Two cabinet members and a number of ruling alliance lawmakers yesterday denounced the government’s “negative attitude” towards the International Indigenous Day celebrations on August 9.
Speaking at a discussion, they demanded constitutional recognition of indigenous people and observance of the day at the state level.
The parliamentary caucus on indigenous affairs organised the discussion at the Central Pubic Library in the capital.
A home ministry circular in March directed all deputy commissioners and upazila nirbahi officers not to cooperate in or patronise the International Indigenous Day celebration. It also asked all government officials not to attend any programme marking the day.
Pointing to the government circular, Hasanul Haq Inu, an MP and president of the ruling alliance component Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, said such a role of the government was nothing but “nonsense”.
Lawmaker Rashed Khan Menon, also chief of another alliance member, Workers Party of Bangladesh, said it was very shameful that journalists were called over to the cantonment and given instructions not to use the word “indigenous”.
“In an independent country, security forces cannot give anybody such an instruction,” Menon, also chief of the parliamentary standing committee on education, said without going into details.
Inu and Menon, two key leaders in the Awami League-led grand alliance, demanded the home ministry circular be withdrawn immediately.
Inu, also chief of the parliamentary standing committee on posts and telecommunications, said a bill on indigenous rights would be placed at the next session of the House on behalf of the parliamentary caucus on indigenous affairs.
Speaking as the chief guest, Industry Minister Dilip Barua said it was very important to acknowledge indigenous people in the constitution.
Inaugurating the programme, State Minister for Cultural Affairs Promode Mankin said, “I am from an indigenous community. But it would be unconstitutional if I introduced myself as one of the indigenous people as our constitution does not recognise us.”
This is very unfortunate for the entire indigenous population of the country, he said.
Lawmakers Shawkat Momen Shahjahan, Sarah Begum Kabori, Fazle Hossain Badsha, AKM Mozammel Haq, Ziaur Rahman and Ruby Rahman, among others, spoke on the occasion.