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Tribals angered by lack of state support

Govt has chosen not to back World Indigenous Day

Tribals angered by lack of state support
Indigenous minorities form a chain during protests in Dhaka reporter, Dhaka

August 3, 2012

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Hundreds of tribal people formed human chains this week in Dhaka and other parts of the country, in protest against the government’s decision not to support World Indigenous Day on August 9. About 100 tribal leaders and students attended a meeting by the National Coalition of Indigenous People on Wednesday, in which the secretary-general of the Bangladeshi Adivasai (Indigenous) Forum, Sanjeeb Drong, accused the government of failing its own people. “The government doesn’t want us to be recognized as indigenous people,” said Drong, an ethnic Garo. Bangladesh has not ratified the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and has claimed in the past that there are no tribal people in the country, he added. “We are upset that when 370 million indigenous people in 70 countries will celebrate the day with festivities and fanfare, we will still be struggling for recognition,” said Drong, adding that a program would take place this year without state support. This year’s theme will be “indigenous media empowering indigenous voices,” he added. In April 2010, the ruling Awami League passed the Ethnic Groups Cultural Institutions Act labeling indigenous tribal people as ethnic minorities, a term these groups have since requested to be changed to include the term advisai, or indigenous. Dr Sarwar bari, a deputy secretary of the Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives Ministry, confirmed that the government had directed authorities across the country not to support to celebrations on August 9. “They can celebrate the day, but government officials are told not to patronize [events],” he said. Foreign Minister Dipu Moni previously told foreign diplomats and international development partners there are no indigenous people in the country referencing in particular the Chittagong Hill Tracts area in the east on the border with Myanmar. While Bengali people had lived in the area currently known as Bangladesh for 4,000 years, she added, ethnic groups could only be traced back to the 16th century. Bangladesh became an independent country in 1971 following colonization by the United Kingdom and a later war with Pakistan. The government lists 27 ethnic groups in the country accounting for about 1.5 million of Bangladesh’s 150 million people. Related reports Bill aims to recognize ethnic minorities Mass human rights violation, says report
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