Thursday, August 6, 2009

Quicknote: Adivasis demand justice

No community should tolerate discrimination and repression. Bangladesh's "missing millions" is well documented, but it is far from being an ethnically, racially, linguistically, religiously, or culturally homogeneous society. Nor will it ever be. Bengal as a geographical unit encompasses every major religion, a number of ethnic and tribal groups, linguistic groups, and cultural heritages.

However, some believe that Bangladesh is only for the majority population and they will fight, bomb, intimidate, and subsequently drive out those who are not Bangla-speaking, Sunni Muslims (and this is a bit of a generalization). Sadly, if the Awami League government does not act decisively this will not be the last time that this community is targeted.

Last week in Naogaon, two hundred members of the indigenous community, organized under the banner of Jatiya Adibashi Parishad, began a 55 km march from Soraigachhi, Porsha upazila, through Mahadevpur upazila, to the district seat in Naogaon. They marched to protest a June 12th attack on 74 families (including 54 indigenous families) in Katirpur by a "gang" led by Nur Hossain Master. Over 300 people are still homeless and they have alleged that the local administration has not come forward to help them.
The JAP has laid a 9-point demand including: the arrest of Nur Hossain Master and his gang, the removal of the officer-in-charge of Porsha police station (who they accuse of joining the landgrabbers), constitutionally recognition, formation of a land commission, and a separate ministry for plains indigenous people.

The Communist Party of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal, Jatiya Krishak Samity, and Worker's Party have also taken part in the march and expressed solidarity (Daily Star).

Nur Hossain Master should be arrested with no delay, tried, and thrown behind bars. The OIC of Porsha station should be rigorously investigated, if there is a sufficient evidence to prove that he also took part in the intimidation - he should be expressly removed, stripped of his position, dismissed from the service, and thrown behind bars for a longer period than Nur Hossain. The OIC has lost the trust of the local people (if he had it in the first place) and ignored his duty to enforce the law without prejudice. A land commission should be formed, per the JAP's demand, to delineate the Adivasi's territory. Once it is delineated the police should protect the community from persons like Nur Hossain.

Hopefully the Jatiya Adibashi Parshiad is also willing to negotiate on some of the other points in the program. Particularly their call for a separate ministry of plains indigenous people, added bureaucracy in Bangladesh is not necessary. As for constitutional recognition, that depends on the details.

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