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Indigenous Peoples Celebrate but not in Bangladesh

August 8th, 2011

More than 70 countries are expected to observe the International Day for Indigenous People on August 9 with a focus on “Indigenous designs: celebrating stories and cultures, crafting our own future”.

Yet in Bangladesh, the government refuses to recognize the existence of indigenous peoples, arguing instead that they are simply ethnic minorities. This designation removes the groups from protections and rights afforded by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and ILO Convention 169, both of which Bangladesh has signed.

Sanjeev Drong, a close collaborator of the Oblates in Bangladesh, criticized the government’s position, stating that recent remarks of the Bangladeshi Foreign Minister reflecting this position were not correct. He said the “adivasi” people have been living in Bangladesh from the time immemorial with their own distinctiveness, language, culture, and identity.

He cited the ILO Convention (169), article 1 that says, “Self-identification as indigenous or tribal shall be regarded as a fundamental criterion for determining the groups to which the provisions of this Convention apply”. Bangladesh has ratified the ILO convention.

Pointing to the recent killings of three Marmas in Bandarban and one Santal in Dinajpur, the leaders said organised attacks on the “indigenous” people have increased to “eliminate” them from their ancestral land.

They also mentioned felling of over 5,000 trees at Nahar Khansi village in Srimangal and said Rakhains in Patuakhali, Garos in Madhupur, Santals in the north Bengal are facing land ownership problems.

The government has not addressed these issues in the last two and a half years although the ruling party pledged in its election manifesto to do so.

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