The unique culture, tradition, and national identity of any nation cannot be protected without their right to self-determination, indigenous leaders and cultural activists said yesterday.
"No other rights can be exercised if there is no political right," said Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, chairman of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Regional Council. "Since the indigenous people don't have that right they are oppressed at each and every step."
Also known as Santu Larma, the Adivasi leader talked about the link between cultural and political rights and how it affects the economy of a society, at a discussion on indigenous people's cultural rights at Chhayanaut Sangeet Biddyayoton in the capital.
Organised by Kapaeeng Foundation and Bangladesh Adivasi Cultural Forum with support from Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF), the programme also featured cultural performances including Bangla, Marma, Garo songs and dances.
In a concept paper, Kapaeeng Executive Director Pallab Chakma highlighted how the indigenous culture and tradition in the country was threatened due to a lack of constitutional recognition of the 54 communities as indigenous people, grabbing of their land, and absence of their voice in policies that affect them.
The paper called for recognition of their political, economic, social, cultural, and land rights in the constitution, renaming of their cultural academy as "Indigenous Cultural Academy", and full and proper implementation of the CHT Peace Accord.
Putting stress on political movement as a means to ensure rights, Sadhona Cultural Circle General Secretary Lubna Marium said, "As a nation that fought for their language and culture, we will surely be by your side in your struggle for language and cultural rights." Referring to the loss of indigenous land, Jagannath University teacher Rajib Mir said, "If there is no land, how can there be a culture?"