May 03, 2011

Chittagong Hill Tracts: Indigenous Peoples Vow Mass Movement If They Are Not Recognised As Indigenous Peoples

Refusing to accept the term 'small ethnic group', indigenous peoples along with civic groups of mainstream population vowed to launch mass movement if not recognised as indigenous peoples.


Below is an article published by: Kapaeeng Foundation.

This declaration was made by Indigenous Peoples along with civic groups of mainstream population in the public gathering held on 29 April 2011 at 10.00 am – 01.00 pm at central Shaheed Minar in Dhaka by Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples’ Forum demanding constitutional recognition as `indigenous peoples’, but not as small ethnic groups, with Mr. Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma (Santu Larma) in the chair. Around five thousand people among from indigenous peoples and mainstream population attended the gathering.
Leaders of national political parties, eminent citizens of the country including activists of national and international organisations working for human rights and development, women and student-youth organisations, cultural organisations, print and electronic media, indigenous communities and organisations spoke in the gathering. Mr. Sanjib Drong, general secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples’ Forum delivered welcome speech while Mr. Dipayon Khisa, vice chairperson, Kapaeeng Foundation moderated the gathering.
Mr. Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, president of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum, in his speech, said that the leader of indigenous peoples Manabendra Narayan Larma demanded to recognize the fundamental rights of IPs in the constitution, when the constitution was being formulated after the liberation of Bangladesh. But his demand was not fulfilled. If the demand was met, there is no necessity to make demand today.
He added that till to-date indigenous peoples are being subjected of suppression and oppression. They are living as a third class citizen in this country. Because, they do not have recognition in the constitution. He said that currently there is an opportunity to recognize indigenous peoples in the constitution, but government is plotting to term as the `small ethnic groups’. He opined that imposing the term ‘small ethnic groups’ instead of indigenous peoples will be a violation of the human rights of indigenous peoples. He warned the government that, the indigenous peoples must be recognized as ‘indigenous peoples’.
He expressed that the ruling classes do not want to establish indigenous peoples’ rights. They cheated us 40 years ago too, when the constitution was being formulated. The conspiracy is still being carried out to deprive the indigenous peoples. So it is necessary to achieve the rights through struggle. He urged all indigenous persons to come forward for establishing the rights through movement.
Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University Prof. Dr. A A M S Arefin Siddique said that present government is a democratic government. He hoped this government wants to recognize the ‘indigenous peoples’. He also expressed the solidarity with the demands of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum to recognise as indigenous people in the consitutions. He said that it is not possible to go forward without education. He urged the indigenous peoples to give emphasis to education.
Co-chairperson of CHT Commission Adv. Sultana Kamal said, “we have known the indigenous peoples as ‘indigenous people’ since many days. But it is not acceptable currently to recognize suddenly as ‘small ethnic group’. If there is the constitutional recognition, it should be as `indigenous peoples’. Indigenous peoples will fix their own identity themselves. But if the government imposes their identity, it will never be acceptable’’.
General Secretary of Communist Party of Bangladesh Mr. Mujahidul Islam said that if the Bengali peoples have the rights, then the indigenous peoples also have the same thing. It is not only the Bengali’s state, but also the state of indigenous peoples. We are aware of the meaning of ‘indigenous people’ and ‘small ethnic groups’. We never sought this state to suppress other peoples. He demanded to recognize constitutionally as “indigenous peoples”.
Presidium Member of Gono Forum Pankaj Battachariya said that the Land Commission should be established for plain land indigenous peoples similar to the CHT. The indigenous peoples’ movement is a movement of all; it is a movement for establishing the human rights. Who don’t accept the things, they are considerable as autocratic. Why it is necessary to fix the identity of indigenous peoples by others? If the recognition of indigenous peoples is not met, then Bangladesh will not considerable as a democratic state.
Information and Publicity Secretary of PCJSS Mr. Mangal Kumar Chakma said that a people can not fix the identity of the other people. If it is done, then the human rights will have been violated. There is an opportunity to recognize indigenous peoples after 40 years long. The fundamental human rights, the rights of culture, self rule, participation and representation, the rights on forest, land and natural resources should be recognized besides the recognition of ethnic identity of indigenous peoples.
General Secretary of Bangladesh Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikya Parishad Adv. Rana Dasgupta said that not only the indigenous peoples of CHT, but also the plain land indigenous peoples are living along with the land problem and land grabbing for 60 years. These problems should be diminished and the proper rights should be recognized.
General Secretary of Jatiya Adivasi Forum Mr. Rabindranath Soren said that the indigenous peoples of Bangladesh are being deprived from the privileges of the state. It is not the desire of the indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples seek the constitutional recognition as ‘indigenous people’. The mass movement never fails. The deprived are fighting now. It will never fail. Central Member of Socialist Party of Bangladesh (BASAD) Mr. Shubhrangshu Chokroborty said that my party BASAD demanded for constitutional recognition of indigenous peoples. The indigenous peoples of hill area and plain land took part in liberation war along with Bengali people in 1971. But they were not recognized constitutionally. In present it should be recognized.
Orgnasing Secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Foum Mr. Shaktipada Tripura said that the indigenous peoples have been recognized in several laws of Bangladesh, but they are not recognized in constitution. A vested quarter of the government is scheming regarding the indigenous peoples’ issues. The indigenous peoples will ablaze if their demands are not met. General Secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum Mr. Sanjib Drong, in his welcome speech said that it is a human rights of indigenous peoples to fix their identity of themselves.
According to international human rights law indigenous peoples have the rights to fix their identity. He demanded the constitutional rights as ‘indigenous people’. He expressed hope that, the government will feel the heart beat of 3 million people of more than 46 indigenous peoples.
Besides, among others, Mr. Syed Abul Maksud, eminent columnist and researcher; Ms. Shirin Aktar, coordinator of Kormojibi Nari and central member of National Socialist Party (JASAD), Prof. Mesbah Kamal, general secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Odhikar Andolon; Mr. Goutam Kumar Chakma and Mr. Mangal Kumar Chakma of PCJSS; Ms. Nerola Tongsong, member of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples’ Forum; Ms. Farah Kobir, country director of Action Aid; Mr. M B Aktar, program manager of Oxfam GB; Dr. Shamim Imam, director of Manuser Jonno Foundation; Prof. H K S Arefin, Dhaka University; Ms. Masuda Bhatti, editor of Onno Pokkho; Mr. Samsul Huda, executive director of ALRD; Ms. Rosaline Costa, Hotline Bangladesh; Mr. Shushil Bagdi, representative of indigenous peoples of Bagerhat area also spoke in the gathering.
The speakers of the meeting termed as illogical the government effort to recognize indigenous peoples as ‘small ethnic group’, instead of ‘indigenous peoples’. They said, after a long time there is a great opportunity to recognize indigenous peoples constitutionally through amending the constitution, but the indigenous peoples of Bangladesh are being cheated through government effort to recognize as `small ethnic groups’, instead of `indigenous peoples.
The speakers added that these peoples are being referred as ‘indigenous peoples’ or similar groups in many laws, government circulars and documents. For instances, the term ‘aboriginal’ was used in the East Bengal Land Acquisition and Tenancy Act 1950. The Finance Act of 1995 had special proviso by using the term ‘indigenous hillmen’ and ‘adibasi giribasi’ to exonerate the indigenous peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts from income text. The terms ‘indigenous hillman’, and ‘indigenous tribes’ have been used in the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regulation-1900 (I of 1900). Furthermore, present Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina herself termed the indigenous peoples as ‘adivasi’ (indigenous) in her message in 2000 and 2009, appeared in the Sanghati, a yearly mouthpiece of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum. B! esides, the term `adivasi’ ws also referred in the 23-points demand of grand alliance, the constitution of Awami League and the election manifesto and the declaration and action plan of the National Council of Awami League.
They said, ‘the meaning of the word ‘adivasi’ is being explained in unusual way. Who appeared first of all and where it was, is not the single matter to define the word ‘adivasi’. It is not a matter that others will become non-indigenous or outsiders, if a group is being recognized as adivasi. These indigenous peoples are being suppressed and oppressed for historical grounds since the construction of the modern state systems. In our country, the indigenous peoples mean a group of helpless peoples who are living as an alien in his own mother land and whose lands, hills, forests and habitations have been taken away by force from them. Who had languages and cultures, but now in danger of extinction. It is remarkable that, United Nations did not formulate any definition of indigenous peoples, because they indigenous peoples did not want it.
The main fact is the right of self identification of indigenous peoples. It was the international basic principle that, they will fix their identity themselves. Therefore, the indigenous peoples want to be recognized as `indigenous people’ but not as `small ethnic group’. After the discussion in the mass gathering, a huge procession was brought out by the indigenous participants and mainstream population who came to joint the program. The procession started from the Shaheed Minar and marched Doel Chattar and TSC, and then ended at Shaheed Minar again. Around five thousand demonstrators took part in the public gathering. Several progressive political parties, national and international NGO and human rights organizations, indigenous organizations, students and youth organizations attended the public gathering and the procession with their own banners and festoons.