Indigenous Peoples situation of Bangladesh (2015)

Binota Dhamai, Pallab Chakma

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    The majority of Bangladesh’s 142.3 million1 people are Bengalis but approximately 3 million are indigenous peoples.2 They belong to at least 54 different ethnic groups. These peoples are concentrated in the north-west (Rajshahi-Dinajpur), central north (Mymensingh-Tangail), north-east (Sylhet), south and south-east (Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar and Greater Barisal), and in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) in the south-east of the country. In the CHT, the indigenous peoples are commonly known as Jummas for their practice of swidden cultivation (crop rotation agriculture), locally known as jum. The Government of Bangladesh does not recognize indigenous peoples as “indigenous”. A 2011 amendment to the constitution refers to them as “tribes”, “minor races” and “ethnic sects and communities”. Other legislation uses the term “adibashi”, the Bengali equivalent of indigenous or aboriginal.3 Bangladesh has ratified ILO Convention 107 on Indigenous and Tribal Populations but not ILO Convention 169, and it abstained from voting when the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted in the General Assembly in 2007. Indigenous peoples remain among the most persecuted of all minorities, facing discrimination not only on the basis of their religion and ethnicity but also because of their indigenous identity and their socio-economic status. In the CHT, the indigenous peoples took up arms in defense of their rights in 1976. The civil war ended in 1997 with a CHT “Peace” Accord, 4 recognizing the CHT as a “tribal inhabited” region. The traditional governance system and the role of its chiefs is specifically recognized, and the Accord provides building blocks for indigenous self-determination. It remains, however, largely unimplemented, which has resulted in continued widespread human rights violations, violent conflicts and military control.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe Indigenous World 2015
    Editors Cæcilie Mikkelsen
    Place of PublicationDenmark
    PublisherThe International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs
    ISBN (Print)978-87-92786-52-4
    Publication statusPublished - 2015

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