Chittagong Hill Tracts: Demands for Rights and Justice Presented on the International Day of World's Indigenous Peoples
On 9 August 2015, indigenous communities in Bangladesh observed the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. During the opening session of a two-day programme at Bangla Academy, the Chairman of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council demanded justice and respect from the Bangladesh Government towards more than three million indigenous people of 54 different indigenous communities in the country. Within the framework of the nine-point demand raised during the events, local rights activists highlighted the full implementation of the CHT Peace Accord and the enactment of an indigenous rights act.
Below is an article published by The Daily Star
The indigenous communities across the country yesterday observed the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, demanding equal rights and dignity everywhere.
Lamenting that they still do not have constitutional recognition, they called upon indigenous youths and students to be vocal in realizing their demands.
Academics, rights activists and civil society members also expressed solidarity with the indigenous people, who marched in rallies, performed their traditional dances and staged a play at the Central Shaheed Minar and Bangla Academy in the capital.
“Throughout my life, I have seen so much of deprivation, discrimination and the rulers' communal attitude that brought unbearable pain in my life,” said Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma alias Santu Larma, president of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples' Forum.
Addressing the inaugural session of a two-day programme at Bangla Academy,
Larma, also chairman of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council, said extreme nationalism of the ruling elites proves that they have not been democratic and respectful to around three million indigenous people of 54 indigenous communities in Bangladesh.
Worldwide, the day was observed with the theme “Post 2015 Agenda: Ensuring indigenous peoples health and wellbeing”.
Prof Mizanur Rahman, chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, said there were efforts from various quarters to hamper celebration of the day in the country.
Referring to deprivation of land rights and violence on the indigenous people in the hill districts, he regretted that abductors of Kalpana Chakma, a hill women's leader who was kidnapped 19 years ago, have not been brought to justice yet.
Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon said there is a negative attitude towards the indigenous people in the highest level of the society, which is reflected in other levels.
The mindset of the political leadership needs a change to turn Bangladesh into a truly multi-ethnic country, Menon said at a programme organised by Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF).
Shamim Imam, director of MJF, Adivasi leader Rabindranath Saren, among others, also spoke.
Earlier in the morning, BIPF organised a rally at the Central Shaheed Minar where it raised a nine-point demand.
The demands include constitutional recognition, full implementation of the CHT Peace Accord and declaring a road map for it, forming a land commission for the plain land indigenous people, enacting an indigenous rights act, stopping land grabbing of the Khasias in Jhimai Punji of Moulvibazar and official observing of August 9 as indigenous peoples' day.
Dhaka University Vice-Chancellor Prof AAMS Arefin Siddique, Prof Sadeka Halim, Mujahidul Islam Selim, among others, addressed the programme.
Rights activist advocate Sultana Kamal in a programme in Cox's Bazar said indigenous people in the district are facing abuses from the political leaders and called upon people to be sensitive towards the indigenous communities.
Photo courtesy of Anisur Rahman