World Indigenous Day: Celebration amid commotion

August 10, 2011

Leaders of the indigenous communities yesterday termed the government a “promise breaker” and vowed to continue movement until their demand of constitutional recognition as “indigenous” is met.
Expressing solidarity with them, rights defender Prof Mizanur Rahman hinted the decision of recognising indigenous people as “tribal” or “ethnic minorities” was wrong. He added the National Human Rights Commission would act as the barrier to implementing any wrong decision.
No effective measures have been taken to implement the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord, said indigenous leader Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, who signed the accord with the previous Awami League government in 1997.
Larma, president of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum, was addressing a rally styled “Indigenous designs: Celebrating stories and culture, crafting our own future” at the Central Shaheed Minar in the city marking the International Day for Indigenous People.
Addressing the rally, NHRC Chairman Prof Mizanur Rahman said it is the government’s duty to protect the rights of the indigenous people and recognise them constitutionally.
On the debate over “Tribal” or “Indigenous”, he said, according to the ILO convention 169, there is no major difference between them in terms of providing facilities.
In the NHRC’s annual report that was submitted to the president, the commission recommended recognising them as indigenous, Prof Rahman informed.
Chakma Circle chief Raja Devashish Roy criticised the government for not discussing with representatives of indigenous people before amending the constitution.
CHT commission co-chair Sultana Kamal said some ill-motivated sections are occupying the land in hill tracts illegally. If the government recognises the people as “indigenous”, a self land management system will have to be introduced, putting these sections in trouble.
“The sections include army personnel and business tycoons, who have invested money there. We should find out that whether the sections are influencing the government or not,” she added.
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal President Hasanul Haq Inu demanded formulation of indigenous rights act to protect the rights of the indigenous people and establish a national indigenous commission to uphold their values, cultures, norms, customs and traditions.
Manusher Jonno Foundation Executive Director Shaheen Anam urged the government to ensure security of the indigenous women, as they become doubly victims of all violence.
Gono Forum leader Pankaj Bhattacharjee, Prof Mesbah Kamal of history, Dhaka University, Bangladesh Hindu-Buddha-Christian Oikya Parishad general secretary Rana Dasgupta, among others, also spoke.
Several hundred indigenous people attended the rally, which was followed by a cultural function.

 

Courtesy of The Daily Star

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