Bangladesh: Celebrating Indigenous Day Amidst Government’s Restriction
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Bangladesh: Celebrating Indigenous Day Amidst Government’s Restriction

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John Ahni Schertow
August 9, 2012
 

Indigenous peoples of Bangladesh are attempting to celebrate International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, August 9, 2012, despite the government’s imposed restriction of the event.

On March 11, 2012, the Bangladesh government distributed a letter condemning the annual celebration and reaffirming its position that there are no Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh.

The letter reads,

Regarding celebration of World Indigenous Day

On 23 December 1994, a decision to observe ninth August as the “World Indigenous Day” every year was taken in a meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN). Very recently, it has been observed that the practice of celebrating the World Indigenous Day has started in Bangladesh. Fairs, musical programmes, seminars, rallies and other activities are carried out to mark the World Indigenous Day.

Earlier in April 2010, the “Small ethnic group cultural institute” bill was passed in the national parliament terming different tribal groups as ethnic groups in order to preserve their interest. Recently, these groups were also stated as small ethnic groups in the constitution. It can be noted that, on 26 July 2011 the Honourable Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni briefed the development partners of the three CHT districts, diplomats, high commissioners of different countries in Dhaka and ambassadors regarding this issue. During that briefing, she informed everyone that the tribal people are not indigenous.

It has been informed that the tribal leaders, like previous year, have taken preparations to celebrate 9th August this year. Special supplements in various newspapers might be published marking this day. Sources informed that indigenous people might be organizing fairs, musical programmes, seminars, rallies and other activities at Shahid Minar, different places in the country including Cox’s Bazar,including electronic media.

Comments/recommendations:

a) Necessary instructions may be sent to the concerned persons so that (on Indigenous day) government high officials do not give speech/comments that are conflicting/contradictory to the policies of the government undertaken at different times.

b) It might be monitored so that no government patronization/support is provided during the World Indigenous Day.

c) Steps might be taken to publicize/broadcast (by providing related information) in the print and electronic media that there are no Indigenous people in Bangladesh.

d) The month of August is recognized nationally as the month of Mourning. Hence,such unnecessary amusement programmes in the name of Indigenous Day in this month should be avoided.

These are not merely idle words. According to CHT News Update, a propaganda campaign is now underway in Bangladesh.

The news group reported yesterday that a new non-governmental organization has suddenly appeared, calling itself the “Coalition of Local NGO’s Bangladesh” (CLNB). This NGO “Has been posting posters all over Bangladesh, with pictures of indigenous peoples; poster reads: “The indigenous issue is a conspiracy: we want to live as ethnic-minority people.”

“It has been also learnt that the military secretly called different media personals and journalists and asked them to use media tools to propagate anti-indigenous activities. This was also clearly directed in the letter issued by Bangladesh’s Ministry of Home Affairs on 11th of March,” CHT News Update continues.

Today, August 9, CHT News Update reports that police have carried out baton charges against indigenous peoples in Joypurhat district, “When indigenous peoples were carrying out a rally observing the “World Indigenous Peoples’ Day”. The polices foiled out the rally and injured several indigenous peoples.”

“Also in the morning, polices barred indigenous peoples in Mahalchari, Matiranga and Panchari upozilas (sub-districts) from attending the celebration programme in Khagrachari. In protest to that, a political organization of the indigenous peoples, PCJSS (MN Larma), has been observing road blockade in Mahalchari sub-district of Khagrachari.”

For continued updates on the situation, please keep an eye on http://chtnewsupdate.blogspot.com.au/

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