The government's advice to dispense with the word “Adivasi” has drawn criticisms and raised questions about its commitment to the indigenous people.
The indigenous people living in the country's plains and hills have long been demanding constitutional recognition as Adivasi.
Any race or sect has the right to self determination according to the UN declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and ILO Convention 107 for Indigenous People.
The Press Information Department (PID) on Thursday issued a release (reference No 2704) urging the media, experts, university teachers and civil society members to avoid the word, Adivasi, at discussions and talk-shows on International Day of the World's Indigenous People.
It also said the word is used while celebrating the UN's indigenous day in Bangladesh though as per the 15th amendment of the constitution indigenous (Adivasi) people “do not exist” in this country. The amendment rather incorporates the term, “small ethnic groups or tribes”, it mentioned.
However, the press release was not found on the PID website yesterday.
The international indigenous people's day is observed on August 9 each year to promote and protect the rights of the world's indigenous people. This year's theme is "Bridging the gap: implementing the rights of indigenous peoples".
“The press notification shows how the government has taken a position against the indigenous people,” said Sanjeeb Drong, the secretary general of Bangladesh Forum for Indigenous People.
“I think, it would make our marginalised indigenous people even more vulnerable.”
Regarding the fifteenth amendment that says, “The State shall take steps to protect and develop the unique local culture and tradition of the tribes, minor races, ethnic sects and communities”, Sanjeeb Drong said the constitution of a country dose not necessarily mention everything.
“My question is if a state has any right to change someone's identity,” he said.
Earlier in 2011, the government sent secret letters to administration not to use the word “indigenous” in official papers though Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina herself used the term “Adivasi” in her goodwill message on the Indigenous Peoples Day in Bangladesh. The term was also found in the election manifesto of Awami League.