Hill Voice, 15 September 2020, Dhaka: Manabendra Narayan Larma dreamed of a multi-ethnic, multi-caste, multi-lingual, multi-religious and pluralistic Bangladesh. He fought to the death for the rights of the exploited, deprived, oppressed, suppressed, marginalized and hardworking people. MN Larma is still relevant in building Bangladesh with the spirit of liberation war. These were the words of the speakers in an online discussion on the occasion of the 81st birth anniversary of the revolutionary leader Manabendra Narayan Larma organized by the Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum on 15 September 2020at 11.00 am. The program was broadcast live on the online news portal ipnews.
President of the Workers Party of Bangladesh Rashed Khan Menon recalled the life and struggle of MN Larma and thanked the Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum for organizing the event. Many people raise questions when we talk about Bengali nationalism. MN Larma was determined to save the existence of the Jumma people. He was the first to protest against the Kaptai Dam in the 60s. He didnot just think of the Chakmas. He was a fighter for the rights of all hardworking people. He has dedicated himself to women’s emancipation. He has not only fought for Jumma nationalism or in a narrow sense, he has also dedicated himself to various national issues. He has also played an important role in Parliament.
He added that the signing of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord (CHT Accord) opened a golden door. Land rights have not yet been established there. Divide, rule, destroy policy is going on. So, we have to move forward in the realization of rights in unity.
Shah Alam, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, recalled MN Larma and said, “I have met him. His party struck a deal with the government in 1997. I support this agreement.”
Professor Mesbah Kamal, a history teacher at Dhaka University, lamented that when the state blocked one democratic approach after another, it was natural to take a different approach. Manabendra Narayan Larma has taken that creative path for the rights of Jumma people. He has worked for his nationality and other hardworking people. Although he became a progression leader, he brought nationalism to the fore. MN Larma was a staunch opponent of anti-people development that would submerge other nations or territories. He was vocal in his protest against the Kaptai Dam. MN Larma has fought for pluralism. In Bangladesh, there should be nine provinces with eight divisions including the Chittagong Hill Tracts and the CHT Accordshould be fully implemented by implementing CHT Regional Council Act and Hill District Council Act. Only then can it be considered that democracy has developed in the country.
Robayet Ferdous, a teacher at Dhaka University, paid tribute to MN Larma and said, “Reading MN Larma’s parliamentary speech, one can understand what kind of state thinker he was.” At that time, he expressed his strong desire to practice pluralism. Yet, his contemporary mainstream politicians could not have imagined it. Bangladesh is not only for Bengalis, not for Muslims. This is everyone’s Bangladesh. Pluralism must be practiced here. Bangladesh needs to be transformed by radically changing the education system and creating science-minded and true citizens.
Journalist and writer Abu Syed Khan said that there is no alternative to the thought and ideology of MN Larma to build a liveable country for all. MN Larma loved the country. That is why he stood in the parliament and repeatedly emphasized on building a liveable country for all. He first raised the political identity of all the people of the country in the National Assembly from a progressive point of view. The progressive view was held by Comrade MN Larma.
Teacher of Department of Anthropology of Dhaka University Jobaida Nasreen Kona said, Manabendra Narayan Larma highlighted the need for a rights movement andhe was a lifelong fighter. In 1957, he argued with the authorities about the timing of meals at the hostel. He questioned the fierce Bengali nationalism of the newly independent Bangladesh and highlighted his own identity. The struggle of the indigenous people is the struggle to protect the land, the struggle to survive. MN Larma has struggled to maintain that existence.
The online discussion was chaired by SanjeebDrong, General Secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum and moderated by Harendranath Singh, Assistant Organizing Secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum.
It is pertinent to mention that this great leader Manabendra Narayan Larma was born on 15 September 1939 in a middle-class family in Mahapuram, a growing village not far from Rangamati town at that time. He matriculated from Rangamati Government High School in 1958. He then passed higher secondary from Chittagong Government College in 1960. He passed BA in 1965. He then passed BEd in 1968 and LLB in 1969. The ParbatyaChattagram Jana Samhati Samiti was formed in 1972 on his initiative. Birendra Kishore Roaza was elected as its founding president of Jana Sanghati Samiti, and he was as founding general secretary. In 1973, he was elected a Member of Parliament in the first National Parliament of Bangladesh. In 1973, he became the president of the PCJSS.