Venue: Sharoda Hall, Sylhet, Bangladesh
Dated: 9th August 2008
The Theme of this year’s World Indigenous Day was The Economic and Social Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Ethnic Community Development Organization (ECDO) is a non government & nonprofit voluntary development organization working with different ethnic and indigenous communities in Sylhet region, Bangladesh. As an organization dedicated to the welfare of disadvantaged indigenous communities, in 2005, it took an initiative to celebrate World Indigenous Day for the first time in Sylhet city with support from VSO Bangladesh. After the successful celebration in 2005, ECDO continues to celebrate World Indigenous Day with the active participation of different local indigenous and ethnic community based organizations. This year ECDO also celebrated this Day successfully.
A brief description of the celebration:
The celebrations began with the raising of the national flag & singing the national anthem at 10 am, the day’s celebration was inaugurated by Prof. Abdul Aziz. Just after the inauguration, a colorful rally of about six hundred indigenous peoples walked around the city. They carried different placards & banners marking different indigenous rights.
After the rally, all the participants went back to Sharoda auditorium where discussion and a cultural session was held. The discussion session was chaired by Mr. Gouranga Patra Chief Executive of Patro Sampradai Kollyan Parishad. Mr. J, N Biswas, Additional Commissioner Sylhet Division was present as the chief guest. Mr. Harunoor Rashid Khan, deputy commissioner- Sylhet, Md. Aftab Uddin acting General Secretary of Sylhet Press Club and Mr. Saikat Biswas Project Officer of OXFAM GB were present as Special Guests. The Welcome speech was given by Mr. Lakshmikanta Singh Executive Director of Ethnic Community Development Organization (ECDO). He said that ECDO has been organizing World Indigenous Day since 2005. Indigenous people in this region at present are facing many problems and to solve them we need to cooperate with one another and spread awareness. He requested the cooperation of local government and civil society in the economic and social development of the indigenous community.
The present situation of indigenous community of Sylhet region prepared by ECDO and PASKAP research paper was presented by Mr. Nabul Chism. He suggested 10 recommendations for the development of indigenous community. Then Adibashi leaders gave their speeches, Mr. Jubel Lusai Chairman of Tribal Welfare Association of Sylhet, Mr. Rano Bahadur Jute leader of Tea labor community, Mr. Rabindra Patra Chairman of Patra Adibashi Oykya Parishad, Ms. S. Rina Devi Chairperson, Bangladesh Manipuri Mahila Somity and Mr. Horendra Patra. In their speech they all vocalized the need for the indigenous to have their own language, literature, and culture and requested the government for a system where a quota of government services went to Indigenous people. They also appealed to government to stop the harassment of indigenous community by some mainstream community.
Special Guest Mr. Harunoor Rashid Khan said that government and non government organization should cooperate together to ensure the rights of indigenous people are upheld. He went on to add that the problem of CHT and plain land are separate but their heritage and culture are similar. Indigenous people have rights but they are not claiming their rights, the government on the other hand, is also not ensuring indigenous rights. According to him this issue would be resolved if indigenous leaders have links with the local government.
Chief Guest Mr. J, N Biswas said that indigenous communities are part of our society and it’s quite impossible to develop a country without them. Indigenous communities are being phased out by war, harassment, under development, so to remedy this situation not only government agencies but also non governmental organizations should play a more active role with them. He added that indigenous people’s culture and heritage are well known in foreign countries and present care taker government is working for the development of indigenous community. The situation of indigenous people has improved from the past. He emphasized the importance of education to overcome the many problems of indigenous people. He commended the program of World Indigenous Day and said that it has vastly improved his knowledge of indigenous people’s problems and given him suggestions on resolutions to explore. He ended his speech by pledging his support from the government side to solve the indigenous problems.
Discussion Session Chair Person Mr. Gorango Patra said that indigenous people’s problems have no limit.Ã‚Â At present, Indigenous people are harassed by some local mainstream community peoples. To ensure the fundamental rights of indigenous communities, he urged the cooperation of the government. He then closed the discussion session.
After lunch break there was an excellent cultural program organized and participated by the different indigenous communities in the area: – Khasi, Manipuri, Patro, Garo and Tea labor. Each community was given a chance to present their distinct culture on the stage. The audience was entertained by the lively program and their applause could be heard in all the surrounding neighborhoods. The program was presented and organized by Nongpoklai Sinha & Rabikiron Singha Project coordinator of ECDO.
ECDO would also like to recognize OXFAM GB and VSO Bangladesh, whose financial support made the day’s celebration possible. Without their financial support and cooperation it would have been impossible for ECDO to organize such a large scale program. So ECDO gratefully acknowledges these organizations for their unconditional support and assistance and ECDO believes that this cooperation will be continued and extended in future. It should be mentioned that ECDO also published a journal with the name of Annual Review of Ethnic Affairs Volume IV. On the occasion of this day celebration with support from VSO Bangladesh; the review contains a lot of indigenous related articles.