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Monday, August 1, 2011

Foreign Minister’s remark demanded to withdraw by indigenous leaders, academics, rights activists

Source: Kapaeeng Foundation

On 29 July 2011 Indigenous peoples and academics and rights groups took to the streets in Dhaka denouncing the statements of the Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, about indigenous peoples and demanded to withdraw the ‘objectionable remarks which were discriminatory and disrespectful to indigenous peoples’

The demand was made in human chain programme organised by Bangladesh Adivasi Chatra Sangram Parishad (Bangladesh Indigenous Students Action Council) in front of the National Museum at Shahbag in Dhaka carrying placards reading slogans against the Foreign Minister and the 15th amendment to the constitution which did not address their longstanding demand for their constitutional recognition as ‘indigenous peoples’.

Speakers said such biased speech could only instigate the peoples of CHT to form a stern movement rather than finding a peaceful solution. The notion of microscopic population of the national minorities’ in Dipu Moni’s speech is totally ‘undemocratic’ and ‘disrespectful’. A democratic country should ensure minorities’ rights even they are microscopic population compared mainstream population.

The speakers also strongly criticised Dipu Moni’s defining of ‘indigenous peoples’ term based on dictionaries and said such flawed definition as a foreign minister, was ‘regrettable’ and ‘shameful’. They said, she proved her ignorance in front of foreign diplomats around the world. They questioned Foreign Minister saying that if the CHT has no indigenous population then how Raja Devasish Roy became a member of United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues?

Politician Haider Akbar Khan Rono said he as a Bangladeshi and a Bengali, protests against such statements. “As a Bangladeshi working for this country, I protest on behalf of all my Adivasi sisters and brothers, other friends and colleagues, who are working for the indigenous people towards the development of our Motherland.

Sanjeeb Drong, general secretary of Bangladesh Adivashi Forum claimed that Dipu Moni had expressed her solidarity regarding the ‘indigenous’ term in 2008. Election manifesto of the ruling party and the prime minister’s speech in 2009 also contains the term indigenous.

Dhaka University Professor Robayet Ferdous criticised Foreign Minister as she said giving an special and elevated identity to enfranchise only 1.2 % of the total population of 150 million by disentitling the 98.8% cannot be in the national interest of Bangladesh. Robayet Ferdous said that such a notion was ‘undemocratic’ and ‘disrespectful towards other communities.’ He opined that a democratic country should ensure the rights of the minorities even if they account for less than 1 per cent of the population and should not practise ‘majority-ism’.

Besides, Dr. H K S Arefin, Professor of Dhaka University, Mojammel Huque Tara, Central member of Workers party of Bangladesh, Dipayon Khisa of Kapaeeng Foundation, Golum Murtaza, editor of Saptahik , Mahmudul Haque Suman teacher of Jahangirnagar University, Obaidul Haque, Associate professor of Dhaka University, Tandra Chakma, human Rights activists, Jewel Chakma, Member CHT Hill Students Council, Dany Drong, President of Garo Student Union, Ananta Bikash Dhamai, Information secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Chattra Songram Parishad among others also expressed their solidarity, at the human chain.

It is mentionable that on 26 July 2011, Foreign Minister told diplomats and journalists in two separate briefings that the minority people living in the CHT were ‘tribal and not indigenous.’ She also said that CHT peoples were 'asylum-seekers' and Bangalis are the true indigenous peoples of Bangladesh.

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