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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ensure rights of indigenous people

Source: The Daily Star News

Santal revolution anniversary June 30

Columnist Syed Abul Moksud speaks at a press conference on the 155th anniversary of Santal revolution at Dhaka Reporters' Unity auditorium in the city yesterday. On his left is Justice Gholam Rabbani and on his right is Prof Mesbah Kamal. Photo: Focus Bangla

Leaders of Bangladesh Adivasi Odhikar Andolan yesterday reiterated their demand for constitutional recognition of indigenous people to ensure their rights.

They also called for steps to protect their right to land and forest by cancelling the eco-park projects in forest areas.

The leaders made the call at a press conference on the 155th anniversary of Santal revolution, which will be observed on June 30.

General secretary of the organisation Prof Mesbah Kamal announced the programmes taken up to mark the day.

He also placed a 17-point demand, including ensuring constitutional rights of the ethnic minorities.

The organisers informed that 'Sidhu-Kanu-Fulmoni' Award 2010 would be given to Kumudini Hajang, a leader Tanka movement, on the occasion. The award was instituted after the name of two brothers Sidhu and Kanu and their sister Fulmoni, who spearheaded the Santal revolution.

Justice Gholam Rabbani and journalist and columnist Syed Abul Moksud were present at the press conference held at Dhaka Reporters' Unity auditorium.

On June 30 in 1855, the Santals led by Sidhu and Kanu, revolted against the British misrule, which is known as Santal Revolt and Santal Hul.

Thousands of people, mostly Santals and farmers, sacrificed their lives during Santal Hul, one of the major revolts against the ruling class in British India. The two-year upsurge spread across the then Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, the speakers said.

Abul Maksud called for an end to discrimination against the ethnic minorities.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tale of Kushtia Harijan Community

Source: The Daily Star News

Struggle on to come into light

Wards of the Harijan people at a classroom of a school in Kushtia as schooling among the children of the backward community sees a steady rise. Photo: STAR

Schooling among children from backward Harijan community in the district sees gradual rise, thanks to initiative by a few non-governmental organisations and growing awareness of the guardians.

Around 250 Harijan children are now studying at different schools and colleges in the district, which was unthinkable only a few years ago. They are also doing good results.

A survey in 2003 conducted by Friends Association for Integrated Regulation (FAIR), a local NGO working with the Harijan community, found that only around 20-25 Harijan children in the district were school goers and most of them dropped out between classes I to VIII.

Enrolment of Harijan children in educational institutions has so far been very thin as the people of Harijan community are traditionally considered 'untouchable', and practically denied equal rights in different sectors including study at schools with other children despite provision for equal rights for all according to the country's constitution.

“The main cause of dropouts among Harijan children is that they are generally not treated equally with other children at the schools,” said Dewan Aktharuzzaman, director of the FAIR.

FAIR took initiative to make at least 3,000 Harijans conscious about education which is their constitutional right. Two national NGO Human Development Foundation and Manusher Jonno Foundation extended financial support to FAIR.

After study on the life and culture of the community, the NGO set up three pre-school centres to prepare their children for education and create awareness among the elders. They also formed 'Advocacy Group' with civil society people. This Advocacy Group visited different schools and colleges in the district and officials of district administration and launched a strong campaign so that the Harijan children are not denied access to schools and colleges.

“We faced much difficulties when we tried to make teachers and others understand that education is constitutional right of all Bangladeshi citizens,” said advocate Badruddoza Gama, a former lawmaker in Kushtia, also a member of Advocacy Group.

"People of my community are more aware now. They understand that education can bring change into their life," said Panna Lal Bashffore, the lone graduate from Harijan community in Kushtia district.

Panna is now studying LLB under the National University.

Now at least 150 children are studying at different primary schools, 40 at high schools, one has passed SSC this year while five students will appear at the HSC next year from different colleges in the district.

FAIR sources said more 100 children are preparing at its six pre-school centres set up at four different Harijan's colonies -- four in Kushtia town and one each in Kumarkhali and Bheramara upazilas.

The Harijan children are doing good result in different classes and FAIR is regularly monitoring the matter, said sources at different educational institutions.

With the help of national NGO Manusher Jonno Foundation FAIR organised a national convention in the district last year where leaders of Harijan community from across the country took part.

"Our aim is to increase awareness among the Harijan community. We hope that at least 40 Harijan children will pass SSC within four to five years and it will help to make a good change in the community,” said FAIR Director Dewan Aktharuzzaman.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Counting the indigenous people in

Source: The Daily Star News

There must be more funds for them in the budget. Photo: Azizur Rahim Peu/ Drik news

THE finance division of the ministry of finance is now working to finalise the national budget for FY 2010-11, which will be placed before the Parliament in June. The finance minister has concluded pre-budget consultations with the chairman and members of the Parliamentary Standing Committees, representatives from Economic Reporters Forum and NGOs, editors of electronic and print media, economists and professionals and secretaries of all ministries and divisions. According to the web-site of the ministry of finance, the finance division has also met all the line ministries and divisions to finalise the budget proposals.

As the time of declaration of the national budget comes nearer, people from all walks of life are expressing their desires and expectations to be reflected in the proposed budget. Expectations from different pressure groups, including women rights activists, marginalised professional groups, farmers, disabled people and others have already been aired. But the issue of proper representation of indigenous people in the national budget is seldom raised.

With a population of approximately 140 million, Bangladesh is a multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-lingual country. Although a majority of the country's population belongs to one ethnic and linguistic group, about 1.2% of the population are indigenous, living in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) and in the plain land regions with their distinct languages, scripts, literature, religions, numerical systems and cultures. At present, there are more than 45 indigenous groups (adibashis) in Bangladesh.

No ethnographic survey has been carried out so far in the history of Bangladesh. However, according to the 1991 population census, the "ethnic population'' of Bangladesh is 1.2 million. Unfortunately, the constitution of Bangladesh has no formal provision and policy regarding the indigenous peoples of the country.

Only the "backward section of the society" has been emphasised, rather than a clear indication of the indigenous community, in Article 28 (4) of our Constitution: "Nothing in this Article shall prevent the state from making special provision in favour of women or children or for the advancement of any backward section of citizens."

Although the ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) affairs was formed soon after the 1997 CHT Accord was signed, there has been no further government initiative to expand the scope of the ministry to include other indigenous groups like the Garo, Khasi, Manipuri, Santal, Munda, Mahato, Oraon, Buno, Mahali, Rajbangshi, Bhumij, Bagdi, Rakhine or others in the plain lands of North Bengal, Tangail-Mymensingh-Sylhet region, Khulna-Jessore-Satkhira region or the coastal areas.

Abul Mal Abdul Muhit, the minister of finance, while delivering the budget speech in June 2009 observed: "We believe in harmony amidst all the religions, castes and racial denominations. This is why we wish to eradicate all sorts of violence, discriminatory behaviour and oppression against the minority community forever. We would ensure political, administrative, legal and social security to attain this goal.

In case any communal violence takes place, we would make provision for stringent punishment by promulgation of draconian laws. We would make special provisions for preservation of traditional or hereditary rights of the indigenous people in the forest areas. We would ensure special opportunities for religious and ethnic minorities as well as indigenous people in employment sector and educational institutions." (Clause 256)

"We would implement the CHT peace accord fully. We would preserve the distinct character of the language, literature, culture and lifestyle of the ethnic minorities, indigenous and other groups of people by recognising their rights and undertake extended measures in development of backward regions of the country, and would implement priority based programs for balanced development." (Clause 257)

The atrocities in Baghaihat, Sajek Union of Rangamati in CHT in February of this year seriously question the peace initiatives and development endeavours for the indigenous people. How can the government and the civil society be expected to work together for a better environment, peace and prosperity if the minimum requirements for stability and ethnic reciprocity are not fulfilled?

This is why the concerned indigenous people and all the development organisations and individual activists working to promote a better understanding on this issue today wish to raise the valid claim that the government should be more reflective in implementation of the peace treaty in the CHT region, create the proper environment for peace and stability in the trouble prone CHT region, allocate more fund for indigenous people in the coming national budget and extend the concerned ministry's area of work for the indigenous people in the plain land regions of Bangladesh.

Audity Falguni is a development activist.

Monday, June 7, 2010

“Murder, Mayhem and Politics in Bangladesh”

Source: Asian Tribune.

Book Review

Rajen Thakur – Reporting from Dhaka for Asian Tribune
Dhaka, 31 May 2010 (
Rabindranath _Tivedi.JPG
Rabindranath Trivedi
The book titled “Murder, Mayhem and Politics in Bangladesh” by Rabindranath Trivedi ,a retired Additional secretary ,Government of Bangladesh, is a socio-politico development between the periods of 1946 and 2008 in East Bengal turned Bangladesh, covering issues during Pakistani era, Minority Politics and Parliamentary Elections , Birth of Bangladesh by fire and Involvement of USA, UN , CHINA, USSR and Indian Government, Army and BSF in Bangladesh Liberation war, Minority Exodus & Politics, Development of Political Environment after August 1975 .

“In 1971, Bangladesh evoked sympathy and support from a great majority of people throughout the world. Whether it was expressed through statements or resolution from the British MPs or by an offer from Andre Malraux to drive tank into the battle on the side of the Bangalee freedom fighters, everyone seems to empathize with the people of Bangladesh. The surrender of the Pakistan army on December 16, 1971 symbolized a transfer of power from the military to the people. Hopes were rekindled of a new economic order which would serve the needs of the rural poor. This hope was encouraged by the absence of powerful elites. Bangladesh was rid of most of the military and of the powerful economic groups which were from West Pakistan .

‘The Awami league Government headed by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib had enjoyed almost unparalleled popular support, confirmed by an early general election held in 1973. It committed itself to a programme aimed at achieving socialism through the democratic process, reflecting the popular expectation of basic economic change which would alter the elite- dominated and elite-centred economic system which had existed till that time. “It was then when the economic front marked an improving trend and bumper harvests were being brought in that a “military coup” took place.

”The Coup of August on 15, 1975 in which president Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, founder of nation-state of Bangladesh, and his family members were assassinated, shows how easy it really was to change a government by such means. The events of the three months following the coup, especially the power struggle in the week of November 3, 1975 and killing of four national leaders Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed, Mansur Ali and A H M Kamaruzzamn in jail, have also shown that it is easier to change a government than to establish and maintain an effective administration. “The assassins of Sheikh Mujib claimed responsibility for these killings; their leader asserted to the press in Bangkok that the murder of the four men had to take place because they were “the only possible civilian challengers to the new military rulers.”

“The Chief Justice, who had been inducted as President after the second coup, declared that the army as a whole was not responsible for the murder of the four ministers, but that this was the act of certain criminal elements. A Judicial Commission of Inquiry had been set up. According to the Report of an Amnesty International Mission led by Sean Macbride in 1977, “ the delegates learned unofficially that the Commission of Inquiry set up to inquire into an incident on the night of November 2/3, 1975, in which four of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s closest associates were killed inside Dacca Central Jail, had not been allowed to convene.” To date, the Commission has not functioned and, according to some reports, it has been dissolved. Indeed, some of those involved in the killing were given diplomatic posts , which they continue to hold.

The killing had all the elements aimed at reversing the expected course of the new country, which won independence from Pakistan after a bloody nine-month-long war in 1971 with the promise of secular democracy in a country where Muslims formed an overwhelming majority. Following great change in Dhaka after August 1975, the state turned authoritarian and for fifteen years (1975-90) military regimes ruled the country, tampered the Constitution, protect the war crime Razakars as well those killers of August and November1975 by allowing them diplomatic posting and party politics.

It is needless to say that Vested Property Act is a law against the spirit of the Constitution of Bangladesh. The Act has violated the fundamental rights of a class of people guaranteed in the Constitution of Bangladesh: Those discriminatory laws and post seventy-five constitutional amendments not only hurt the feelings of the minorities severely, their confidence on Bangladesh state machinery have been dwindled; they have been effectively transformed into second class citizens. As a result the minority community, a very much-advanced component of our population, is unable to contribute to country’s development activities. In Bangladesh, over the 36 years, no government has initiated any committee or commission relating to issues prevailing in the minorities in Bangladesh. The Hindus in Bangladesh participated in the Liberation War of Bangladesh with the expectation that in the newly liberated country they would enjoy equal status and rights along with the majority Muslim community. But in practice, the persecution of the minorities continued even after independence in 1971.

The forms of oppression upon the minorities both physically and psychologically are manifold:

1. Constitutionally, minorities have been downgraded by adopting 5th and 8th amendment to the Constitution, and made them a second class citizens in the People’s Republic;

2. Economically, they have been crippled through discriminatory laws and practices; they have been made non-entity in different civil services including, army and police (below 2%) and non-government services;

3. Politically, they have been segregated and alienated from the mainstream and become a ‘vote-bank’ and a subject of humiliation; They are totally deprived of the privileges of participation in the top positions of government and the state;

4. In the field of education they have been victim of communalism and Culturally and socially, they along with place of warship and women are insecure;

Their ancestral properties including Devuttur properties have been made Enemy turned vested, though High Court declare those laws illegal;

As a policy of the discriminatory policies, combined with land grabbing; looting, arson, rape, murder and attack on religious institutions of the Hindus with the collusion of the certain political parties, if not instigation, of the government agencies, there have been a continuous migration of minorities from Bangladesh, decline of Hindu population in terms of natural growth does not justify that there is no exodus.

Following a mass upsurge that overthrew the military regime of Ershad in 1990 and ushered in democratically elected governments, in 1991, 1996 and 2001, all held under caretaker governments.

The darkness deepened further in the form of the Indemnity Ordinance, which was introduced in September 1975 and then given constitutional legitimacy by Fifth Amendment in April 1979, to protect the killers of Bangabandhu and obstruct justice. Moreover, no government took initiatives to ensure justice to the killing of the country’s founding father and first president until Awami League came to power in 1996 under the leadership of his daughter Sheikh Hasina. The cries and the demands for justice and trial of the killers of 1975 fell into deaf ears.Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, by allowing the case to be heard and tried in a normal court of law, has marked a place in history for herself.Thirty-four years after the Bangladesh Supreme Court (Appellate Division) on November 19, 2009 upheld the death sentence on five of his killers, paving the way for their walk to the gallows after a trial that dragged on for 13 years.

Shame only went up in intensity and dimension when Bangladesh's first military dictator, General Ziaur Rahman, made sure that Parliament, elected under his patronage in February 1979, ratified the ordinance and incorporated it in the Fifth Amendment to the constitution. And the second? It was in the mischief of the killers making their way to Dhaka central jail on November 3 1975, barely three months after Bangabandhu's assassination, and shooting the four leaders of the Mujibnagar government dead.

The Awami League, party of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, now led by his daughter Sheikh Hasina, and its allies has won close to 80 per cent of the seats in December 2008. Leading lights of the BNP and its coalition partner Jamaat-e-Islami, which made every effort to take the country in the direction of an Islamic state, in which the minorities are discriminated against as a matter of state policy, bit the dust”.

All these comments, ideas, and articles have been placed in the Eight Chapter and inspired me to write this book.“The Murder Mayhem and Politics in Bangladesh”. The Ninth Chapter – a post-script is the development of maiden visit of the Bangladesh Prime Minister to India in January 2010 and The Supreme Court verdict: killers to walk to Gallows; and The Constitution to get back on 1972 Track have been incorporated(Press Digest),.

Moreover, I had the occasion to witness the turning point of history while I was posted to Mujibnagar in 1971, Jatiya Sansad in 1975 and lastly at Bangabhaban in August 1975. So, it is not a compilation of articles or thesis prepared by compilation of facts only from published books and guided by an authority on the subject in the university. This is more than that, a synopsized of my reminiscences and articles published in 1971 to the year of 2008 . The responsibility for all the statements, factual or otherwise, entirely rests with the author.

It is said, ‘Behind every book is the man, behind the man is the race, and behind the race is the social and natural environment, whose influence is unconsciously reflected. Therefore, essentially author’s work is a “Minority’s voice’ that was never heard before in Bangladesh.

This book will provide a searching story of the author and a masterly review of the palace clique around the Bangabhaban in August 1975 and its tutored application in the body politic of Bangladesh. It is compulsively readable, immensely informative and an invaluable possession to any reader and institution. (Author)
Rabindranath Trivedi, is a retired Additional Secretary (OSD),GoB, former Press Secretary to the President (1999-2001) and Additional Press Secretary to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh (1997-1998), freedom fighter, author and columnist Cell:+88-01720808810 Tel: +88-02-7119977e-mail:

For Book Contact Publisher : Kakoli Prokashani , 38/4 Banglabazar, Dhaka-1100 Cell : 01917041611

The Murder Mayhem and Politics in Bangladesh”. - By Rabindranath Trivedi ISBN: 984-70133-0406-7 Page-864 Price: Taka 800/- US$ 25/=

Distributors: UK : Sangeeta Limited , 22 Brick Lane, London USA : Muktadhara, 37-69, 2Nd Floor 74st Jackson Height, New York, NY-11372 Canada : Anyamela 300 Danforth Ave (1st Floor Suite,203), Toronto.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Try killers of indigenous people, ensure rights

Source: The Daily Star News

Human chain in Dinajpur places 7-pt demand

Indigenous people form a human chain in front of Dinajpur deputy commissioner's office yesterday demanding constitutional rights to indigenous people and end to repression on them. Photo: STAR

Indigenous people yesterday formed a human chain in the district town to press home their seven-point demand.

The demands include immediate trial of the killers of indigenous people, establishing constitutional rights of the indigenous people and formation of a separate land commission to ensure their land rights.

Jatiya Adivasi Parishad, a platform for the indigenous people of northern region, organised the human chain programme in front of the deputy commissioner's office. They later submitted a memorandum to the prime minister through the deputy commissioner.

Addressing a rally at the venue, the speakers alleged that at least 20 indigenous people were killed in 16 northern districts in the last five years, but the killers are still at large.

Two indigenous people, Sarker Tudu and Shom Hasda of Kushdah village under Nawabganj upazila of Dinajpur, were killed by Bangalee setters over land dispute in 2008. But police are yet to arrest any of the killers, the speakers alleged.

They said Mangal Hasda of Birganj upazila of Dinajpur was murdered last year, but the killers are moving freely under the nose of the law enforcers. The indigenous people are being deprived of their rights in all sectors, as the government does not pay proper attention to their causes, the speakers further alleged.

They demanded immediate formation of a separate land commission to ensure their land rights and also urged the government to establish a separate ministry to deal with their problems.

Urging the government to save the indigenous people from the land grabbers, they said all fake documents made to capture their land should be declared illegal.

They also demanded allocation of khas land to the landless indigenous people and withdrawal of all 'false' cases filed against the indigenous people with different police station in 16 northern districts.

The indigenous people urged the government to introduce mother tongue-based primary education for their children and ensure community's quota in higher education and government service.

They said though the Adivasi people played a significant role during the Liberation War in 1971, they are yet to get their constitutional rights.

Laxmi Kanta Hasda and Shital Maddi, president and general secretary of Jatiya Adivasi Parishad Dinajpur chapter, Gonesh Soren, principal of Dinajpur Sangeet College, Rabindranath Soren general secretary of Jatiya Adivasi Parishad central committee and Chitya Ghosh, president of Dinajpur Press Club addressed the rally.

Later, several hundred indigenous people of 13 upazila of the district took out a procession in the town and paraded different streets.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ensure constitutional, land rights of indigenous people

Source: The Daily star News

Jatiya Adivasi Parishad, a platform for the indigenous people, yesterday formed a human chain on the premises of deputy commissioner's office here to press home their nine-point demand.

The demands included establishing constitutional rights of indigenous people and formation of a separate land commission to protect their land rights.

The participants placed memorandum to prime minister through Deputy Commissioner after the human chain.

A discussion fallowed the programme on the DC office premises.

The speakers at the discussion said that the indigenous people are victims of discrimination in different fields as the government did not pay proper attention to their causes.

They are always lagging behind as they are being deprived of their rights in all sectors, they said.

The speakers demanded immediate formation of a separate land commission to protect their rights on the plain lands.

They also called to establish a separate ministry for indigenous people to deal with their problems.

Indigenous people are becoming landless as criminals and local influential people with the help of a section of officials are grabbing their lands, they pointed out.

Urging the government to save the indigenous people from the land grabbers, they said all fake documents made to occupy their land should be declared illegal.

They also demanded allocation khas land among the landless indigenous people for their survival.

Demanding withdrawal of all false cases against the indigenous people, they said the indigenous community is still lagging behind in the society as they are not getting facilities like others in the field of education and job.

The speakers also demanded mother tongue-based primary education for their children and the community's quota in higher education and government service.

They said adibashi people played a significant role during the liberation war in 1971 but they are yet to be given constitutional rights.

Earlier, several hundred indigenous people brought out a procession that paraded different streets in the town.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bangladesh: 25,000 women, children trafficked a year

Source: The Daily Star News

About 25,000 women and children are being trafficked to other countries from Bangladesh every year, Prof Delwar Hossain of Dhaka University said this at a seminar in the city yesterday.

Quoting the survey of Bangladesh National Women Lawyers' Association (BNWLA), he said in the last five years, 87,000 children were rescued, who were either being trafficked or had been smuggled out of the country.

He was presenting the keynote at the seminar on 'Protect children from trafficking: Save our future' at the Meghna Hall of BIAM Foundation in the city. Bangladesh Shishu Odhikar Forum (BSAF), a network of NGOs working with child rights issues, organised the seminar.

Prof Delwar, also chairman of Department of International Relations, said steps should be taken to stop child trafficking and combined efforts of government and non-government organisations are necessary in this regard.

He also discussed different aspects of debate regarding the concept 'trafficking' and identified the segment of children who get victims of trafficking, the destination of the trafficked children and common means of trafficking in the country.

He emphasised the importance of collective efforts of law enforcement agencies, judiciary, national and international bodies and community people in protecting children from trafficking.

In case of ineffective implementation of law, a monitoring system with the international network and update technologies should be given priority, he added.

Shah Alam, assistant inspector general of police, said there should have a specific definition of human trafficking, which would help punish the traffickers. “Besides, there is an option in the website of Bangladesh Police to put information about trafficking to identify the traffickers and rescue the child victims”, he added.

He said anti-trafficking and immigration laws should be updated to help curb the problem.

Speakers said campaign can provide information about how the community and civil society can play constructive role in combating child trafficking.

Razia Begum, secretary-in-charge of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, attended the programme as the chief guest.

BASF Director Md Kafil Uddin and executive member Enayet Hossain were present at the programme.