Chittagong Hill Tracts: Bangladesh Observes 150th Anniversary of Santal Rebellion
Ethnic minority leaders and civil society members in Bangladesh have issued an appeal for reducing levels of discrimination against indigenous people and ensure their constitutional recognition in the country.
The call came on Friday at a discussion marking the 150th anniversary of the Santal rebellion that Sidhu and Kanu had launched in 1855 in Jharkhand, India.
They struggled against the ruling feudal lords' attempt to grab and exploit Adivasi and other lands.
The speakers also demanded the rights of education of the ethnic minorities, known as Adivasis, in their respective mother tongues, rights to lands and full implementation of the landmark accord signed for peace in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the largest domicile for indigenous people in the country.
Organised by the National Committee for the Observance of the 150th Anniversary of the Santal Rebellion, the discussion also asked for reviewing the existing laws as per the protocols and covenants of the United Nations and other international organisations, conducting separate census to ensure actual population of the Adivasis, and ensuring their representation in all policymaking bodies.
The committee's programme included procession, seminar and cultural function at the Dhaka University campus. It was attended by Professor Sardar Fazlul Karim, president of the Bangladesh Adivasi Parishad Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma known as Santu Larma, professor of History Ahmad Kamal among others.
Three papers'indigenous community in anti-colonial rule' by Helaluddin Khan Shamsul Arefin, 'contribution of adivasi people in the war of independence of Bangladesh' by Mesbah Kamal and Jannat-e-Ferdousi, and 'adivasi in Bangali psyche by Hayat Mamud were presented at the discussion.
The speakers observed that the Adivasis are still being deprived of their legitimate rights after 150 years of the launching of the movement.
"The lifestyle of indigenous people has crossed the marginal level and they are just struggling for existence," said Santu Larma, the chairman of the CHT regional council and president of Bangladesh Adivasi Parishad.
"There is no way but to struggle and the indigenous communities are now in need of leadership for the struggle," said the former guerrilla leader of the CHT bush war. He added, "There is no difference between the activities of the Pakistani army and the Bangladeshi army in the hill districts," he said.
On 30 June 1855, the members of Santal and other indigenous communities revolted against the oppression of the feudal lords and the colonial rulers led by Sidhu and Kanu that continued till 1857.
The upsurge of the people is one of the major revolts against the ruling class in British India by the subaltern class spreading across the then Bengal , Bihar and Orissa.
At least 20,000 people, mostly Santals and farmers, had to sacrifice their lives during the two-year upsurge.