NGO Affairs Bureau has directed all the registered NGOs that have the words “indigenous/adivasi” in their titles to rename themselves by dropping the words.
A December 18 letter, signed by Shilu Ray, assistant director of the Bureau, has asked the NGOs to implement the directive within a month.
The letter says, “According to article 23 (ka) of the constitution of Bangladesh, no community has been identified as Adivasi. Besides, as part of global indigenous politics, a local/international vested quarter is active in realising benefits, mentioned in ILO convention 169 for indigenous people, which the NGO Affairs Bureau considers a threat to non-communal Bangladesh.
“Considering the reality of the Chattogram Hill Tracts, the word adivasi/indigenous is also a threat to the national security,” it adds.
Contacted, Naresh Chandra Oran, executive director of Adivasi Samaj Unnayan Sangstha of Natore, said he recently received the letter from the Bureau.
“This is nothing but an insult to the indigenous people. I will not change the word even if my NGO’s licence is cancelled,” said Naresh.
Nikhil Mitra Chakma, executive director of Society for Integrated Women Progress, said, “We changed the name of our NGO, Society for Indigenous Women Progress, in 2014 under pressure from some government agencies.”
Most of the NGOs from Chattogram Hill Tracts, having the word “indigenous” in their titles, dropped the word in 2014 under pressure from government agencies, he alleged.
Speaking to The Daily Star, Anwar Hossain, deputy secretary of NGO Affairs Bureau, yesterday said, “We issued the letter as the word ‘indigenous’ conflicts with our constitution.”
However, eminent lawyer Barrister Jyotirmoy Barua termed the move “total violation of constitutional provisions”.
“No government official or ministry can explain the terminology of the constitution. Only the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over interpreting any terminological or constitutional word,” he told this newspaper.