To support Jummas and raise awareness of issues affecting the Indigenous Peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh
The majority of Bangladesh’s 143.3 million people are Bengalis, and approximately 2.5 million are Indigenous Peoples belonging to 45 different ethnic groups.
These peoples are concentrated in the north, 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 common practice of swidden cultivation (crop rotation agriculture) locally known as jum.
There is no constitutional recognition of the indigenous peoples of Bangladesh. They are only referred to as “backward segments of the population”.
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 defence of their rights. In December 1997, the 25-year-long civil war ended with a Peace Accord between the Government of Bangladesh and the Parbattya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS, United People’s Party), which led the resistance movement. The Accord recognises the Chittagong Hill Tracts as a “tribal inhabited” region, its traditional governance system and the role of its chiefs, and it provides building blocks for indigenous autonomy.
The situation of the Indigenous Peoples has become critical during the current State of Emergency in Bangladesh (since January 2007), and their representative and leaders have been targetted.
Matters have worsened in recent months with food shortage taking hold of some of the more vulnerable Indigenous communities living in remote areas, such as Sajek and Farua.
This group aims to raise awareness of the situation faced by the Jummas in the CHT and to campaign for the Government of Bangladesh and international donors to ensure the rights of the Indigenous Peoples are recognised and that there are timely responses to urgent situations affecting the Jummas.
1. To promote awareness of critical issues facing Indigenous Jummas of the CHT
2. To disseminate current news and media on the situation of the Indigenous Peoples of the CHT
3. To campaign to end discrimination against Jummas and human rights defenders