VC of DU at Jumma Student Program: We Cannot Lose the Cultures Nurtured by Indigenous Peoples

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Hill Voice, 12 April 2022, Dhaka: The Vice Chancellor (VC) of Dhaka University (DU), Dr. Md. Akhtaruzzaman said that the traditions and culture that nurtured by the original indigenous people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) are our cultural heritage. We can never lose these cultures they practice. We must preserve these cultures to build a modern, developed and inclusive society. He said that the festivals of the hill indigenous people have a kind of common melody and human appeal.

The Bizu-Boisu-Sangrai-Bishu-Chankran festival was organized at Dhaka University for the first time with flower floating ceremony today. Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University Prof. Dr. Md. Akhtaruzzaman inaugurated the flower floating program, colorful rallies and gathering organized by Dhaka University Jum Literature and Cultural Samsad.

Provost of Jagannath Hall Prof. Dr. Mihir Lal Saha, Professor of History of Dhaka University Dr. Mesbah Kamal, Professor of Anthropology Dr. Zobaida Nasrin, Cultural Secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum Hiran Mitra Chakma and eminent singer Jannat-e-Ferdousi were also present as the guests.

The event was attended by hundreds of Jumma students studying at Dhaka University and at various educational institutions in Dhaka city along with many guardians.

In his inaugural address, the Vice-Chancellor of DU, Prof. Dr. Md. Akhtaruzzaman further said that the festivals of Bizu-Boisu-Sangrai-Bishu-Chankran have a profound significance. The significance of this festival is that the last two days of the month of Chaitra and the first day of the new year, the indigenous Jumma peoples celebrate a special moment. Through this celebration they build brotherhood and friendship among themselves. Many indigenous peoples like Chakma, Marma, Tripura, Mro, Tanchangya, Ahmiya celebrate this festival. Through this they establish interrelationships among the Peoples.

The DU Vice-Chancellor further said that there is a similarity among this festival of the indigenous Jumma people and the puja-parban of Islam and Hinduism. The similarity is in the sense that the first of the three days of Bizu is the Phul Biju. On this day they worship with flowers, decorate the houses and themselves. It expresses a kind of conviction to build oneself in the sanctity of flowers. This is a great presentation. It Expresses a conviction for living a healthy and beautiful life. The another is the ‘main Biju.’ There they establish human relations among themselves. And it is by socializing themselves. He also opined that it could be acceptable to all religions. He also thinks that it is an extraordinary consciousness to establish inter-relationship through mutual sharing among themselves.

Provost of Jagannath Hall Professor Dr. Mihir Lal Saha said, “Jagannath Hall is a spiritual and traditional hall where we give all students the opportunity to practice their religion and culture equally. I personally encourage Jumma students to take the initiative to organize their own festivals and events. We should make Bangladesh a beautiful state by concentrating on the practice of this culture of pluralism.

Dhaka University Professor Dr. Mesbah Kamal said, “I fully agree with the first demand raised in this event – the demand is constitutional recognition of the indigenous peoples. At least if this recognition is realized, much of the pluralistic character of the Bangladesh state will be achieved.” At least in this case, he said, Dhaka University could show the way to the whole country by taking three days as holidays during the festival in compliance with the demands of the students. He also assured that he would speak in various forums.

Another professor at the University of Dhaka, Jobaida Nasrin said that when Bizu, Boisu, Sangrai, Bishu, Bihu, Chankran comes to the hills, a kind of artificial crisis is created by the Bengali people so that the indigenous Jumma peoples could not celebrate it precisely. The Logang genocide is such an example for which the Jumma peoples protested. On the other hand, this festival is a lot like Eid. Therefore, during this festival, it is necessary to give the opportunity to the indigenous Jumma students to take part in the festival by giving them a three-day leave on those days.

After floating flowers at the pond ghat of Jagannath Hall, a rally was paraded through Shamsunnahar Hall, Rokeya Hall and ended at TSC’s Raju sculpture. Ratul Tanchangya, President of Dhaka University Jum Sahitya and Sanskritik Samsad presided over In the event, and Satej Chakma, Vice-President of the organization addressed welcoming speech while Oitishya Chakma, Organizing Secretary moderated there.

He said that no mainstream (Bengali) student would want to sit in the examination hall on the day of Eid or Puja. Similarly, forgetting the festivals of Bizu, Boisu or Sangrai, these indigenous students are not able to take part in the examination in full concentration. Therefore, we all expect the university and the state system to become more sensitive and adopt inclusive policies. We are demanding at least three days of public holiday on this festival day of indigenous Jumma peoples.

Hiran Mitra Chakma, Cultural Secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum, Adnan Aziz Chowdhury, General Secretary of DU Samsad of Bangladesh Students Union spoke at the event. Hema Chakma, a student of Dhaka University delivered keynote speeches. In a written statement, she raised six demands. The demands are-

1. Constitutional recognition should be ensured for the Indigenous peoples.

2. According to Article 23A of the Constitution, necessary measures have to be taken to preserve, develop and promote the culture and heritage of different indigenous peoples.

3. During the festival of Bizu-Sangrai-Boisu-Bishu-Chankran like Pahela Baishakh, all educational institutions have to be declared a holiday for at least 3 days.

4. Ensure primary education in mother tongue of all indigenous peoples.

5. In order to ensure the representation of the indigenous students in the TSC of Dhaka University, necessary steps have to be taken to conduct the activities of the indigenous literary and cultural organization of ‘Dhaka University Jhum Sahitya O Sanskritik Sangsad’ in accordance with the principles of governing the state.

6. Indigenous language research and language education courses need to be introduced in modern language institutes.

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