Of Adivasis, and govt's reluctance
Former chief justice Muhammad Habibur Rahman said yesterday the government has not agreed to use the term Adibasi as there are some international laws to safeguard their rights and cultural uniqueness.
“Why so much reluctnce to use the word Adivasi? … Because, there are some international laws for protecting the rights and culture of the Adivasis. ” he said.
And there are also politics in applying those laws, Justice Habibur said as the chief guest at the launching ceremony of a book titled “Survival on the Fringe: Adivasis of Bangladesh” in the capital.
The former chief adviser to a caretaker government made the remarks as some other speakers at the function talked about Foreign Minister Dipu Moni's comments that there are no Adivasis in Bangladesh, and also on the government's reservations about using the word Adivasi.
Justice Habibur, however, said Adivasis in Bangladesh do not suffer from inferiority complex, rather they are now aware of their rights.
“The situation will improve if they become more conscious, and we extend support to them,” he said.
The 630-page book consisting of articles of 47 writers was edited by Philip Gain of the Society for Environment and Human Development (SEHD).
Speaking at the function, Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Mizanur Rahman mentioned that the book on Adivasis said the presence of military in the CHT was still huge, which caused insecurity among the Adivasis.
He questioned the presence of military in the hill tracts, and asked why a sense of fear has been created there.
Mizanur said he was afraid of attending a function on indigenous people since there was almost a ban on using the word Adivasi in the country.
“But after reading the preface of the book, I found a strong logic that there are Adivasis in Bangladesh, and they should be termed Adivasis. Otherwise, we will do injustice and discrimination against them,” said the NHRC chief.
He, however, regretted that the book introduces all the Adivasis as small ethinic communities in Bangladesh.
About the differing numbers of Adivasis, he said there is politics in hiding the actual number.
Mizanur also said he was not happy that the book said Adivasis are victims of history and geography, but didn't mention the political reasons behind this.
In his introductory speech, Philip Gain said the book depicts an overall picture of the Adivasis in Bangladesh.
The book discussed the geographical setting of Adivasis, disadvantages they are faced with and their strategies. It contains profiles of major ethnic communities, brief descriptions of the little-known ones and a comprehensive list of them and their spatial distribution. It also tries to say how they were made socially excluded groups.
Chaired by Prof Sakhwat Ali Khan, chairman of SEHD, the function was also addresses by Prof Rafiqul Islam, Dr Hamida Hossain, Manjulika Chakma, Khusi Kabir, Prashanta Tripura and Gidison Pradhan Suchiang.