August 9 marks the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.
For Bangladesh, it is a reminder that, despite some positive moves made in the past two decades, government policy is still failing to fully respect and protect the rights of indigenous peoples and minority communities.
The senior ruling party leader and AL advisory council member Suranjit Sengupta last week called on the government to properly address allegations that some ministers and MPs have been involved in grabbing land from minority communities.
It is deeply regrettable that debate about such matters is stymied by inertia and indifference. More energy is often expended debating the appropriate terminology for minority and adivasi communities rather than on tackling the daily discrimination that people face.
Adivasi communities in Bangladesh bear the brunt of the consequences of failings in official policy. Failure to protect human rights is bad for all our country’s people. Eliminating violence and human rights abuses which afflict indigenous people needs to be a higher priority if we are to end the lawlessness and communal tensions which cause conflict.
While the proposed Indigenous Rights Act offers some hope that practical measures can be taken to overcome past failures, like the CHT Peace Accord, its effectiveness will depend on implementation.
Unfortunately, the failure of the government to fully implement key aspects of the CHT Peace Accord relating to land still undermines its manifesto promises to protect the rights of the country’s various 45 different indigenous and tribal communities.
Official inaction undermines rule of law and damages human rights.
We should all strive to support minority communities in protecting their culture and traditions and work to guarantee their rights as citizens are fully respected.
The government should do more to celebrate the diversity of our nation as a way to help safeguard human rights and ensure equality and peace for all of Bangladesh’s people.