Former caretaker government adviser Sultana Kamal yesterday termed the government's call to refrain from using the word "Adivasi" for indigenous communities "arbitrary" and "unrealistic".
“We despise it. We reject it, and for that if we have to face any penalty, we are ready to accept,” she told a roundtable, “Stopping Eviction of Indigenous and their Human Rights Protection: Role of State”, in the capital's Cirdap auditorium.
In a PID handout on Thursday, the government asked the participants of different programmes, discussions and talk shows on International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples not to use the term "Adivasi".
"University teachers, experts, editors of newspapers and other members of civil society, taking part in those discussions and talk shows, are requested to take a precaution about refraining from using the word Adivasi in the case of Bangladesh," the release reads.
Though, as per the 15th constitutional amendment, Adivasis do not exist in the country, many use the term on the international day, it says, adding that, the ethic minorities are called "small ethnic groups" or "tribes.
The international day will be observed today. Different organisations will hold programmes throughout the country on the occasion.
“How much unrealistic it is! I feel sorry when I see these people are at the policy making level,” said Sultana Kamal, also executive director of rights organisation Ain o Salish Kendra.
The rights activist recalled the spirit of the liberation war, which was building a country liveable for all irrespective of race, gender, ethnicity and religion.
Referring to the government's stand on the existence of the indigenous people, she said, “From our bitter experience we've seen that once the state starts saying 'no', then it tries to establish it.”
Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of Transparency International, Bangladesh, said, “As a citizen I apologise since we could not establish equal rights in the last 42 years.”
The rights of indigenous people are denied through the constitution, he said, calling upon the government to amend it.
Eminent economist and researcher Dr Swapan Adnan said intruders were grabbing indigenous people's lands since the Chittagong Hill Tracts peace accord had not been implemented.
Imtiaz Ahmed, professor of international relations at Dhaka University, stressed the need for grooming a group of people who would think differently and build an equality-based society.
A photo exhibition of MA Mohit, Onu Tareq and Enam Ul Haque started at the capital's Drik Gallerry-2 yesterday to mark the day.
The exhibition, "Bishwabhora Pran" (world of living sprits), showing 55 images of the vibrant lives of indigenous people, is organised by Bangla Mountaineering and Trekking Club. It will remain open to all till August 15 from 3:00pm to 8:00pm every day.
On the occasion, Bangladesh Adivasi Union urged all to get united for establishing the constitutional recognition and rights of the indigenous communities and fighting against repression and land grabbing.
In a joint statement, the union leaders blamed the absence of the constitutional recognition for the continuous oppression against them.
Manusher Jonno Foundation organises two days of programmes including a seminar, an indigenous fair, and a cultural event. The inaugural event will be held at Bangla Academy at 12:30pm today.
Bangladesh Indigenous People Forum will hold a seminar, a rally and a cultural programme at Central Shaheed Minar at 10:00am.