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Friday, November 4, 2011

Indigenous peoples and rights groups blamed government for refraining from recognition of rights to indigenous peoples as per its election commitment

Indigenous peoples and rights groups blamed government for refraining from recognition of rights to indigenous peoples as per its election commitment  

Indigenous peoples along with civil society members and political leaders blamed present grand alliance government led by Awami League for refraining from recognition of rights to indigenous peoples as per its election commitment. They demanded constitutional safeguard of ethnic identity, culture, human rights of indigenous peoples of Bangladesh as well as implementation of the election manifesto of the government.
They raised the demands in a seminar entitled ‘Election Manifesto of Awami League, Charter of Change, Anticipation and Achievement of Indigenous Peoples’ was held at SIRDAP auditorium, Dhaka on 26 October 2011, organized by Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum with the support of Action Aid-Bangladesh.
The seminar was moderated by Farah Kabir, Country Director of Action Aid while Mr. Rabindranath Soren, vice president of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum and chairperson of Kapaeeng Foundation presided over the event. Mr. Shamsul Huda, Executive Director of ALRD; Mr. Rashed Khan Menon, Member of Parliament and president of  Parliamentary Caucus on Indigenous Issues and Workers’ Party of Bangladesh; Mr. Shakti Pada Tripura, organizing secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum and Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti; Dr. Dalem Chandra Barman, Professor of Dhaka University & advisor of Kapaeeng Foundation; Ms. Sultana Kamal, Executive Director of Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) and former advisor of Caretaker Government and Professor Mesbah Kamal, teacher of Dhaka University and general secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Odhikar Andolon spoke in the seminar.
At first Mr. Sanjeeb Drong, general secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples’ Forum presented a keynote paper. In his presentation he presented a video footage and discussed about the condition of indigenous peoples and the status of their recognition in different speeches of political leaders, executives and different official documents of Government. 
After his presentation, the participants were given 10 minutes each to express their views on the indigenous peoples issues. The participants discussed about their problems and achievement regarding indigenous issues. Utmost participants informed about their problem in different sector related to the identity issues.
Mr. Shamsul Huda, Executive Director of ALRD, said, ‘the problems exist in indigenous community is not only the problem of indigenous people, but also a national problem. In their election manifesto the Awami League Government included land rights of indigenous peoples with a will to make a separate land commission for indigenous peoples. But they stop thinking about all issues which was included in the manifesto while they are in the power. The Government should be careful about their pledge. Otherwise, people will not consider them for the next tenure.
Mr. Rashed Khan Menon, Member of Parliament and President of Parliamentary Caucas on indigenous peoples’ issues and Workers’ Party of Bangladesh says, ‘our expectation on  government regarding indigenous peoples was tremendous when present Government passed in election. We tried to make our recommendations about recognition of indigenous peoples prior to the fifteenth amendment of Bangladesh Constitution. But they did not response what we demanded at that time. We demanded to recognize the indigenous peoples as ‘Adibasi’. But at last they made a recognition through including an Article in the Constitution where the indigenous peoples were recognized as tribals, small nationalities etc. And now the recognition creates a great crisis in regard to indigenous peoples’ identity. If the indigenous people are given recognition, the state must be bound to obey the international ! laws concerning indigenous peoples. And in that case a probability may grow to emerge a new state like- East Timur in CHT. This kind of suspicion of Government has no basis. The indigenous people believe Bangladesh Constitution as their own Constitution. For that reason, they desire to find a place for them in Constitution along with mainstream people.
Mr. Shakti Pada Tripura, the Organizing Secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples’ Forum (BIPF) says, ‘there is no similarity between the commitment assured by the Government in their policy and its action. Though present government made commitment to implement CHT Accord fully, effective measures are yet to be taken for implementation of CHT Accord. No people can establish their rights without struggle. So, we should fight back together to achieve our rights.’
Dr. Dalem Chandra Barman, Professor of Dhaka University says, ‘ the indigenous peoples are deprived from their rights from past. Our main achievement is we have got some self-motivated people from mainstream people, like Advocate Sultana Kamal. The first demand of indigenous peoples is recognition as ‘Adivasi’. So we should continue our struggle until recognition as ‘Adivasi’.’
Advocate Sultana Kamal, Executive Director of Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) says, we the mainstream people should learn from our history of independence about what will be occurred if any community is deprived from their rights. It is shame for all people of Bangladesh by comments made by Foreign Minister Dr. Dipu Moni in which she said that only for two percent (2%) people, we can not decline the rest of ninety eight percent (98%) people. According to the Constitution, all citizens are given the same rights and treated equally. So, the concept of foreign minister is wrong. Percentage does not matter in fulfilling rights of people. We should find out the truth from the beauty of diversity.’  
Mr. Mesbah Kamal, Professor of Dhaka University says, “the people are cheated by Government through their manifesto. It is the political culture in our country.  We should change that culture. Until diversity is not encouraged in the Constitution, we can not claim our Constitution is beyond the communalism. A commission is essential regarding indigenous peoples, to ensure the rights of them. The laws should be formulated to implement the activities of the commission. 
Mr. Rabindranath Soren, Chairman of Kapaeeng Foundation in his presiding speech thanked all the participants. He says, ‘we all indigenous peoples should work and struggle together to achieve our goal either in village or town.

courtesy: Kapaeeng Foundation

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