Mar 24, 2011

Chittagong Hill Tracts: Indigenous Leaders: “Term us Adivasi in Constitution”

Struggle for recognition behind indigenous people’s appeal to be called ‘Adivasi’ in the Bangladeshi Constitution, instead of the previous label "small and ethnic group".

Below is an article published by The Daily Star:

Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Commission has urged the government to use the term "Adivasi" instead of "small and ethnic groups" in recognising the indigenous people. 

The appeal followed the decision of the parliamentary special committee on constitutional amendment that it will recommend for recognition of indigenous people. 

In an application addressed to Syeda Sazeda Chowdhury, the chairperson of the National Committee for Implementation of the CHT Peace Accord and the deputy leader of the House, the commission said Adivasi is the correct Bangla term for indigenous people. 

Mentioning the recognition of indigenous people as a progressive outlook, the application said India and Nepal have termed the indigenous people "Janajtiya" and "Adivasi Janajati" respectively, which in real sense are synonyms of "Adivasi" in Bangla. 

In the application, they also expressed concerns that Suranjit Sengupta MP, the co-chair of the special committee on constitutional amendment, told the media that the term "indigenous peoples" will be replaced by "small and ethnic groups". 

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina herself mentioned indigenous people as Adivisi in her different speeches and her party the ruling Awami League in its last election pledges termed indigenous people Adivasi several times, said the commission. 

It also reminded the AL government of its election manifesto that includes pledges to ensure human rights, equal opportunities, end of discrimination, and rights to preserve language, literature, culture, and unique lifestyles of the indigenous people. 

The application stated that the indigenous communities of Bangladesh retain their distinct characteristics that are different from that of general people, and it is the country's obligation to recognise them, as the government had ratified different conventions. 

The application, which was signed by three co-chairs of the CHT Commission Lord Eric Avebury, Advocate Sultana Kamal, and Ida Nicolaisen, said terming indigenous people Adivasi will reaffirm the government's positions as progressive and secular.