News No. 18/2012, April 16, 2012
REAFFIRMING its official position on indigenous peoples, the government of Bangladesh has directed all the Deputy Commissioners and Upazila Nirbahi Officers of the country not to sponsor any program marking the World Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
In an official circular issued on 11 March 2012, the Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives ministry, referring to an 11 August 2011 letter of the Home Ministry and citing a part of an intelligence report, also ordered the Deputy Commissioners to take appropriate measures to implement the report’s recommendations regarding International Indigenous Peoples’ Day programs.
The circular being memo No. 46.045.022.10.04.004.2011-546 was signed by Md. Sarwar Bari, Deputy Secretary, with his phone number 7173058 written at the bottom of his signature.
A scanned copy of the circular obtained by chtnews.com shows that it was received by Rangamati Deputy Commissioner on 19 March 2012; and he marked it as “confidential”.
The home ministry’s letter, issued on 11-8-2011 and which has also been obtained by chtnews.com, was signed by Dr. Shahida Akter, Deputy Secretary. Her phone number is stated to be 7166895.
Marked as confidential, the letter has a reference number upon it, which is ... 4-6/2011 – 881.
The confidential circular has also attached to it a page titled “Apropos marking indigenous peoples’ day”, which is apparently a part of the intelligence agency’s report.
In the said page it has been stated that “the United Nations General Assembly on 23 December 1994 adopted a resolution declaring 9 August as International Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Recently, the day is also being observed in Bangladesh, and various programmes including festivals, music concerts, seminars and rallies are organized to mark the day.
“In April 2010, the national parliament passed ‘Ethnographic Peoples’ Cultural Institute Bill 2009’ in the interest of the tribal people who have been referred to as Ethnographic Peoples in the bill. Recently, they have been termed as “small ethnic groups” in the constitution. It is to be noted that on 26 July 2011, the honourable Foreign Minister, Dr. Dipu Moni, provided a briefing to the representatives of the development partners of the three hill districts, diplomats, high commissioners and ambassadors of different countries working in Bangladesh on the matter. In the said briefing, she stated that the tribal people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts are not indigenous peoples.
“It has been learnt that keeping 9 August in view, the tribal leaders have taken up different programmes this year, as they did in the past. On the occasion of the day, the newspapers may publish special supplement. It has been learnt from sources that different programmes like indigenous fairs, music concerts, seminars and rallies may be organized at different parts of the country including Shaheed Minar and Cox’s Bazar on that day on behalf of the indigenous peoples.”
In “Remarks” the page made four suggestions: 1. Necessary directives may be issued to all concerned to make sure that no important government official makes any statement on indigenous people’s day, contradicting government policies adopted on different occasions.
2. Care may be taken to ensure that the government does not sponsor any indigenous day programmes.
3. Measures may be taken to propagate in electronic as well as print media, citing various facts and figures, that there are no indigenous peoples in Bangladesh.
4. As August is the month of mourning as recognized nationally, it is desirable that all unnecessary festivities in the name of indigenous peoples’ day should be avoided.