Hill Voice, 8 August 2020, Dhaka: Fazle Hossain Badshah MP, Chairman of Parliamentary Caucus on Indigenous Peoples and Minority Affairs and General Secretary of Workers’ Party of Bangladesh, said during discussion of the Caucus that had the four Fundamental Principles of the Constitution been implemented, there would not need to have spoken words on rights of the indigenous peoples. He further said that amid the COVID-19 pandemic, some realization has developed in humans of which it needs to be given a political language on urgent basis and that a humanitarian society has to be built making use of the lessons learnt amid the crisis.
During a virtual discussion organized by the Parliamentary Caucus on Indigenous and Minority Affairs on the occasion of International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples-2020, the General Secretary of Workers’ Party of Bangladesh expressed the opinion. The discussion was held through Zoom yesterday at 8:00 pm on 7 August 2020.
In the virtual discussion chaired by Fazle Hossain Badshah, Chairman of the Parliamentary Caucus and moderated by Jannat-e-Ferdausee, Technocrat Member of the Caucus, keynote speech was presented by Dr. Mesbah Kamal, distinct researcher on indigenous peoples and Coordinator of the Caucus while discussing on COVID-19 pandemic. He said, the indigenous peoples are the chief conservators of the earth and nature. But it is the profit seekers and the nature-eating humans have overused the nature for which the nature is retaliating against what has been done upon. He said further, it is not only the humans but also the trees, forests and other wildlife do have the right to live. But it is we who are opposing to this and it is for this reason the Corona attack has come upon us – remarked the teacher of Dhaka University.
Asserting his claim on closure of means leading to income of many indigenous peoples for which they are afflicted in various ways, he said: “I am hearing the sound spelling a kind of famine and the indigenous people, souls of marginalized people and poor Bengali people will fall victims to the famine.” The teacher of history also spoke about the need of government special allotment package for the marginalized people.
Sanjeeb Drong, General Secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum, having focused on COVID-19 pandemic impact upon the indigenous people’s life, participated in the virtual discussion. While contributing to the discussion, he said: “The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples set sail on a voyage aimed at working together in establishing rights of the indigenous peoples in coordination amongst the United Nations, the indigenous peoples and member-states.” The leader of indigenous people opined that the movement of indigenous peoples in Bangladesh could make much headway but in question of recognition, the issue, once again, got receded back in 15th Amendment of the Constitution.
Claiming that the indigenous people have been being faced with merciless incidents of human rights violations even amid COVID-19 pandemic, he said: “We are receiving news on falling prey to various human rights violations including eviction of the indigenous peoples from their lands in various areas inhabited by the indigenous people in North Bengal even amid the on-going COVID-19 pandemic situation. The indigenous leaders also made the discussion informed that the indigenous rights activists in the hills have been being ‘criminalized’ and harassed in various means and ways.
Sanjeeb Drong also said: “The greatness of the state will have to be judged on ‘how is a Santal, a Munda or Mro or Marma and the other indigenous and marginalized people are.” He also pointed out that most of the indigenous students are not able to reach out the online classes.
On the other end, having participated in the discussion, Rashed Khan Menon MP, founder of the Caucus demanded constitution recognition of the identity of the indigenous people. He said: “It was there that firstly, we did not admit that there are indigenous peoples in the country. Later on, even though we acceded to but we could not reach our desired position. The former Minister has also called upon to ensure participation of the indigenous people in the incentive grant package declared by the government in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. He called upon the quarters concerned to look into the matter to see as to what extent the grant could reach the indigenous people.
Claiming that the indigenous people are being victimized to various human rights violations including eviction from their ancestral lands in the indigenous inhabited areas in recent times, he said: “In one end, there goes the Corona impact while one the other, the indigenous people are facing various violations.” The Workers’ Party President called upon the Parliamentary Caucus on Indigenous and Minority Affairs to ascertain these and bring to the government notice.
Hasanul Haque Inu MP and President of Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal (JASAD), one of the panel speakers said: “Various discrimination are existent in Bangladesh. Combating against the discrimination is not responsibility that falls upon the indigenous peoples only. The war is universal and the discrimination has got widely manifested during the Corona time – the Member of Parliament claimed.
On government-granted Incentive Package he said: “Mere a handful of rice cannot reduce the discrimination.” The former Minister opined that those might have to be brought under legal provision through which they would have to be protected. He also made a point out that it was the time for review of the constitution for building a balanced society and the corona period is more relevant – he claimed. Besides, he also demanded for establishment of a Land Commission for the indigenous peoples of plains and a National Commission for the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples including full implementation of the CHT Accord 1997. On the other hand, the former Information Minister demanded for incorporation of Internet facility with the basic rights.
Simultaneously, taking part in the discussion, Kajol Debnath, Vice-President of Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council said: “Utilizing advantage of Corona situation, the land robbers have begun occupying lands of the minority people.” He claims that the miscreants are taking the advantage as the law & order forces and administration are already awfully busy in combating the Corona pandemic.
Besides, Fazalul Haque MP said: “Attack upon the indigenous and minority people is related with lands. As the administration is busy with the COVID-19 pandemic, the miscreant circle is taking advantage of the situation of which we all will have to ensure rights of the indigenous and minority people unitedly.” Besides, the MP also informed the discussion that two bills on rights of the indigenous peoples are all set to be raised in the ensuing session of the house.
Drawing attention to the health management issue in response to COVID-19 pandemic, he said that the Prime Minister has been able to repair the health management system at least to some extent but yet a long way to go. He urged for ensuring modern treatment amenities including ICCU in the hospitals located in the indigenous people-inhabited areas amid the Corona situation.
Aroma Dutta MP of reserved for woman seat, while taking part in the discussion said: “We talk much about rights of the indigenous and minority people. But where does it happen when it comes to implement those words?” – she threw up a question. The human rights activist also opined that the indigenous peoples are at lifting damage socially, politically and economically.
While having mentioned pointing to dominance of bureaucracy in the state, she said: “How the rights of the indigenous and minority people including the political commitments can get implemented when the government, itself, relaxes in the bureaucratic mind?” We, the 350 Members of the Parliament have to speak out on this issue and must bring to notice of the government so that the government obliges to implement it.
In the virtual discussion also did participated Rana Dasgupta, General Secretary of Hindu Buddhist and Christian Unity Council, Nirmal Rozario, President of Bangladesh Christian Association, Pallab Chakma, Executive Director of Kapaeeng Foundation, Professor ATM Atikur Rahman, Jahangirnagar University, Sunanda Priyo Bhikkhu of Bangladesh Buddhist Foundation, Flora Babli Talang, indigenous women leader and Falguni Tripura, Coordinator of Bangladesh Indigenous Women’s Network, media personalities, other leaders belonging to indigenous and minority people.
Fazale Hasan Badshah, Chairman of Parliamentary Caucus on Indigenous and Minority Affairs, in his concluding speech said: “The ideal of Bangabandhu has to be implemented by executing the four basic principles of the constitution and implementation of the four basic principles is meant establishment of rights of the indigenous and minority peoples.” The veteran parliamentarian also reminded saying that we, all would have to fight together in the coming days.