Chittagong Hill Tracts: Continue to Struggle for Recognition as Indigenous Peoples
PCJSS has protested as demands for recognition as indigenous peoples are not met.
4Below is an article published by Indigenous Peoples Issues
PCJSS protested against terming indigenous peoples as ‘Bengali’ and non-recognition of indigenous peoples and Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Accord of 1997 in the Constitution. PCJSS rejected the Fifteen Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2011 and asked the government for its revision.
PCJSS leaders expressed their agitation in a large public meeting held on 8 July 2011 in Rangamati district headquarters in the CHT reiterating their demands for full implementation of the CHT Accord.
Presided over by Gunendu Bikash Chakma, president of PCJSS Rangamati district committee, PCJSS president Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma was present as chief guest at the gathering. The protest gathering was addressed, among others, by president of CHT chapter of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum Prakriti Ranjan Chakma, vice-president of PCJSS Ushatan Talukder, convenor of M N Larma Memorial Foundation Bijoy Keton Chakma, former president of Pahari Chhatra Parishad (PCP) and central staff member of PCJSS Udayan Tripura and president of PCP Nitol Chakma. Youth affairs secretary of PCJSS Rangamati district committee Palash Tanchangya delivered welcome speech while general secretary of PCJSS Rangamati district committee Nilotpal Chakma conducted the meeting.
In his speech as chief guest, Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma said that despite popular demands for constitutional recognition of indigenous peoples, 15th Constitution Amendment denied to provide constitution recognition of fundamental rights of indigenous peoples. He strongly criticised government for not taking any consideration of PCJSS demands for constitutional recognition of indigenous peoples at all.
Mr. Larma also said that the Jumma people in the CHT are still being denied their rights. Despite the signing of an Accord with the Jumma people, military rule was continuing in the name of Operation Uttaran, Bengalis were continuing to settle in the CHT illegally, land-grabbing was continuing unabated and the Land Commission was intentionally being kept dysfunctional.
Mr. Larma reminded Sheikh Hasina of her father’s command to the Jumma people to become Bengalis and its historical consequences. He said that the real faces of the three lawmakers elected from CHT region— Jatindralal Tripura, Dipankar Talukdar and Bir Bahadur— have been exposed during the passage of the ‘controversial’ bill as they played passive role during the adoption of the bill. Mr. Larma called on the Jumma people, who were involved with Awami League or BNP or Jatiya Party, to quit those parties and join the movement of the Jumma people. ‘Leave those who do not recognise your existence, those who want to make you Bengalis,’ he said.
Terming UPDF a terrorist organisation, Mr. Larma accused that the anti-accord organisation was carrying out extortion in the region. They killed over a hundred indigenous people since 1997, when the deal was signed between the government and PCJSS.
Mr. Larma called on all the Jumma people to get united and wage a movement against those who do not recognize the existence of ‘indigenous peoples’, who intend to rob them of their racial identity by making them Bengalis and turn them into second-class citizens by retaining the provision of state religion.
Larma added that a deep conspiracy against the Jumma people has continued since 1972 to evict the indigenous people from ancestral lands and not to give them constitutional recognition but Jumma people through a united movement will resist such conspiracy.
Urging the government to take immediate steps for proper implementation of CHT Accord, Larma said, "We do not want to see any delay. Implement the Accord fully without any delay. Otherwise tougher agitation will be launched against the government."
Speakers of the protest meeting declared the three local MPs 'unwanted' in the region as they were not pro-active in pushing for the demand for recognition of the local inhabitants as indigenous or Adivasi. They said, "The three MPs despite being indigenous did not protest when the constitution was being amended in parliament, whereas being a Bengali, Rashed Khan Menon, Hasanul Haq Inu and other MPs spoke against the government move."
A large procession was brought out after the rally that paraded through the major streets in the town.
It is mentionable that as per verdict of Supreme Court, Awami League-led present grand alliance government amended constitution of Bangladesh. For this purpose, Jatiya Sangsad (National Parliament) passed Fifteen Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2011 on 30 June 2011.
The government did not provide constitutional recognition of indigenous peoples as indigenous peoples (Adibasi); rather, termed tribals, small nationalities, ethnic group and communities. These terminologies are not accepted by the indigenous peoples.
Fifteen Amendment provides that the People of Bangladesh shall be known as Bengali as a nation and the citizens of Bangladesh shall be known as Bangladeshis. Indigenous peoples of Bangladesh do not want to be known as Bengali. Indigenous peoples rejected it saying that they are Bangladeshi as citizens, but they are not “Bengali” as nation/community. They (indigenous peoples) all are a separate nation possessing separate identity, culture, customs, language and society.
Indigenous peoples also protested against retaining of “BISMILLAH-AR-RAHMAN-AR-RAHIM” (In the name of Allah) in the preamble of the constitution and ISLAM as state religion. They argued that Islam alone cannot be the state religion as there are people who practice and follow other religions such as Hindu, Christian, Bouddha and Indigenous Practices. They said that it would turn people of other religions to second-class citizens.