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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Rights activists slate FM for nat’l minority remarks

Foreign minister Dipu Moni’s recent remarks about the country’s ‘indigenous people’ betray the spirit of the Independence War and insult those who believe in diversity and plurality, 15 rights and legal aid activists said on Thursday.

In a statement, they said the spirit of the Independence War was of democracy, pluralism, and secularism. While recognising Bengali national identity, it calls, in its fullest sense, for full constitutional recognition of the diversity of communities including the ‘Adivashis’.

They termed the foreign minister’s comments ‘callous, irresponsible, and racist’ and ‘clarified’ that the demand of the national minorities to be recognised as ‘Adivashis’ was their basic right and protection under the International Labour Organisation Convention 107, which was ratified by Dhaka in 1972.

They differed with the definition of the term ‘Adivashi’ given by the foreign minister and said it was wrong as it denied the identity of ‘Adivashi’ based on historical and legal grounds. By doing so, the foreign minister as well the prime minister contradicted their positions they had held in the past, they added.

They mentioned that the foreign minister had expressed her solidarity with the ‘Adivashis’ on World Indigenous Day in 2008. The prime minister had also made statements in 2000, 2003, 2004, and 2009, recognising the ‘indigenous peoples’. The clause 18 of the Awami League’s election manifesto also includes ‘Adivashi’.

‘Thus it is clear that the honourable minister is contradicting her own position and solemn commitments made by her leader and her party in the past,’ the statement read.

On July 26, Dipu Moni said the demand for constitutional recognition for ‘Adivashis’ was about getting ‘privileged status’ for them at the ‘expense of national identity, image and territorial integrity of Bangladesh’.

The signatories said the indigenous people had never claimed any privileged status at the expense of national identity, image, and territorial integrity.

‘We the undersigned believe that the constitution must reflect the plurality of our citizens. Belated recognition of the Adivashis will further equality and tolerance,’ they added.

The signatories to the statement were human rights defender Dr Hameeda Hossain, Kamal Lohani of Arpito Sampatti Ain Protirodh Andolan, Khushi Kabir of Nijera Kori, Tobarak Hossain of Sammilito Samajik Andolan, Shaheen Anam of Manusher Jonno Foundation, Subrata Chowdhury, Supreme Court lawyer, Shamsul Huda of Association for Land Reform and Development, Prof Mesbah Kamal of Bangladesh Adibashi Odhikar Andolan, Sanjeeb Drong of Bangladesh Adibashi Forum, Robindranath Soren of Jatiya Adibashi Parisad, Goutam Dewan of CHT Citizens Committee, Philip Gain of Society for Environment and Human Development, Sara Hossain of Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust, Syeda Rizwana Hasan of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers’ Association, and Zannat-E-Ferdousi of Research and Development Collective.


courtesy: New Age

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