Ethnic minorities want constitutional recognition as ‘indigenous’

People from national minority communities on Sunday celebrated the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples across the country demanding their constitutional recognition as ‘indigenous’ and recognition of their traditional land rights in the constitution. Different socio-cultural and political organisations and groups organised discussions, rallies and processions on this year’s theme ‘post 2015 agenda: ensuring indigenous peoples’ health and well-being.’
In the capital, the celebrations, including discussions and cultural performance by artistes from the ethnic minority communities, were inaugurated through alighting balloons at the Central Shaheed Minar premises in the morning.
Rashed Khan Menon, addressing the discussion as chief guest, said the government must give constitutional recognition to the people of ethnic minority communities as ‘indigenous’, otherwise the problems regarding their identity cannot be solved.
He said the government established CHT land dispute resolution commission 17 years ago but it was yet to become functional.
National Human Rights Commission chairman Mizanur Rahman said ensuring equal rights of all citizens, dreamt by the country’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, cannot be realised unless the people of ethnic minorities are given constitutional recognition as indigenous.
Rights activist Khusi Kabir said successive governments did not take initiatives to establish land ownership rights of ethnic minority people so that their own people could grab the land.
Chittagong Hill Tracts regional council chairman Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma alias Santu Larma accused the government of killing time and taking no positive initiative in implementing the treaty.
He said the government virtually established military rule in the three hill districts of Rangamati, Khagrachhari and Bandarban instead of ensuring the basic rights of the ‘indigenous’ people.
Santu Larma, who signed the 1997 Chittagong Hill Tracts Treaty with the government ending decades of insurgency, called on the people of ethnic minorities of the CHT, as well as other parts of the country, to choose the path of tougher movement and struggle to realise their basic rights.
Dhaka University vice-chancellor AAMS Arefin Siddique, Communist Party of Bangladesh president Mujahidul Islam Selim, United Nations resident coordinator in Bangladesh Robert Watkins, European Union head of delegation to Bangladesh, Pierre Mayaudon, columnist Syed Abul Maksud, NAP Oikyo convener Pankaj Bhattacharya, human rights lawyer Sara Hossain and actor Mamunur Rashid addressed, among others, the discussion.
The discussion was followed by traditional dance performance by the artistes from different ethnic communities.
Later, a colourful procession was brought out from the premises of central Shaheed Minar that ended at the same venue after parading different roads on Dhaka University campus.
The ethnic minority people also celebrated the day with different programmes in different districts including at Tangail, Rangamati, Khagrachhari, Bandarban, Moulvibazar and Sylhet.

-With New Age input

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