Apr 11, 2011

Chittagong Hill Tracts: Indigenous People Press for Recognition

Renewing demands for the government to recognize them as indigenous people instead of ethnic communities, indigenous peoples formed a human chain in Tangail last week and submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister articulating their demands in detail. 

Below is an article published by Daily Star:

Indigenous people of different communities in Tangail district yesterday [April 6, 2011] formed a human chain and held a press conference to press for their seven-point demands including constitutional recognition as 'adivasi' (indigenous people) instead of 'khudra nri ghoshthi' (small ethnic community).

Later they submitted a memorandum to the prime minister through Tangail deputy commissioner demanding the same.

Hundreds of indigenous people including Garo, Koch, Rajbongshi and others from different parts of the district came to Tangail town in the morning and formed a human chain in front of the deputy commissioner's office.

Their demands include constitutional recognition of over 46 indigenous communities of the country as 'adivasi', preservation of seats of parliament and local government bodies for the indigenous communities in the areas inhabited by them, constitutional safeguard not to change or cancel the constitutional and legal protections of the indigenous communities without their consent and constitutional recognition of the indigenous people's traditional rights on lands and natural resources.

They also demanded taking the indigenous communities' opinions on the proposed amendment to forest act, wildlife preservation act and enemy property handover act, cancellation of the Gazette of 1984 and Atia Ordinance of 1982 in Madhupur forests and also proper management of indigenous peoples' lands as well as demarcation of the indigenous villages and full implementation of the CHT peace accord signed in 1997.

"Around 30 lakh people of 45 indigenous communities of the country including around 60,000 in Tangail district have yet to get their constitutional recognition. But it is essential in view of national solidarity, development, democracy and human rights of the country," said Eugene Nokrek, president of Joinshahi Adivasi Unnayan Parishad, reading out a written speech at a press conference at Tangail Press Club.

He expressed concern about the March 15 comment of Suranjit Sen Gupta, co-chairman of special parliamentary committee on constitution amendment affairs, that the parliamentary committee has decided to give constitutional recognition to the indigenous communities of the country as 'khudra nri ghoshthi' (small ethnic community) instead of 'adivasi' (indigenous people).

Giving different logics in favour of their demand of recognition as indigenous, he cited examples of different countries including Philippines, India, Malaysia and Japan.

Among others, indigenous leaders from Madhupur Ajoy A Mree, president of ACDF, Babul D' Nokrek, president of AGYA, and Maloty Nokrek, president of Achik Michik Society, were present at the press conference.