Expressing concern about Foreign Minister Dipu Moni’s recent statements about the country’s indigenous people, 15 noted rights activists yesterday said such statements betray the spirit of the Liberation War and insult those who believe in diversity and plurality.
In a statement, they said the spirit of the Liberation War was of democracy, pluralism and secularism. While recognising Bengali national identity, it calls, in its fullest sense, for full constitutional recognition of the diversity of communities including the Adibashis.
“We the undersigned believe that the constitution must reflect the plurality of our citizens. Belated recognition of the Adibashis will further equality and tolerance,” they added.
On July 26, Dipu Moni reportedly said the demand for constitutional recognition for Adibashis was about getting “privileged status” for them at the “expense of national identity, image and territorial integrity of Bangladesh”.
The rights activists in their statement said indigenous people have never claimed any privileged status at the expense of national identity, image and territorial integrity of Bangladesh.
“They have demanded their basic rights and protection under ILO Convention 107, which had been ratified by Bangladesh Government in 1972.”
Describing the foreign minister’s statements as “callous, irresponsible and racist”, they said she is wrong to deny the identity of the Adibashis on historical and legal grounds. Further, by doing so, she contradicts positions she herself has held in the past, they added.
The statement was signed by human rights defender Dr Hameeda Hossain, Kamal Lohani of Arpito Sampatti Ain Protirodh Andolan, Khushi Kabir of Nijera Kori, Tobarak Hossain of Sammilito Samajik Andolan, Shaheen Anam of Manusher Jonno Foundation, Subrata Chowdhury, Supreme Court lawyer, Shamsul Huda of Association for Land Reform and Development, Prof Mesbah Kamal of Bangladesh Adibashi Odhikar Andolan, Sanjeeb Drong of Bangladesh Adibashi Forum, Robindranath Soren of Jatiya Adibashi Parisad, Goutam Dewan of CHT Citizens Committee, Philip Gain of Society for Environment and Human Development, Sara Hossain of Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust, Syeda Rizwana Hasan of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association and Zannat-E-Ferdousi of Research and Development Collective.
-With The Daily Star input