WHAT ARE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE’S ISSUES IN BANGLADESH

Chakma MK is a Human Rights activist working with indigenous people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh since 1980s. He has been working with Human Rights organizations on the issue of Indigenous People. He has spoken at various national and international forums on the issue of Chakma people.
In a conversation with Vidya Bhushan Rawat, he explains the current crisis of the Chakma people in Bangladesh, their problems and how government deals with them.

Equally important to understand the issues of indigenous people as far as partition of India was concern. It is difficult for human rights defenders, political activists in South Asia to speak candidly and boldly due to various security concerns of our friends.

We are not providing much details of our friend due the security concerns but sure that this interaction will give you enough idea of the issue of indigenous people in Bangladesh and how they have been treated.

VB: Mr. Chakma what are the main issues of Chakma community in Bangladesh?

CMK: There are not only Chakma in Chittagong Hill Tract (CHT). It is a land of 11 multilingual indigenous peoples consisting of Chakma, Marma, Tripura, Mro, Bawm, Pangkhu, Khyang, Khumi, Chak, Lushai and Tanchangya.

They all are collectively known as Jumma (High Landers). Besides, a very small number of descendents of Assames, Gorkha and Santals also live in there.

They are distinct and different from the majority Bengali people of Bangladesh in respects of race, language, culture, heritage and religion.

The CHT is divided into three hill districts, namely, Rangamati, Khagrachari and Bandarban. The legal and administrative system in the CHT is nevertheless separate and distinct from those in other parts of the country.

The general administrative setup does equally exist in CHT i.e. elected bodies of people’s representatives at two levels – Union and National level – along with the implementing line agencies at Upazila, District and National level.

Alongside there are decentralised government institutions in CHT i.e. CHT Regional Council at regional level and Hill District Councils at district level. In addition to the above institutions, the CHT has a three tier traditional structure based on the customs of the local indigenous Jumma people with Circle Chiefs, and Headmen at Mouza and Karbaries at village levels. The Chiefs are the heads of their respective revenue and administrative circles.