Dhaka, 8 June 2010,
Ethnic minorities want to be
identified as ‘indigenous’
Leaders of the ethnic minority people, human rights activists and academicians on Monday demanded changes in the proposed Ethnic Minorities’ Cultural Institution Bill 2010 including the replacement of the term ‘ethnic minority’ by ‘indigenous’ in defining the ethnic minorities across the country.
At a discussion meeting on ‘The Identity of the Indigenous People of Bangladesh: Legal and Human Rights Perspectives’, the speakers stressed that constitutional provisions did not bar the use of the term ‘indigenous’ or ‘adibashi’ to refer to the ethnic minorities.
The programme was organized by Kapeng Foundation at the National Press Club.
Chakma circle chief Raja Debashish Roy in his keynote paper said the government should recognize the ethnic communities as the ‘backward section of citizens’ of the state, deliver affirmative actions to them and ensure their identity as per their liking as the sub-sections 1 and 4 of section 28 of the constitution allows.
The speakers also pointed out that the bill only mentioned 27 ethnic groups, whereas there have been at least 50 ethnic groups living across the country.
Presided over by former Justice Golam Rabbani and moderated by Bangladesh Adibashi Forum general secretary Sanjeeb Drong, the discussion was participated by Fazle Hossain Badsha MP, and Prof AHKS Arefin of Dhaka University.
AHKS Arefin noted that using the term ‘ethnic minority’ to refer to the ethnic people, who had been oppressed and marginalized by the ruling class during the rise of nation-states, has a racial implication in it.
Justice Golam Rabbani demanded that the ruling Awami League should fulfil its pledges to the ethnic minorities by amending the bill as well as by ensuring them equal human rights as they pledged in their election manifesto.