Historians, politicians and ethnic minority rights advocates defined a government instruction, asking four organisations to prune ‘adiavsi’ and ‘indigenous’ words from their names, as a regrettable undemocratic move.
On December 18, the NGO Affairs Bureau gave four non-government organisations a month to strip off the words ‘adivasi’ and ‘indigenous’ from their registered names.
New Age got a copy of the letter sent to the executive director of Adivasi Samaj Unnayan Sangstha, Natore saying that the constitution of Bangladesh recognises no nationality as ‘adivasi’.
‘This letter proves government’s inability to grasp important issues,’ parliamentary caucus on indigenous affairs convener Fazle Hossain Badsha told New Age.
He said that the government had a misunderstanding that recognising someone as ‘adivasi’ would render majority Bengalis outsiders in this country.
The government is trying to understand the meaning of ‘adivasi’ and ‘indigenous’ words from a European perspective, he said.
‘In Bangladesh, adivasis are those who choose to stick to their ancient lifestyle and refused to get integrated into modern economy,’ he said.
In the letter, the NGO Affairs Bureau identified the people raising voice about adivasi rights as a vested group of locals and foreigners threatening Bangladesh’s non-communal characteristic.
Dhaka University History professor Mesbah Kamal said that the letter was the ultimate proof that the government was growing even more authoritarian unwilling to leave even an inch of democratic space.
‘It is the right of the people to choose their own identity,’ said Mesbah Kamal, explaining that adivasis in Bangladesh wish they were identified individually with their nationalities and collectively as adivasi.
Oikya NAP president and advasi rights advocate Pankaj Bhattachrya said that the act of identifying minorities as small ethnic minority is reminiscent of Hitler’s policy to establish Germans as a superior race.
Association for Land Reform and Development executive director Shamsul Huda said said prime minister on many occasions use the word ‘adivasi’ in public and statements issued from her office.
The government drew flak from adivasi rights activists several times after different ministries issued similar letters earlier, especially in the past five years.
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