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Friday, August 10, 2012

‘Debate over ‘indigenous, ethnic minorities’ should go’

The New Nation, Dhaka
August 10, 2012 | 07:54 PM (BD Time)
UNB, Dhaka

Speakers at a seminar here on Thursday called for a solution to the ongoing debate over 'indigenous' and 'ethnic minorities' through discussions to ensure the rights, ethnicity and cultural diversity of indigenous people.

They said there are a number of contradictions between the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted by the General Assembly in 2007 and the Constitution. If the government recognises the ethic minorities as indigenous people, it will be harmful to the country, they warned.

Bhorer Kagoj, a vernacular daily, organised the seminar, titled 'Tribal or Ethic Minorities and Indigenous Thinking: Bangladesh Perspective' at its office in the city. Chaired by Bhorer Kagoj editor Shyamol Dutta, the seminar was addressed, among others, by Major Gen (retd) Abdur Rashed, Nagarik Oikya convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna, chairman of Kalyan Party Syed Mohammad Ibrahim Bir Pratik, cultural personality Pijush Bandyopadhyay, advocate Montasir Mamun and Prof Mamtazuddin Patwari.

 Abdur Rashed said if Bangladesh ratifies the UN Convention 2007 and recognises the ethic minorities as indigenous people it will be bound to ensure their rights as per the UN convention.

"And if the state cannot ensure the rights of indigenous people, they will seek help from the international community. Then a UN mission will be here triggering a new crisis," he said. Rashed said the government has to consider how much the country will be internationally affected after the reorganisation of them as indigenous people. Syed Ibrahim said most of the global aboriginal people live in three counties - the United States, Australia and New Zealand-but they have not yet signed the UN Convention and recognised them as indigenous people.

"If the government officially declares them indigenous people, it will bring a danger for the state," he said. Stressing the importance of taking initiatives to protect their unique culture, language and ethnicity, Prof Mamtazuddin said the word 'indigenous' has created a divide and distance among the ethnic minorities.

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