Group’s demands include official recognition as an indigenous community
The Dinajpur 6 constituency, comprised of Hakimpur, Birampur, Nawabganj and Ghoraghat, is home to more than 100,000 members of a small ethnic community.
Among those people, around 52,000 are voters, and the Awami League considers them their vote bank.
The community has reiterated their trust in the ruling party, but made a few demands, such as a special quota for the ethnic people, establishing education curricula in their mother tongue and increasing their quality of life.
The ethnic community in this region suffers from a multitude of issues, including land disputes, unemployment and lack of official recognition as an indigenous community.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, local leader of the ethnic community Michael Tudu said: “There are around 50,000 voters in our community, but we suffer from many issues.
“I am urging that effective measures be taken to meet our demands following the 11th general election.”
Demands made by ethnic community
Addressing these issues, another ethnic community leader Kerobin Hembrom said: “The roads need improvement, but I want to thank the local lawmaker and the government for ensuring us a steady supply of electricity.
“I urge the local lawmaker to represent our demands to the government regarding the existing land disputes plaguing our community and ensure our rights as members of the ethnic community.”
Commenting on the 15th amendment of the constitution, Hembrom said: “Following that amendment, we are no longer being recognized as indigenous people. This change further complicates our land ownership issues.
“We identify ourselves as Bangladeshi, but we are not Bangali, we are members of the indigenous community. Our land is at serious risk of being seized by culprits.”
The 15th amendment was passed by the Awami League government on June 30, 2011, making some significant changes including scrapping the system of the caretaker government of Bangladesh, and incorporating article 23A regarding the restoration of culture of different ethnic sects, tribes, minor races and communities.
However, the constitution did not recognize them as “indigenous people.”
Ethnic community members Victoria Tudu and Prodip Mardi pointed out they are ready to vote for the boat again, but they hope that their demands will be met as soon as possible.
They added that the ethnic community is quite backwards in terms of education and employment, and if the government does not extend its support, the community will fall further behind.
Dinajpur 6 incumbent lawmaker and Awami League candidate contesting in the next parliamentary election Shibli Sadiq said: “I and the government have always stood beside the ethnic community living in this region.
“We have made a serious effort to develop their quality of life. If elected again, I will launch a project to build a school for the ethnic children, where they will be educated in their mother tongue.”
He added that the unemployment issue suffered by the ethnic community will also be resolved by building a handicraft product factory in the region, and creating other employment opportunities.