“A comparative study on the plight of indigenous people and the provisions of Constitution”. Analyze.
“It takes at least two something’s to create a difference… clearly each alone is – for the mind and perceptior – a non entity, a non-being. Not different from being, and not different from non-being. An unknowable, a Ding an sich, a sound from one hand clapping.” Gregory Bateson (1979:78). In recent decade’s indigenous people has become a popular approach for social research. Now a day’s the status of indigenous people is a burning issue. To understand this issue & current status of the indigenous people at first we have to know the proper meaning of indigenous people.
The term indigenous is an adjective which means ‘from’ or ‘of the original origin’. Indigenous people or community are those who have a historical background on that region, have different cultures, living style, own language & overall have their own historical identity. They are the people who come at that land where they live before the current dominant people came there. Some people recognize them as the ‘original inhabitants’ of a territory or a region. All the indigenous people from all over the world have some common characteristics.
Now let’s look at the current position of indigenous people in the light of constitution of Bangladesh. For this, this paper will be discussed in two major parts that what are the principles of the constitution of Bangladesh which are affecting their entity. Then the second part will discuss the recent changes of provision of Bangladesh for the indigenous people.
1. Principles of constitution of Bangladesh & the indigenous people:
Bangladesh got its independence as an independent country in 16th December of 1971. After the independence in 4th November of 1972 Bangladesh got its 1st constitution. From there we got 4 principles of constitution. They are:
The 1st principle of the constitution of Bangladesh is nationalism. It means each & every people who is a citizen of Bangladesh should be recognize as a Bangladeshi. But the term indigenous people or Adivasi means the people who are living in that particular area for several generations in that place. They have their own language, own culture, own food habit, own living style etc. There are 35 smaller groups of indigenous people who live in Bangladesh. These indigenous people are covering almost 2 percent of the total population. These people call themselves indigenous people because they have their own entity & identity. Most importantly they like this entity & identity. Before & after of the liberation war both of the time they never wanted them to recognize as a Bangladeshi. Rather they like that & want that people will call them indigenous people. But when the constitution announces that every citizen of Bangladesh will be recognize or call as Bangladeshi then it contradicts with the core idea of the indigenous people. So they didn’t like it & also didn’t accept it. As a result day by day they are getting a feel of minority for being an indigenous people. Which they didn’t want ever. Along with this Bangladeshi means the people who talks in bangla
& their mother tongue is also bangla. But the indigenous people have their own language.
The effect of democracy in the life of indigenous people is not that much. But still it has some kind of effect in the social &legal system of their life. Previously there head of the society or the legal system was ‘Raja’. The title of ‘Raja’ is still there in the society of indigenous people but the power of ‘Raja’ in the legal system gradually decreased. Previously these ‘Raja’ had the authority to take many decisions for his people. But now days it is gradually decreasing. Now the government of Bangladesh is gradually increasing the involvement of local governments. Now a major portion of decisions is taken by the local governments. The local government gets many influences from the political leaders. By this constitution day by day these indigenous people are involving in more democratic practice. In the constitution of Bangladesh in part 2 of fundamental principles of state policy there is given that: The Republic shall be a democracy in which fundamental human rights and freedoms and respect for the dignity and worth of the human person shall be guaranteed 11* * * 12[, and in which effective participation by the people through their elected representatives in administration at all levels shall be ensured].
Basically it is a political term. But it always doesn’t mean that it will held individually, rather it will held commonly. Bangladesh follows socialism in means of economic and social justice, together with the principles derived from them as set out in this Part, shall constitute the fundamental principles of state policy. But this policy is using in wrong manner. The government of the people’s republic of Bangladesh has take many initiatives so that these indigenous people can match with the other Bangladeshi people. But the term socialism in the constitution somehow doesn’t work properly as those indigenous people thought. By the name of socialism government send many plain land families to the Chittagong hill tracts. Now these plain land people are capturing their land forcefully, as a result there is a conflict going on between those indigenous people & the Bangladeshi people who came later in that place from plain land. On this issue these indigenous people strike in Chittagong hill tracts many times. Because this step of the government gradually pushing them in a minority position in that area & they are losing all their entity & also the identity. Prof Nazrul Islam of Dhaka University said “as around 1.2 million indigenous people of the country are yet to be recognized as special or indigenous communities constitutionally, they are deprived of enjoying their rights and facing discrimination.”
The constitution of the people’s republic of Bangladesh was 1st founded in 4th November of 1972. At its 1st constitution secularity was the 4th principle of the constitution. It means neutrality in the belief of religion. It is a belief that religion will not be a basis of politics. At 1st in the constitution of Bangladesh it was written that Bangladesh will follow secularism. But in the fifth amendment of the constitution the expression “Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim” was added in the introduction of the constitution. By adding this expression from that time Bangladesh is not following secularity anymore. As a result it has deep impact in the life of indigenous people. Because by adding this expression Bangladesh declared its state religion as Islam. But the indigenous people who live in Bangladesh all don’t have the same religion. As a result it hurts them very deeply. Because the term indigenous person means that they have their own language, culture, religion etc. Most of the indigenous people of Chittagong hill tracts are Buddhist & then Christian. But by declaring Islam as the state religion it hurts the emotion of the indigenous people as they are very much conscious about their heritage, religion etc. This declaration makes them feel that they are the minorities in that area, which they will never accept. As a result they are opposing of this amendment.
2. Recent change of provisions in the constitution of Bangladesh:
Bangladesh government has passed the 15th amendment of its constitution on June 30, 2011. In this amendment government made some dramatic change. In this amendment government has reinserted the expression ‘Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim’. This expression was 1st inserted in 1979 at the time of military ruler, General Ziaur Rahman along with the phrase inserting ‘trust and faith in almighty Allah’ in place of ‘secularism’ (Art.8). It directly hurt the emotion of indigenous people of Bangladesh.
In the 15th amendment of constitution it also declared Islam as the state religion of Bangladesh.It was adopted or implemented in 1988 in the time of military ruler General Mohammad Ershad. This implementation again implemented by the 15th amendment which was pending in the supreme court under a constitutional challenge.
For both these provisions Bangladesh is going away from one of its major principles (secularism) of the constitution.
By the 15th amendment of the constitution Bangladesh it recognize all the citizens of Bangladesh as Bangladeshi. Which is straight a contradiction with the idea of indigenous people.
In the article 23A of 15th amendment of constitution of Bangladesh government included some provisions like upajati, khudro jatishotta, nrigoshti o khudro shomprodae etc. these provisions denigration thousands of indigenous people who are living all over the country.
Now a day’s the term indigenous people is a burning issue. By seeing all the circumstances we can easily say that these indigenous people are facing deprivation in every step of their life. It has become so acute that Prof Kamal said that “The problems regarding ethnic minorities will remain until the plurality is recognized in the country,” highlighting the grabbing of lands of indigenous people in different areas.
But day by day the problem regarding the indigenous people has become so big that Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Barrister Shafique Ahmed Saturday reiterated that the Bangladeshi tribal are not eligible to be recognized as indigenous as per the United Nations Charter and so they have not been given recognition as indigenous in the constitution.
“Bangladeshi tribal people do not deserve to be recognized as indigenous people. So, they will be recognized as ‘small ethnic groups or tribal’ in the amended constitution,” he categorically said.
So, the main question from this paper we can get that is these indigenous people is going to lose their own entity & identity & will become just a history?
1. ETHNICITY AND NATIONALISM, Anthropological Perspectives by THOMAS HYLLAND ERIKSEN.
3. INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF BANGLADESH by Kabirul Islam
4. Bangladesh constitution, part 2, under the FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF STATE POLICY in section 11.
5. A judgment from Prof Nazrul Islam who is a teacher of Dhaka University.
7. The letter of Chittagong hill tracts commission which was send to the honorable prime minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina.
8. From: (http://www.galdu.org/web/index.php?odas=2881&giella1=eng).
9. Source: banglanews24.com
11. The Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Accord and After: Gendered Dimensions of Peace. By Meghna Guhathakurta.
12. Kreddha Autonomy Mapping Project, THE CHITTAGONG HILL TRACTS/ BANGLADESH, by Amena Mohsin.
 ETHNICITY AND NATIONALISM, Anthropological Perspectives by THOMAS HYLLAND ERIKSEN; page:1, para:1.
 Characteristics common across many Indigenous groups include present or historical reliance upon subsistence-based production (based on pastoral, horticultural and/or hunting and gathering techniques), and a predominantly non-urbanized society. Not all indigenous groups share these characteristics. Indigenous societies may be either settled in a given locale/region or exhibit a nomadic lifestyle across a large territory, but are generally historically associated with a specific territory on which they are dependent. Indigenous societies are found in every inhabited climate zone and continent of the world.
 From Wikipedia about the constitution of Bangladesh. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_Bangladesh).
 Bangladesh has been the dwelling place of different ethnic groups. In fact,35 smaller groups of indigenous people covering about 2 percent of the total population have been living in different pockets of the hilly zones & small areas of the plane lands of the country. Their historical background, economic activities, social structure, religious beliefs & festivals make them distinctive.
Mro are one of the famous tribes of aborigines of Arakan & two Mru kings ruled Arakan in the 10th century AD.
INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF BANGLADESH by Kabirul Islam
 Almost all Bengalis, including many Adivasis, speak Bangla; and indigenous languages have assimilated many Bangla words as their own. Adivasis who have been formally educated through the school system, mostly males, are more likely to speak Bangla than illiterates, especially illiterate females. For this change in constitution now they have to learn bangla.
 In Bangladesh constitution, in part 2, under the FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF STATE POLICY in section 11.
 The principles of absolute trust and faith in the Almighty Allah, nationalism, democracy and socialism meaning economic and social justice, together with the principles derived from them as set out in this Part, shall constitute the fundamental principles of state policy. [From the constitution of Bangladesh, under FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF STATE POLICY in section 8 in fundamental principles.
 A judgment from Prof Nazrul Islam who is a teacher of Dhaka University.
 The constitution proclaims nationalism, democracy, socialism and secularity as the fundamental principles of the Bangladeshi republic. When adopted in 1972, it was one of the most liberal constitutions of the time.
 The expression ‘historic struggle for national liberation’ in the Preamble was replaced by ‘a historic war for national independence.’ One party system was replaced by multiparty parliamentary system. Fundamental principles of state policy were made as ‘absolute trust and faith in the Almighty Allah, nationalism, democracy and socialism meaning economic and social justice.’
 By religion the CHT inhabitants are mainly Buddhist, while Khasi and Mandi are predominantly Christian. Other indigenous peoples have retained their original animism or have affiliated with Hinduism, especially the Hajong, while Rajbansi
Either are hinduized or have become Sunni Muslims.
 The insertion of the phrase “Bismillah?ar?Rahman?ar?Rahim” before the
preamble to the constitution was added in the fifth amendment to the
Constitution in 1979 by military ruler, General Ziaur Rahman along with the
Phrase inserting ‘trust and faith in almighty Allah’ in place of ‘secularism’ (Art.
8). this has now been reinserted by the 15th Amendment. From the letter of Chittagong hill tracts commission which was send to the honorable prime minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina.
 The eighth amendment to the Constitution, adopted under the military ruler,
General Hossain Mohammad Ershad, in 1988, purported to make Islam as the
State religion (Article 2A). This has been retained by the 15th Amendment,
although a constitutional challenge to this provision is pending in the
Supreme Court. From the letter of Chittagong hill tracts commission which was send to the honorable prime minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina.
 It is a direct rejection of the full citizenship rights of the hundreds of thousands of people from diverse religions and beliefs who are Bangladeshis. From the letter of Chittagong hill tracts commission which was send to the honorable prime minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina.
 Article 6(2) of the Constitution now says: “The people of Bangladesh shall be
known as Bangalees as a nation and the citizens of Bangladesh shall be
Known as Bangladeshis”. From the letter of Chittagong hill tracts commission which was send to the honorable prime minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina.
 Article’23A’ now says: “The culture of tribes, small ethnic groups, ethnic sects
and communities? The state shall take steps to protect and develop the
unique local culture and tradition of the tribes [upajati], minor races [khudro
jatishaotta], ethnic sects and communities [nrigoshthi o shomprodai]”. These
provisions have been inserted by the 15th Amendment despite sustained
criticisms by thousands of citizens. From the letter of Chittagong hill tracts commission which was send to the honorable prime minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina.
 From: (http://www.galdu.org/web/index.php?odas=2881&giella1=eng).
 Source: banglanews24.com