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About 'Indigenous Voice'

 


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The world community, United Nations (UN) and the donor agencies put utmost emphasis on ensuring human rights and the proper development of the minorities and the aboriginals. The constitution of Bangladesh also proclaimed the equal rights and facilities for all the people irrespective of class, caste, color, race, religion, gender and language. But there prevails a wide gap between the by-laws of the constitution and the reality. Saontal is one of the most backward, unprivileged and negligible indigenous communities of Bangladesh. Most of them live in the wide area covering Rajshahi, Natore, Chapai Nawabgonj, Bogra, Naogaon, Pabna, Rangpur and Dinajpur in the northern region of the country. Presently they are about 20 lakh, but 99% of them live below poverty. They are very marginal socially too. In spite of living in this area for hundreds of years, they are deprived of education and other development. Their condition and location is very disappointing in every indicator of development. They are back warded in every side including income, education, lodging, health, treatment, job etc. Due to having no right and ownership upon land, still they are to live here and there like nomad. They have also been deprived from any legal support everywhere. The status and condition of the Saontal is very lower in every sphere of the social and state structure. A discriminatory attitude about the Saontal is prevailing everywhere in the society.

Due to severe poverty and prevailing socio-economic situation, their proper development, empowerment, economic freedom and human rights have not yet been ensured. Though the Government and some non-government organizations have taken some initiatives to improve their socio-economic condition, but they could not succeed in changing their lot and in raising their voice much. After all the Saontal are becoming prey to torture, harassment, exploitation and negligence, becoming deprived of their basic human rights. But the real picture of the torture, oppression, harassment, exploitation and problems of the Saontal have not been properly reflected in the mass media, or if done it has been done negatively and sporadically. Similarly the art, culture, traditional glory, folk concept, socio-economic condition, expectation, problem and potentiality of the Saontal have never been highlighted in the media. For example it can be mentioned that the news and stories relating to the murder of prominent Saontal leader Alfred Soren killed in last 2000 at Manda in Naogaon, protest movement and demonstration were not properly published and reflected in the leading newspapers. Moreover, while a popular Saontal leader was one of the candidates in the parliament election held in 2001, he was not properly highlighted or focused, even the stories of his being tortured and harassed by his opposition were not truly reflected in our mass media.

There is a direct involvement of the minorities like Chakma, Garo, Marma though little in the mass media, but the Saontal has no involvement with such a powerful, creative and intellectual media like newspaper and television channels. As a result it has impacted negatively in preparing, publishing and broadcasting the news stories related to the life and works of the Saontal. Consequently, the real picture of the torture, oppression, harassment, exploitation, traditional glory, folk concept, socio-economic condition, expectation, problem and potentiality of the Saontal have not reached to the Government, policy makers and the donor agencies properly. As a result the significant issue like their development and human rights has been neglected in the national policy leaving them deprived of any scope of having all the facilities and development.

Journalism is such a dynamic social system that influences all other systems and advances the change in the prevailing norms and traditions. Mass media and journalism have been significantly considered and used as weapons in socio-economic and cultural development, in spreading education, solving social problem, creating political ups and downs, establishing good governance and human rights, creating public awareness and opinion and for lobbying and advocacy in almost everywhere in the world. Even the role of mass media and journalism is given much more importance in such developing countries like Bangladesh. That is why beside other efforts the press and mass media can play more significant role in preventing the oppression, torture and harassment, in empowering, in preserving human rights, the traditional art, culture and indigenous knowledge and above all in proper development of the Saontal. In fact through ensuring the direct involvement and active participation of some of the representatives from the potential Saontal people in the press and mass media, it can be possible to flourish the sustainable, stable and balanced development and to ensure the human rights of the Saontal minority. At the same time through raising their voice it will be possible to impose pressure upon the Government and the donor agencies to adopt necessary development programs for their socio-economic, education and health related up-gradation. But it is not possible only with the use of the traditional trend of journalism without the proper role of the leading press and mass media. As a possible alternative, it is easily possible through introducing and flourishing community based active journalism, which is very innovative in the context of Bangladesh.

No such effort has yet been adopted by the Government or non-government agencies in Bangladesh to ensure the direct involvement of the minority people in such creative and intellectual profession like journalism or to flourish the community based active journalism. The above-mentioned circumstances encouraged CCD to take this project. Through this project CCD adopted such great initiative to create a new scope of involving the most backward and unprivileged minority people like the Saontal in a creative and intellectual profession like journalism.

If this project is implemented the Saontal will be able to conduct lobbying and advocacy for their development, empowerment and human rights and to highlight their own glorious art, culture, traditional folk relics, rights, oppression, harassment, exploitation, problems, even the expectation and potentiality to the higher authority of the Government and the donor agencies through publishing those latent issues through press and mass media. At last it can be said that the implementation of this project will initiate a new era in respect of establishing human rights and in ensuring the socio-economic development of the of the Saontal people.

 

 

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