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Santu Larma urges indigenous people

Santal women are all smiles as they, along with many other indigenous people, attend a colourful rally organised by Bangladesh Adivasi Forum at Central Shaheed Minar yesterday to mark International Indigenous Day 2012. Photo: Anisur Rahman

yotirindra Bodhipriyo Larma, chief of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum, yesterday called upon Adivasis to wage a movement to realise their demand for the government to recognise them as indigenous people and so ensure their rights.

In the 15th amendment to the constitution last year, the government identified them as minor races or ethnic minorities and in March this year declared that there were no indigenous people in Bangladesh.

Three million indigenous people would not stop their battle until the country got a non-communal, democratic and pro-people government, said the leader of the Adivasis, popularly known as Santu Larma.

He was speaking at a discussion organised at the Central Shaheed Minar in Dhaka to mark International Day of the World's Indigenous People.

It has become clear that the government wants to wipe out the identities of Adivasis, whereas the ruling Awami League in its electoral manifesto had pledged to give them constitutional recognition, Larma said. "Their [AL men] sympathy towards us is gone."

Most of the speakers at the programme denounced the government for not granting constitutional recognition to indigenous people and not implementing the Chittagong Hill Tracts peace treaty.

Workers Party President Rashed Khan Menon, MP; Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal President Hasanul Haq Inu, MP; Dhaka University Vice-chancellor Prof AAMS Arefin Siddique, DU professors Mesbah Kamal, HKS Arefin and Sadeka Halim, Ain o Salish Kendra Executive Director Sultana Kamal and Manusher Jonno Foundation Executive Director Shaheen Anam spoke in the discussion.

The speakers also condemned the government for its non-cooperation and even putting up obstructions to celebrations of the indigenous day in some districts.

Wearing their traditional and colourful costumes, several hundred indigenous people attended the program. They also sang and danced that portrayed their culture.

Meanwhile, the upazila nirbahi officer of Mohalchori yesterday seized at least five jeeps when locals were on their way to Khagrachhari to take part in a rally, reports our correspondent.

In protest, angry indigenous people blocked the Mohalchori-Khagrachhari road for over four hours. They withdrew the barricade after negotiations with the local administration.

UNO Abu Shahed Chowdhury, however, told The Daily Star that the seizure of the vehicles was part of their regular activities.

Our Mymensingh correspondent adds, indigenous people were not given permission for holding a football match in the district circuit house ground yesterday.



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