It is disappointing that our major political parties have not really done much in terms of enhancing the participation of young people from indigenous communities in politics. This was the general sentiment expressed by indigenous rights activists at a recent discussion. Both Awami League (in 2008) and the BNP (in 2001) made promises in their manifestos during previous national elections to ensure the rights and recognition of indigenous people, special provision in jobs and education for young people from these communities. Unfortunately such promises were never really fulfilled leading to frustration and disillusionment among these young people who have a major role to play in the development of the country.
The 10-point recommendation presented at the discussion, highlights the fact that even after 47 years of our independence, we have lagged far behind in terms of providing equal opportunities to people from indigenous groups. The recommendations include restoration of indigenous quota in class I and class II government jobs, recognition of indigenous people in the constitution, full implementation of CHT Peace Accord and formation of a separate ministry for indigenous people living in the plainlands.
Such demands are quite in keeping with the ideals of our Liberation War which was fought to break free from the shackles of oppression and discrimination based on religion, race or ethnicity. If we are serious about taking our country to the middle-income category it is crucial that we nurture a diverse, inclusive society that will provide opportunities to everyone, equally. This entails making enough space for young people belonging to vulnerable communities to thrive and contribute to the country's development. Indigenous youth belong to such a category. When young people are given the chance to grow through better access to education and employment, it is a boon for the entire nation. The young people from indigenous communities have a lot to offer and it is up to the political parties to tap into this potential.