The indigenous people have long been demanding that they be recognised as ‘indigenous’ constitutionally-illustrate and explain.
Bangladesh is a small country with a rich cultural heritage. It is not only the Bangalis (plains people) who have contributed to this culture, but also the several hundred tribal communities of the country who live mainly in the Hill areas of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, in the Districts of Dinajpur, Rajshahi, Sylhet and the plains forests in Dhaka, Tangail, Mymensingh and Jamalpur.
Land grabbing is one of the major problems faced by tribal people all over the country. Land is taken by force, fraud or bribery and it is difficult for the tribal people to establish their rights. One of the causes for this is the sad lack of education and ignorance of the law. Another reason is discrimination.
While the constitution advocated every person’s equal right under the law, in various occasions, tribals are considered to be ‘second’ class citizens. Indigenous peoples are ethnic groups who are native to a land or region, especially before the arrival and intrusion of a foreign and possibly dominating culture. Four largest tribes are the Chakmas, Marmas (or Maghs), Tipperas (or Tipras), and Mros (or Moorangs). The tribes tend to intermingle and could be distinguished from one another more by differences in their dialect, dress, and customs than by tribal cohesion. Only the Chakmas and Marmas display formal tribal organization, although all groups containe distinct clans. By far the largest tribe, the Chakmas are of mixed origin but reflect more Bengali influence than any other tribe. Unlike the other tribes, the Chakmas and Marmas generally live in the highland valleys. Most Chakmas are Buddhists, but some practiced Hinduism or animism.
But main is Mro are one of the famous tribes of aborigines of Arakan & two Mru kings ruled Arakan in the 10th century AD. The main profession of Mru is Jhum cultivation & lumbering wood from the jungle.The women work harder then the men.Mru love songs & dance.They use homemade musical instruments,which are made of bamboo.They eat the tiger,dog,goat,pig,cow & many other animals.
Mru men wear length & women wear wanglai.These are all locally made.Mru build houses on machangs on hilltops.Their houses are bigger than the other tribes.Mru burn the body after dead.
The Indigenous Peoples of Bangladesh are one of the most deprived groups in many aspects of economic, social, cultural and political rights mainly due to their status of ethnic minority. Bangladesh has been the dwelling place of different ethnic groups.In fact,35 smaller groups of indegenous people covering about 2 percent of the total population have been livingin different pockets of the hilly zones & small areas of the plain lands of the country. Bangladesh Government perspectives on the identity of indigenous peoples, however, are varied. It prefers the terms “tribe” and “tribal” (“upajati” in Bangla), and is opposed to the use of the words “indigenous” and “adivasi”. The government’s reluctance to recognize indigenous peoples is largely politically motivated and has its roots in Bengali nationalism.
The great alliance led by Bangladesh Awami League government has passed the 15th Constitution Amendment Bill on the 30th June 2011 in the Parliament. In the amendment process the indigenous peoples of Bangladesh were not properly consulted and so our right to full and effective participation in decision making and free Prior and Informed consent has been denied. The original constitution of 1972 was secular and neutral with regard to religious identity, but not with regard to the ethnic and linguistic identity of non-Bengalis. The post-1975 constitution, on the other hand, got rid of Bangali nationalism, but imposed a Muslim orientation of national identity and state practices that made the adibashis and religious minorities feel equally insecure.
The Constitution of Bangladesh provides, among others, for the implementation of our fundamental rights and freedoms, including on non-discrimination and special provision clauses (articles 27, 28 and 29; read “affirmative action”) through writ actions in the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, under article 102. These provisions, however, have seldom been invoked in court.
The main concerns that affect Indigenous peoples are;
(1) Retaining of BISMILLAH-AR-RAHMAN-AR-RAHIM (In the name of Allah) In the preamble of the constitution.
(2) Retaining of ISLAM as state religion: Islam alone cannot be the state religion as there are people who practice and folow other religions such as Hindu, Christian, Bouddha and Indigenous Practices.
(3) Non recognition of Indigenous Peoples as Indigenous (Adibasi). Upajati(tribes)/Khudra Jatisatta(minor races)/Nrigosthi-sampradai(ethnic sects and communities) are the terms inserted. These terminologies are not accepted by the indigenous peoples.
(4) The Nationality and Citizenship: The People of Bangladesh shall be know as Bengali as a nation and the citizens of Bangladesh shall be know as Bangladeshis. Indigenous peoples of Bangladesh do not want to be know as Bangali. In this way Indigenous peoples own national identity will get lost.
(5) Freedom of Association: There is every possibility for the political parties/organizations/associations of the Indigenous Peoples to be stopped terming then communal.
Indigenous people rejected the Constitution (15th Amendment) Bill, 2011 and said the government should be responsible for any unpleasant situation due to the undemocratic, communal and oppressive steps towards the indigenous people.
It is mentionable that as per verdict of Supreme Court, Awami League-led present grand alliance government amended constitution of Bangladesh. For this purpose, Jatiya Sangsad (National Parliament) passed Fifteen Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2011 on 30 June 2011.
The government did not provide constitutional recognition of indigenous peoples as indigenous peoples (Adibasi); rather, termed tribals, small nationalities, ethnic group and communities. These terminologies are not accepted by the indigenous peoples.
Fifteen Amendment provides that the People of Bangladesh shall be known as Bengali as a nation and the citizens of Bangladesh shall be known as Bangladeshis. Indigenous peoples of Bangladesh do not want to be known as Bengali. Indigenous peoples rejected it saying that they are Bangladeshi as citizens, but they are not “Bengali” as nation/community. They (indigenous peoples) all are a separate nation possessing separate identity, culture, customs, language and society. Indigenous peoples also protested against retaining of “BISMILLAH-AR-RAHMAN-AR-RAHIM” (In the name of Allah) in the preamble of the constitution and ISLAM as state religion. They argued that Islam alone cannot be the state religion as there are people who practice and follow other religions such as Hindu, Christian, Bouddha and Indigenous Practices. They said that it would turn people of other religions to second-class citizens.
The indigenous people have long been demanding that they be recognised as ‘indigenous’ constitutionally.
The government has termed the indigenous peoples as ‘small ethnic groups’. That means there are only two groups in Bangladesh. The first group is ‘Big’ and the second group is ‘small’. But there are no ‘people’. But when the head of the state provides any speech, in that case, uses the term ‘indigenous peoples’. Although there is a disagreement to recognize the indigenous peoples constitutionally. But we ought to pose the demands about our rights continuously. We should learn the indigenous languages as well as the national and international languages. It is necessary to take assistance of indigenous peoples during the formulation of the text books. The indigenous teacher should be appointed in the indigenous populated schools
The indigenous peoples of Bangladesh are facing various difficulties regarding their rights to education. Irrelevancy of curriculum with the local culture and social context, language barriers between teachers and students, recruitment or appointment of teachers from non-indigenous community, less numbers of schools and remoteness of communities, unfavourable school calendar, inappropriate government policy for indigenous children’s education are some of the most difficult obstacles to educational access faced by the indigenous groups. The education system is managed on one fixed model, without considering the need to make changes to deliver the education rights of indigenous peoples.
Under the provisions of the constitution of Bangladesh, the government undertakes some affirmative actions in favour of indigenous peoples including quota reservation in the government jobs and educational institutions for ‘tribal’ students. However government does not have any written policy of quota reservation. The public universities also don’t have clear policy in terms of admitting indigenous students. Government of Bangladesh formulated national Child Policy in 1994 but there is no single word on indigenous child.
Due to centralized national curriculum system for all over the country, the system can not address the local specific context of the Indigenous Peoples. Political commitment from the government to translate the strategy and programmes into practice is essential to ensure Indigenous People’s rights to education through mother tongue.
Conclusion: A summary of the key changes which concern us and the background to these:
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.
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.
Both these provisions resulted in the Constitution moving away from one of its founding pillars of ?secularism¹ and becoming manifestly more discriminatory and communal in nature. 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.
Article 6(2) of the Constitution now says: ³The people of Bangladesh shall be known as Bangalees as a nation and the citizens of Bangladesh shall be known as Bangladeshis².
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]². These provisions have been inserted by the 15th Amendment despite sustained criticisms by thousands of citizens.
The Government should take immediate steps to respond to citizens’ concerns and to repeal the 15th amendment to the Constitution.
The Constitution of Bangladesh should not include any religion as a state religion.
The Constitution should not have ‘Bangalee nationalism’ as its foundation.
There is documentary evidence of the contributions by many non?Bengalese
towards the War of Liberation.
The estimated 50?60 indigenous peoples all over Bangladesh should be recognized as ‘indigenous’ (adibashi) by the Bangladesh Constitution, in line with the recognition given by the United Nations and acknowledged by the Honourable Prime Minister and others.
1. Shafique (June 29, 2011 ), Constitutional Provision,The dailystar retrevivd http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=192054
2. (10 July 2011) , Bangladesh indigenous groups reject 15th Amendment of Constitution and terming of indigenous peoples as ‘Bengali’ from http://www.aippnet.org/home/daily-sharing/502-bangladesh-indigenous-groups-reject-15th-amendment-of-constitution-and-terming-of-indigenous-peoples-as-bengali
3. (Monday, 22 August 2011) Bangladesh: from http://www.indigenousportal.com/Politics/Bangladesh-Call-for-constitutional-recognition-of-indigenous-people.html
4. Dr. Abdullah Al Faruque; (Thursday 11may 2011 from) Article: Constitutional recognition from http://www.thedailystar.net/suppliments/2011/anniversary/section2/pg10.htm
5. (Tuesday, 28 June 2011) from http://indigenouspeoplesissues.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11137:bangladesh-civic-groups-demand-constitutional-recognition-of-fundamental-rights-of-indigenous-peoples&catid=63:central-asia-indigenous-peoples&Itemid=85
6. (Jun 30th, 2011) Indigenous’ people feel let down,The BDnews24 from http://www.bdnews24.com/details.php?id=199775&cid=3
7. (May 10, 2011) Porimol Palma, http://www.eurasiareview.com/10052011-bangladesh-indigenous-debate-reaches-boiling-point/
8. Devasish Roy Wangza (30 jun 2011)The newagebd from http://newagebd.com/newspaper1/magazine/contents.php?nm=constitutional_reform
10. (June 10, 2011) Tribal people not indigenous from