Bangladesh: Minority communities must get due constitutional recognition
The Bengali ruling class/es, now organised mainly under different political parties, especially the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, continue/s to commit a moral crime against the spirit of the independence war by way of refusing to give a clear constitutional recognition to national minority groups and, thus, depriving many citizens of the privileges they are legally entitled to.
Bangladesh was born after a series of ‘nationalist’ movements against the neo-colonialist political, economic and cultural exploitations by the Pakistani civil-military elite. The subsequent war of independence was also fought successfully on the basis of nationalist slogans. The history has recorded the fact that national minority people also joined hands with the majority Bengalis in both their political movements and military resistance for first securing autonomy within Pakistan and then for independence from Pakistan. It was, therefore, the moral responsibility of the Bengalis, organised as ruling class in the independent Bangladesh, to constitutionally recognise national minorities, or non-Bengali ethnicities in other words, and secure their rights notwithstanding the debate whether they are indigenous populations. But the Bengali rulers, irrespective of their politics of Bengali or Bangladeshi nationalism did not do justice to the national minorities, resulting in conflicts, cultural and physical, in different parts of the country, particularly the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The dominant Bengali ruling classes, organised on the basis of a nationalist spirit, ironically, continue to display disregard for the ‘nationalist’ feeling of the national minorities.
The national chauvinism of the Bengali ruling classes is so acute that they even refuse to properly recognise the number of ethnic groups inhabiting Bangladesh. According to a New Age report, headlined ‘No recognition for 46 nat’l minority groups yet’, published on Thursday, three government agencies give three figures as regards the number. The Cultural Institutions for Small Anthropological Groups Act 2010 names only 27 groups of national minority people. The 6th Five Year Plan of the government has listed 45 groups as small ethnic communities. The cultural ministry, on the other hand, has recently identified 72 ethnic minorities. The adverse impact of the exclusion of ethnic communities by the state is obvious: many citizens belonging to such communities remain deprived of various quotas meant for them.
The attitude of the ruling classes to the religious minority communities is hardly different. The constitutional recognition of Islam, now recognised by all the major political parties, has degraded the minority religious communities to the second class citizenry, which is another betrayal of the war of independence. Bangladesh needs to do away with all kinds of chauvinism, national or religious, to truly become a people’s democratic republic. With the ruling classes being united on chauvinistic politics, the democratically oriented dominated classes need to put in effective political resistance against discriminations — political, economic and cultural.
Source: New Age – 10/08/2012 (http://www.newagebd.com/detail.php?date=2012-08-10&nid=20084#.UC3zVKD8mj9)