News No. 61/2012, Saturday, August 11, 2012
RABI SHANKAR CHAKMA, general secretary of the United Peoples’ Democratic Front (UPDF), in a statement today urged the government of Bangladesh to refrain from using the term ‘Adibashi’ (indigenous) as a political football and ratify the UN declaration on the rights of the Indigenous peoples.
He said an artificial and useless debate has been initiated over ‘Adibashi’ with the aim of depriving the ethnic nationalities forever of their due rights and creating confusion about their just struggle.
‘By whatever terms a nation identifies itself – be it tribal, Adibashi, ethnic minority, small nation or nationality, ethnic group or Janajati – they are all indigenous peoples in the eyes of the United Nations. Therefore, in the perspective of the international law it is useless to debate whether there are indigenous peoples in the country or not, or whether the peoples of ethnic nationalities are indigenous or not.’ he added.
The UPDF leader alleged that the non-Bengali ethnic peoples living in the country from time immemorial have been reduced to second class citizen status through the adoption of the fifteenth amendment to the constitution.
He further said: ‘The government, first of all, must acknowledge that there are ethnic peoples other than Bengali and then give them the right to self-determination, the right to land and the right to practice, preserve and promote their own culture.’
In granting these rights it is quite immaterial whether these ‘other peoples’ are indigenous or non-indigenous, he said.
Rabi Shankar Chakma took the government to task and said: ‘Although the Awami League raised a hullabaloo about ‘Adibashi’ before assuming power in 2009, it is now banishing the word from books and documents and installations much the way a magician vanish his eggs in a performance; it is as if by doing this the government will be able to wipe out the existence of the ethnic peoples and then rid itself of the responsibility of giving them their rights.’
Mr Chakma urged the government to do away with all deception, double standard and skullduggery and establish the just rights of the ethnic nationalities on the basis of national equality.
He also called for the government to ratify the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a move he said would greatly enhance the image of Bangladesh in the comity of nations.