Hill Voice, 20 February 2023, Rangamati: Today 20th February 2023, Monday, at 10 am in front of Rangamati New Market a human chain was held on the occasion of ‘International Mother Language Day’ in joint initiative of Parbatya Chattagram Pahari Chatra Parishad (PCP) and Hill Women’s Federation (HWF) to demand primary education in their respective mother tongues and introduction of 5% indigenous quota in all higher education institutions in accordance with Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord.
PCP’s Rangamati Government College Branch President Suman Chakma, City Branch President Milan Chakma, Hill Women’s Federation General Secretary Shanti Devi Tanchangya, PCP’s Central Committee General Secretary Nipon Tripura and President Suman Marma spoke at the human chain presided over by Mranu Sing Marma, organizing secretary of Hill Women’s Federation and moderated by Jiko Chakma, office secretary of PCP Central Committee. The welcome speech was given by Thoyakyajai Chak, the vice president of the organization.
In his welcome speech, Thoyakyajai Chak said that in addition to Bengali language in Bangladesh, indigenous peoples have their own language. But the indigenous languages are being crushed by the aggression of the state. Citing the example of Bandarban’s Rengmitachya language, he said that this language is also disappearing due to aggression. States have the responsibility to preserve and develop indigenous languages.
Hill Women’s Federation General Secretary Shanti Devi Tanchangya said Bangladesh is a country of many languages and many races. The significance of the International Mother Language Day is that to give equal status to all languages of the world and to take the initiative of development by the state. For this, the United Nations General Assembly has declared the year 2022-2023 as the ‘Year of Indigenous Languages’. In February, although some meetings and seminars are organized by the government of Bangladesh and various ministries, there is no initiative to start primary education in the mother language of the indigenous people. She demanded implementation of the CHT Accord and the introduction of 5% quota for indigenous people in primary education in their respective mother tongues and in all higher education institutions.
Nipon Tripura, general secretary of the central committee of PCP, said that languages are not just words, but languages are the signature of a nation’s culture and self-identity. There has been a movement in this country for the status of the language. But the languages of the indigenous peoples in this country are unprotected and under threat today. The language of the indigenous people is being mocked and ridiculed in the streets, offices, courts and at various places. The government and the state should be ashamed of having to fight for the preservation and recognition of indigenous languages in independent country that was formed through language movements.
He also said that education is a constitutional and fundamental right. The government is bound to ensure that. But the indigenous students are still unable to read, write and learn in their mother tongue. Though there are various laws of Bangladesh, Rangamati Declaration-1998, Poverty Alleviation Strategy-2005, National Education Policy-2010, National Education Act-2016, the issues of primary education of hill children through their mother tongue under the article 33(b) of the CHT Accord, but are not being implemented till date. As a result, the basic right to education is being denied. Textbooks in Bangladesh present a lot of inconsistent information about the identity and lifestyle of the indigenous people. Misconceptions about indigenous peoples are being created among Bengali students. It should be withdrawn from the next academic year and appropriate and correct information should be presented with the experts of each community. Moreover, due to the discriminatory education system, indigenous students are falling behind in various aspects. They are not able to study in their own mother tongue and are deprived of quality education.
He also said that the admission quota of hill students who want to get admission in various higher education institutions after overcoming various deprivations and oppressions is very insignificant. It should be increased to 5%. He demanded the speedy implementation of quota related demands made by the education affairs committee of Chittagong Hill Tract Regional Council to the then education minister and the authorities of various higher institutions in 2002.
Suman Marma, president of the central committee of PCP, said that February is the month of International Language Day. Different classes of people gave their lives for language in this state. The Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti has been demanding to the government for a long time to ensure education in their respective languages at the primary level of more than 50 indigenous communities living in Bangladesh. To preserve the language of an indigenous community it is disappointing not to have a written form of that language. The government should take initiative to give written form to the indigenous languages.
He also said that according to the information of UNESCO, 1 language is being lost every week. If a language is lost, that nation will cease to exist. It is the responsibility of the state to preserve the losing language. But this state is not able to fulfill its responsibility. The language and culture of the indigenous people have been neglected in the constitution of Bangladesh. Indigenous peoples are not able to practice their own language due to the government’s education system.
He also vehemently protested against the tag of Mr., Begum before the names of indigenous people. He said, the question remains that how the independent state which sowed the seeds of freedom struggle through the language movement can conspire to eradicate the language, culture and race of the indigenous people.
Mranu Sing Marma, in her speech, urged the government to take initiative to introduce primary education in their respective mother tongues for indigenous people and 5% quota in all higher education institutions.