Hill Voice, 1 August 2022, Rangamati: The Chittagong Hill Tracts Citizens’ Committee has demanded the immediate withdrawal of the anti-constitutional and insulting circular issued by the Ministry of Information of the Government of Bangladesh on the pretext of ‘using of words inconsistent with the constitutional’ regarding the word ‘Adivasi’. This demand was made in a statement signed by the president of the organization Goutam Dewan.
The statement said, “On July 19, 2022, the Ministry of Information has issued a circular titled ‘Word using consistent with the constitution’ in reference to the Directorate General of Defense Intelligence. In the said circular, the teachers, experts and newspaper editors participating in the talk show to be organized on the occasion of the upcoming 9th of August, the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, have been requested not to use the word ‘indigenous’ in case of Bangladesh for the sake of ‘constitutional obligation’. We think that this circular of the Ministry of Information is against the constitution and is extremely insulting to the civil society of the country with freedom of speech as well as to all the indigenous peoples. We express strong anger and protest against this circular of the Ministry of Information.
We want to state clearly that through the Fifteenth Amendment, the phrase ‘tribes, minor races, ethnic sects and communities’ has been inserted in Article 23(a) under the part of the Fundamental Principles of State Policy of the Constitution. This Article prescribes steps to be taken by the State to protect and develop their unique local culture and tradition. But the word ‘Adivasi’’ cannot be used in talk shows or any other media or discussion – such a restriction is not contained in this Article of the Constitution or any other law of the country. Rather, through the issuance of this circular by the Ministry of Information, freedom of speech and freedom of the press recognized by the constitution has been undermined.”
The statement also said, “Bangladesh is a country of many races, religions and cultures. Embracing this diversity, we have been demanding constitutional recognition of indigenous peoples with dignity for a long time. The phrase ‘tribes, minor races, ethnic sects and communities’ has been inserted ignoring the demands of indigenous peoples, despite the opportunity to properly address this issue during the fifteenth constitutional amendment. We strongly suggest that ‘minor races’ is a pejorative term. Calling ‘small’ involves extreme denigration of the people of that ethnic group which is against the constitution. Whether small or large in number, no ethnic group can ever be known as small or large. By what identity an ethnic group wants to be named, it cannot be determined by law. Self-identification is the criterion for determining the identity of any ethnic group.”
The CHT Citizens Committee demands the withdrawal of this anti-constitutional and insulting circular of the Ministry of Information and at the same time dignified constitutional recognition of the indigenous peoples of the country in order to build a pluralistic Bangladesh in the light of the spirit of the liberation war.