Mehadi Hassan Palash:
A directive has been issued two days before of observing “International Day of World Indigenous People”. The directive has been enforced by PID handout on Thursday.
The release says, though at present there is no existence of indigenous people in Bangladesh, according to the fifteenth amendment of the constitution, the word ‘Indigenous’ has often been used, specially on ‘International Indigenous Day’ declared by United Nations . Noting in the release that in the fifteenth amendment to the constitution, ethnic people, living in Bangladesh, are called small ethnic groups, everybody is requested to avoid using ‘indigenous’ in programmes , discussion and talk shows on the occasion of ‘International Day of World’s Indigenous People’. People, including university teachers, specialists, editors and members of civil society who take part in discussions and talk shows are urged to take precautions about refraining from using ‘indigenous’ in case of Bangladesh.
In a secrete report, titled ‘About the Attempt of Recognizing Tribal groups as indigenous’, issued by Chittagong Hill Tract Ministry on 28th January 2010, after the present government comes in power, “it is said, 45 tribal groups live in Bangladesh. The tribal groups are mentioned as tribes in Bangladesh constitution, Chittagong Hill tract District Council Act, Hill Tract regional Act and Chittagong Hill Tract peach Accord 1997. They have been called indigenous anywhere. Yet, several leaders, intelligent, the educated living in the hills and even journalists are trying to call them indigenous, instead of tribe. In this case different NGOs, foreign Medias, Christians behind the UN are making attempt to establish a separate independent state.
Meantime, most of the tribes of Bangladesh have been converted into Christian instead of practicing their own religion and culture. A directive was enforced not to use ‘indigenous’ by foreign ministry. But now no effectiveness of the directive is seen. It is known that it is claimed to term tribes as indigenous and to change ‘Chittagong Hill Tract Ministry’ into ‘Indigenous Ministry’. Investing huge amount of money, international organizations like UNDP, DANIDA, and ADB are conducting several activities to ensure empowerment of tribes and autonomy on different issues.
At the same time, vicious move to recognize tribes as indigenous is continuing. Besides, many intelligents of our country in seminar, symposium and workshop and journalists in their writing band tribes as indigenous. If this continues, in future it will be unavoidable to recognize tribes as indigenous. So it is requested with directives tribes not to be mentioned as indigenous and increasing monitoring on activities of NGOs, to take cautionary measures.” In May 2011, in the twelfth and the thirteenth meeting of the session of Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issue (UNPFII) , the advancement of Chittagong Hill Tract Peace Accord 1997 was discussed. In a report presented in the session Andres Bayer, UN observer, said, because of the lack of government’s good will the peach accord was not implemented. By the presence of the Army in hills human right is being violated, he added.
At the same time Bayer recommended to check the human right record of the country before including army members of that country to the peach keeping mission. Indigenous people, living in Chittagong Hill Tract and other parts of the country, have been demanding for their constitutional recognition. The representatives of different indigenous organizations, attending in the session UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issue (UNPII), called upon the government to implement the demand. Former member Lars Anders Bayer suggested it in the twelfth and the thirteenth meeting of the session Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issue (UNPII) in New York, UN website says.
Presenting a report, on the advancement of Chittagong Hill Tract Peace Accord 1997, he said, “The area is still army dominated. Human right of indigenous population is being violated.” Culprits are getting freed there, they should be brought under trial, he said. Andres Bayer made the report titled ‘Advancement of Chittagong Hill Tract Peace Accord 1997’ in 2010, speaking to cabinet members of Bangladesh, high officials and hill dwellers. He was assigned in the ninth session of the forum to do so. Besides using ‘Indigenous’ 29 times, in the 19-page-report, he urged government to recognize tribes as indigenous. Andres Bayer made the report as a member of Chittagong Hill Tract Commission being a special reporter which is deceptive and motivated. Bayer proposed the Executive Council of UN Peace Keeping Mission, “Before approving the participation of any country’s army member in UN peace keeping Mission, human right history of them must be observed.”
It was recommended in the report, presented in the twelfth session of Permanent Forum, on 18th February 2011, to discuss strategically on the issue of indigenous interest. Government said, there are eleven indigenous groups in south-eastern part of the country. At the first phase, two hundred out of five hundred army camps were withdrawn in 2007. More 34 camps were also retreated in September and October of the same year. But there are still six permanent cantonments. In fact, Anders disagreed on information, given by government. He said, “This information is not as same as other .” He recommended setting a deadline of withdrawn of all ephemeral camps. Bayer said, “This issue was discussed many times in the forum. But oppression on indigenous is on the rise.” In that meeting of UNPFII Chakma king Debashis Roy led an indigenous team. He is a specialist member of UN for 2011-13.
A Bangladeshi delegation led by Dipankar Talukder, state Minister to Chittagong Hill Tract Affairs, was supposed to attend the 12-day-long meeting, started on 16th May 2011. But it was postponed at the eleventh hour. Calling upon the government to implement peace accord, King Debashish Roy said, “ To maintain stability in the country and to develop democracy withdrawn is urgent.” Rokko Sambilingi, representative of Asian Indigenous peoples Caucus, demanded to withdraw troops immediately. He expressed surprise at –one third of Bangladeshi troops are in CHT area- and said, “…But there is no any war or terrorist activities” Mongol Kumar Chakma of CHTJSS said, The accord was developed to solve problem peacefully and politically. But from 1996-2001, very little of the peace accord was enforced. Stin Hensen from Denmark said, we are committed to protect indigenous right. This issue is prioritized in his country’s foreign policy. He said, “ If treaty implementation is failed, instability can spread in the hill.” Nyako Volkeyapar, Sammy Council representative, expressed concern over violence in CHT. Selest Makao, North-American indigenous peoples Caucus representative, demanded the full implementation of CHT peace treaty.
While this session was going on, Victoria Tawly Koperj, former chairman of UN permanent forum of indigenous affairs was describing the experiences of visiting few CHT villages in 2003. He complained, “The houses of pahari(hilly people) were set on fire at the presence of troops.” Koperj said, “Army must stop violating human right. It is immediate to bring all of violence under trial completing investigation.” Kriti Ronjon Chakma, retired army officer, said, the army was given authority to control CHT. Government is virtually powerless to take any decision about the area.” Due to troops human right is breached in CHT area. Army is helping Bangalees to establish settlement occupying the land of indigenous people.” Matiash Ahare, president of Sammy Council, said, “I paid a visit in CHT area few years ago. The landscape of the land is very nice. But the presence of army hurt me.”
International Jummo Organization , human right organization of the USA living indigenous and Friends of CHT arranged the agitation meeting. Actually Ikbal Ahmed, first secretary to UN, denied the allegation and refused the report presented by Bayer. Noting there is no indigenous in Bangladesh he said, for this reason there is no scope to discuss peace treaty in the forum. In July of the same year the then foreign minister Dr. Dipu Mony informed the world, through the chiefs of foreign mission in Dhaka, the small ethnics of Bangladesh are not indigenous. The Bengali ethnics have been living for more than four thousand years. There is no evidence that small ethnic groups which are claiming themselves as indigenous lived in this land before 16th century. To clarify the stance of Bangladesh on ethnic community, to cheives of missionaries in Dhaka, foreign minister Dr. Dipu Muni said, “The word ‘indigenous’ was used in CHT Peace Accord 1997. Then misinterpreting the word and challenging the security and unity of the country, some interest-seeking people are trying to get favor internationally and in UN forum.” Realizing firm stance of government, foreign diplomats and delegates of Donner agencies commented referring to discuss more over the issue. Hearing this Dpo Moni said, “In this case the stance of Bangladesh is very firm and clear. So there is no scope to discuss the issue in future.”
N.B. Bangladesh government never recognized tribes as ‘indigenous’ formally. Yet, some ministers and MPs are delivering their speech terming tribes as indigenous. Present government, from very begining, has also not recognized officially them as indigenous. For this reason, despite of strong demand, ‘Ethnic Community’ was used as synonym of ‘Tribe’, insteda of ‘Indigenous’, in ‘Human Rights Commission’ and ‘Ethnic Community Cultural Organization Act. Through the fifteenth amendment to Bangladesh constitution, tribes are recognized as small ethnic communitis. N.B. At first, from the subsection of UN of foreign ministry , in 2005 it was informed, through a gazette notification,that there is no indigenous people in Bangladesh. At the same time , it was prohibitated to use ‘Indigenous’. Yet, few leaders are very active to extract facilities including financial assistance, introducing themselves as indigenous people in international forum’ even in UN. Bangladesh security department became alert when a conspiracy, large scale converting and establishing Christian ‘Buffer State’ like Israel or East-Timor by 2020, in CHT, India and Myanmar adjacent to CHT, with the help of different associate organizations of UN, was licked out.
Many countries along with Bangladesh did not sign UN Charter for Indigenous Affairs because there was a condition that UN could interfere in member countries directly to maintain the interest of indigenous people. As a result, in the seventh session, from 21April to 5May, of UN permanent forum for indigenous people, Bangladesh clearly said,‘the country has some tribal population and there are no indigenous people.’ As there was indigenous issue in the index of the 63rd UN General Assembly, Bangladesh foreign ministry sent a letter to home, social welfare and CHT affair ministry asking the stance of Bangladesh. In reply, CHT affairs ministry, on 9September 2008, informed foreign ministry [(Memorandum No: pcbm(sm-1)37/97-117 date: 9/9/2008):’The country has some tribal population and there are no indigenous people.’