The International Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Commission has demanded the withdrawal of a circular issued by the information ministry asking the media and the civil society not to use the word "adivasi (indigenous)" to mention the ethnic minorities.
Expressing grave "shock," it termed this ministry's position as "very undemocratic, derogatory to the indigenous peoples."
The commission, in an official press release issued on Wednesday, also called the move a "serious threat to the freedom of speech of the country's citizens."
In a circular issued on 19 July, signed by Deputy Secretary Sheikh Samsur Rahman, the ministry asked the media to avoid the use of the word "adivasi" in different programmes, discussions and talk shows that will be aired on the occasion of the International Indigenous Peoples' Day on 9 August.
Such a directive from the Ministry is utterly disrespectful towards the indigenous communities and violates the freedom of the indigenous peoples of Bangladesh to self-identify themselves as indigenous, observed the commission.
Citing Article 33 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples the commission wrote – "Indigenous peoples have the right to determine their own identity or membership in accordance with their customs and traditions."
The International CHT Commission argued that, as per the directive, the media should refrain from using the term "indigenous" as it is not constitutionally approved however, there is no such law or restriction in the constitution of Bangladesh that the word "indigenous" cannot be used.
Instead, various laws of the country, on many occasions, have interchangeably used the words "indigenous," "aboriginal," and "'adivasi" to refer to the indigenous peoples of Bangladesh, it added.
The commission has urged the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting of Bangladesh to withdraw the recent circular immediately.