Mistreatment and disenfranchisement of the marginalised communities around the world has for decades remained a key issue of social, economic, and political debates across the globe, and Bangladesh is no exception. The marginalisation of people also poses challenges in achieving sustainable development.
In simple terms, marginalisation refers to the relegation, exclusion, downgrading and disempowerment of the minorities, the disadvantaged or remote individuals, groups, and communities by the mainstream society.
Minorities or disenfranchised individuals, class, group or communities are often subjected to marginalisation because of their socio-economic identities, including ethnic, religious, social class, and occupations.
Multiple factors, including gender, religion, ethnicity, caste, creed, class, displacement, disability, geography, and conflict, could trigger the marginalisation of people. Marginalisation, in most cases, is the outcome of poverty, deprivation, and social exclusion.
In Bangladesh, marginalised communities are clustered in five types of ethno-economic social groups: ethnic minority communities of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), ethnic minority communities of plain land (including Mymensingh-Netrokona Hill Areas), religious minorities, and socio-occupational groups at the bottom of the national-social class pyramid.
There are more than fifty marginalised communities in Bangladesh. Ethnically marginalised groups are mainly concentrated in three CHT districts (Bandarban, Khagrachari, Rangamati), Mymensingh, Netrokona, Sherpur, and Tangail.
Religious minorities, on the other hand, are scattered across all corners of Bangladesh, while the socio-occupational minorities are majorly living around the urban centres of Bangladesh.
Socio-occupational outcast groups are Horijons, Rishis, Charmokar (Cobbler), Malakar (Garland maker), Kumar/ Kumvhokar/Pal/Rudropal (Potter), Kamar, Kaiputro, Koiborto, Kolu, Kol, Kahar, Khourokar, Nikari or trader, Bauli, Bhagobania, Manata, Malo (Fishermen), Maual (Honey collector), Mahato, Rajo Das, Rajbongshi, Rana Karmokar, Roy, Shobdokar, Shobor, Sannasi, Hazra, Jola (Weavers), Hajam (Circumcisers), Bede (Gypsy), Bawali (Honey and firewood collector) and traditional fisherfolks.
A portion of these socio-occupational marginalised groups are known as Dalits. Besides, there are gender-based marginalised groups such as transgender and third-gender.
There were many studies on marginalisation in Bangladesh. These studies attempted various formulas and methods to understand marginalisation in Bangladesh comprehensively.
However, none of the studies succeeded much due to the unavailability of national consensus on marginalisation dynamics. The critical challenge for measuring marginalisation is the sheer lack of universally recognised and accepted definitions and standards.
In the national level development policy, strategy, and action plan formulation, the state of marginalisation is essential to know; otherwise, those will not be all-inclusive and sustainable.
Several national and international legal and policy frameworks are available to safeguard rights and mandate the inclusion of marginalised communities. In the Constitution of Bangladesh, Articles 23A, 27, 28, and 29 guarantees the protection of ethnic groups' rights, culture, and traditions.
In addition, the Government of Bangladesh developed various legal instruments and policies to protect and promote the rights and socio-economic development of marginalised communities.
Bangladesh also ratified several international legal instruments associated with the protection and promotion of marginalised individual/group rights. However, these instruments would not effectively prevent marginalisation unless we know the state of marginalisation of all marginalised groups.
Recently, an Anti-Discrimination Bill was placed in the National Parliament. This proposed Act should be subject to consultations with all marginalised groups (not limited to sample representatives).
Passing the proposed bill without reaching a national level consensus with all types of marginalised communities and relevant rights activist groups would not serve the ultimate goal of the Act.
The Bangladesh Government also has several Social Safety Net Programmes (SSNPs), and the Ministry of Social Welfare is implementing a project titled Livelihood Development of the Marginalised Communities of Bangladesh.
This project aims to ensure no one is left behind. Considering that many marginalised communities are yet to be under this project coverage, such government endeavours also required an understanding of the state of marginalisation.
Multidimensional aspects are contributing to the deprivation of an individual or group of individuals that lead to their marginalisation. The following questions need to be answered regarding marginalisation in Bangladesh: a) What will be the definition/characteristics of marginalisation? b) What will be the criteria for being marginalised? c) What will be the variables and indicators to measure marginalisation? d) What will be the possible formula/method to develop a national index to measure forms and scale of marginalisation? e) The dynamics of marginalisation and cross-cutting issues for marginalised groups will be?
The state of marginalisation is possible to understand based on a trio approach combining research investigation, community consultation, and policy dialogues, to answer the questions asked above.
Upfront participation of marginalised groups themselves as informants and researchers is essential, along with intense engagement of government and non-government agencies to comprehend the state of marginalisation.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.