Ethnic minority youth organisations from the hills and the plains joined forces to form a first-ever youth forum titled ‘Bangladesh Adivasi Juba Forum.’ on Friday.
Terming it a historic occasion, ethnic minority youth leaders pledged to work together to resist discrimination, violence against ethnic minority women and children and state-sponsored oppression.
‘The existence of adivasis is at stake because of state aggression,’ said a written statement read out at the inaugural session of the two-day-long conference being held in the capital for constituting the forum.
‘Adivasi youths felt the necessity to get united as their community members continued to face eviction countrywide,’ said Ananta Bikash Dhamai, convener of Bangladesh Adivasi Juba Forum convening committee.
A written statement was read out by Chandra Tripura, a member of the convening committee formed last year, at the opening session of the conference.
‘A conspiracy to destroy adivasi society and culture is on in the name of development,’ said the written statement while alleging that young human rights advocates were facing a wide range of harassment.
Young ethnic minority leaders also demanded full implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord, constitutional recognition of them as ‘adivasis’, and withdrawal of false and vexatious cases filed against them.
The inaugural session was held at Liberation War Museum in the capital where members of civil society and representatives of political and cultural organisations of ethnic minorities participated in.
‘Discrimination prevails everywhere in society that once fought for upholding equality, human rights and human dignity,’ said Bangladesh Adivasi Forum general secretary Sanjeeb Drong.
He said that even Bengalis living in remote places face discrimination as privileges are dispensed to those close to power.
‘This is unfortunate to observe oppressed Bengalis turn oppressor in just five decades,’ said Dhaka University professor Robayet Ferdous referring to the continued repression on ethnic minorities in the country.
He said that the number of ethnic minorities steadily declined across Bangladesh presenting the case study of CHT, where Bengalis are now almost equal in number to ethnic minorities.
‘Those who want constitutional recognition are never separatists. Separatists are those who deny its citizens constitutional recognition,’ he said.
Nagarik Udyog executive director Zakir Hossain, Bangladesh Adivasi Nari Network member secretary Chanchona Chakma, Bangladesh Adivasi Chhatra Sangram Parishad general secretary Alik Mree and Bangladesh Juba Maitree vicepresident Abdul Ahad Minar spoke in the inaugural session.