The International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, which takes place every year on 9 August, was proclaimed by the General Assembly in December 1994. The date marks the day of the first meeting, in 1982, of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. This year it marks the tenth anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
On that note, ethnic minorities in Bangladesh observed the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples with a call for recognising them as indigenous people in the constitution.
An elaborate programme comprising of tribal dance music was organised at the Central Shaheed Minar in Dhaka premises on the occasion of the international day today.
Bangladesh Adivasi Forum also came up with a 10-point demand marking the day.
Speakers at the programmes urged the government to ensure their education, health, land and social rights.
Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon, Adivasi Forum President Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma (Santu Larma), CPB President Mujahidul Islam Selim, renowned writer Prof Muhammed Zafar Iqbal, noted columnist Syed Abul Maksud were among others present on the occasion.
“Today, we are still being deprived of our fundamental rights regarding land, culture, education and language. In the remote areas of the district, there are no educational institutions. So, many indigenous children are still deprived of the right to education,” said the speakers in Ruma upazilla.People of different communities including Marma, Chakma, Tripura, Tongchyanga, Khyang, Bawm, Mro, Lusai, Khumi and Chak celebrated the Day with festivities programmes.
There are an estimated 370 million indigenous people in the world, living across 90 countries. They make up less than 5 per cent of the world’s population, but account for 15 per cent of the poorest. They speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages and represent 5,000 different cultures.
Indigenous peoples are inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment. They have retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live. They have sought recognition of their identities, way of life and their right to traditional lands, territories and natural resources for years, yet throughout history their rights have always been violated. Indigenous peoples today, are arguably among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of people in the world.
The international community now recognizes that special measures are required to protect their rights and maintain their distinct cultures and way of life.