Gono Forum leader Pankaj Bhattacharjee, Prof Mesbah Kamal of history, Dhaka University, Bangladesh Hindu-Buddha-Christian Oikya Parishad general secretary Rana Dasgupta, among others, also spoke.
Several hundred indigenous people attended the rally, which was followed by a cultural function.
------------ courtesy: The Daily Star --------------------