Saturday, 31 March 2012

IPs Recognition: Bangladesh wipes out the word “indigenous” from tourism Billboards

During the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 the government of Bangladesh took up a number of steps to promote the country's tourism sector. One of the steps includes promotion of the indigenous peoples of Chittagong Hills Tracts (CHT) to attract tourists. In this respect, large billboards showing the indigenous women in traditional dresses with the caption “Smiling Indigenous Women of Chittagong Hill-Tract” were put up in important places including in the airports.

The other day, while scrolling down my Facebook wall I have noticed a photograph of a billboard posted by a friend which shows the disappearance of the word “indigenous.” Now the billboard reads “Women of Chittagong Hill-Tract”.  The words “Smiling Indigenous” have been wiped out by the government. This billboard is reported to be displayed at one of the airports. Similarly, it can be presumed that the word indigenous may have been erased in all other similar billboards.

The Billboard Before
The Billboard now
Courtesy: Chakma Voice (Facebook)
This reflects the government’s growing unwillingness to recognize the Jumma population of the country as indigenous.  

The Jumma populations of Bangladesh are distinct from the mainstream population and have been demanding recognition as “indigenous.” However, they are not recognized as indigenous peoples. The 15th Amendment to the Constitution of Bangladesh identifies the Jumma population as ‘Bengalees’. The Government even denied existence of indigenous people in Bangladesh before the United Nations. Ironically, the Jumma populations have been identified and referred to as “indigenous” in the official documents for more than a century. There was no objection then about its use and application. In fact, the incumbent Prime Minister had even referred these communities as indigenous in her messages on international indigenous day.

This is nothing but to deny them their rights. Across the world, indigenous peoples suffer from discrimination, exclusion and marginalization. As a result they face great hardship in maintaining and developing their own models of development. Indigenous peoples are different from the mainstream population. They have their own distinct and unique cultures and views. Similarly, their needs and aspirations for the future may be different from the mainstream population. Therefore it is imperative to recognize and protect their rights, both individual and collective, for their development.

But, instead of recognizing and protecting the indigenous population, the government has made its anti-indigenous policies quite clear. It is common knowledge that human rights violations, discrimination, land grabbing and denial of rights against the indigenous Jumma peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh are rampant and continuing.

The wiping out of the word “indigenous” from the billboard show that the government is hell-bent on wiping out the ethnic identity of the Jumma population and to deny them rights. To make its anti-indigenous position more reverberating and perceptible, the government can do anything even to the extent of being look like a fool. The wiping out of the word “indigenous” shows that the government has lost its rationality and logic.

I would like to bring to the kind notice of the government of Bangladesh that the billboards were put up during the Cricket World Cup held last year. The world cup was over and in fact these billboards have become outdated and required to be taken off as a whole. It is understandable if the government is so poor that it could not afford to put up new billboards for the tourism ministry, hence, still using these outdated billboards to attract tourists to the country. However, at best it could have erased the words “ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 and its Logo” which are still there in the revised billboards and not the word “indigenous”.

Your hatred towards the indigenous population of the CHT and the word “indigenous” are no longer state secrets. Bangladesh is a nation and at least do not look silly in the eyes of the tourists. The cricket world cup is long over. Wake up from your slumber!

Monday, 26 March 2012

NHRC directs Arunachal Govt. to compensate a victim of police brutality

In a case of police brutality, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on March 15, 2012 directed the State government of Arunachal Pradesh to pay a compensation of Rs. 75,000 to a victim who was tortured by the India Reserve Battalion (IRBn) jawans in September 2010.

The NHRC had received a complaint from Suhas Chakma, Director of the Asian Centre for Human Rights, a Delhi-based human rights organization, stating that the victim, Khya Sonam Tara was tortured by the IRBn jawans at Dewana Hotel Tinali area in Seppa, East Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh on September 15, 2010. The victim, who was a teacher in a government school, was on his way to pay his electricity bill when he was stopped by the IRBn jawans for not wearing helmet and was subjected to torture in full public view. As a result, the victim sustained serious injuries in his body requiring him to be hospitalised.

After finding three IRBn jawans identified as Constables. Ngamwang Tekwa, Logan Chinyang and Tiro Lama guilty of physically assaulting the victim, the NHRC issued a show cause notice vide its proceeding dated 23.5.2011 under section 18(a)(i) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, to the state government as to why the Commission should not recommend monetary relief for the victim.

In response to the show cause notice, Joint Secretary (Home), Government of Arunachal Pradesh vide his letter dated 12.7.2011 informed the Commission that a magisterial inquiry in the incident has been ordered and the police investigation is also still in progress and, hence, monetary relief may not be recommended by the Commission.

Taking a tough stand, the NHRC rejected the contention of the state government. The NHRC observed that “As to the investigation by the police, the Commission is not bound to wait for its completion, as a criminal trial would only decide on the criminality aspect of the case. The material before the Commission is sufficient to hold, prima facie, that the IRBn Personnel violated the human rights of the victim by assaulting him in full public view and causing him grievous injuries. Consequently, the State cannot escape its liability to compensate the victim.”

Accordingly, the NHRC recommended the state government of Arunachal Pradesh, through its Chief Secretary, to pay a compensaton of Rs. 75,000 to Khya Sonam Tara and submit compliance report along with proof of payment within six weeks.