Indigenous people deserve equal rights
Thursday, 14 August 2008

The International Day of Indigenous People was observed on Aug 9 as of every year in pursuance of a resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 23 December 1994. This year's slogan was 'The economic and social rights of the indigenous people.' Human rights activists, leaders of indigenous people and speakers at different functions organised in observance of the day that stressed the need for upholding the ethnic identity of the indigenous people and ensuring their fundamental, social, cultural and economic rights. Observing that the indigenous people in the country have been neglected and deprived of their rights all along and their lands are still been grabbed by the influential people, the speakers further said the aborigines should join the non-communal, democratic and progressive movement to realise their rights.  It may be pointed out here, Indigenous societies range from those who have been significantly exposed to the colonizing or expansionary activities of other societies to those who as yet remain in comparative isolation, negligence and deprivation. Precise estimates for the total population of the world's indigenous peoples are very difficult to compile, however, recent estimates range from 300 million to 350 million as of the start of the 21st century. This would equate to just under 6% of the total.. This includes at least 5000 distinct peoples in over 72 countries. In Bangladesh also there are a good number of indigenous people belonging to different ethnic groups mainly living in Chittagong Hill districts, Mymensingh and Sylhet. While the day was observed in the country with a vow to safeguard the rights of the indigenous people allegations came to the fore on the occasion that ethnic minority groups are being subjected to injustice, deprivation, discrimination and eviction from their own lands. Even the Law Adviser Hasan Arif admitted that lands of ethnic people were grabbed in the absence of adequate legal measures. One of the basic principles of our statehood is that all are equal citizens in this land whether they belong to the mainstream majority or the ethnic minority and whether they live in the plain lands or in the hilly areas. It is the inalienable birth right of the indigenous people to get equal facilities and protection with other citizens.

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