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Global issue 20

Extending along the south-eastern side of Bangladesh, the rolling green scenery of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) is a sight to behold. Unfolding like a picture screen, the hills, rivers, lakes and waterfalls give way to dense forests and creeper jungles, which are home to a colourful range of species. The area is home to more than 60 species of birds, which share their habitat with monkeys, wild cats, turtles, snakes, lizards and tree frogs, making the area a highly desirable tourist spot. Tourists wishing to visit the area, however, must do so with care and may find themselves up against a few barriers. The hill tracts themselves are not only a beautiful place to visit, but are steeped in rich culture and tradition. The only extensively hilly region of Bangladesh, the hill tracts are an area of extreme ethnic, religious and cultural diversity, contrasting with the rest of Bangladesh. The majority of Bangladesh’s 154.6 million people are Bengalis, but approximately three million are tribes people, who differ markedly from the Bengali majority in terms of language, culture, religion and appearance. Approximately 500,000 of these tribe members, from 11 distinct tribes, call the CHT their home. Speaking with Global, Dr Nicholas Taylor, who served as head of governance and human rights development co-operation for the European Union in Bangladesh up until 2007, highlights some of the issues the inhabitants of the CHT face regarding relationships with the Bengali population of Bangladesh. “Within Bangladesh itself, there is an issue to do with categorising these ‘indigenous’ peoples,” he says. “Although some Bengali people do use the word ‘tribal’ to describe these communities, the preferred term is Adivasi, which, when translated directly, becomes ‘aboriginal’. This in itself is problematic, because the Bengali people In Focus Bangladesh When indigenous people come second The ‘indigenous’ people of Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts have a long history of persecution. Not only are they treated as second-class citizens in their own country, but it is now believed that their presence in the region was predated by the arrival of some Bengalis in the lowlands Jade Fell 68 l www.global -br ief ing.org f i rst quar ter 2015 global


Global issue 20
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