By Maisha Zahir
“Those two tribal girls kept talking in their weird language the whole time I was there. I kept getting a feeling that they were discussing me, NOT in a good way. The spa owner should do something about these girls; it was a very unpleasant experience for me, whereas I was supposed to feel relaxed!”
This specific example tops the list of my most heard complaints. Most women have said so at least once.
This got me thinking. We feel excluded and unpleasant when we do not understand a mere conversation of a few minutes; how must the ethnic community feel, being left out of a whole society, for years?
The Bangladesh government provides very little information and statistics about these ethnic groups, averting any interest a person might have about such ethnic groups and their cultures.
Bangladesh is said to be a very diverse country, with different groups of people living together. But are we really a diverse country? Do we truly accept our differences? Unfortunately, various incidents do not suggest so. There have been attacks on tribal people. They are seen as less competent and are not given much importance.
They mostly reside in the hilly and forest areas of Bangladesh, hidden away from civilization. No significant steps are taken to improve their areas. Moreover, any initiative towards advancement taken by these indigenous people are only viewed from a menacing point of view, never encouraging.
They are constantly mocked by people, rarely seen as anything better than slaves. Their talents and thoughts are over-shadowed by the fact that they are a minority.
Growing up, I had the privilege to meet a few talented dancers of the ethnic community in various events. Their graceful steps and unusual attire camouflaged every hardship they had to endure in order to reach the stage.
I remember being awestruck by their grace, inspired to try out folk dancing. Never was I able to exhibit their tales accurately, neither was I able to decipher their struggles.
Trips to a few areas of the Chittagong Hill Tracts revealed their dire situations; the areas were filled with fragile houses with no proper schools, hospitals or water sources. I could spot tiny shops filled with handcrafted accessories and utensils. There were stacks of thami, their signature clothes, made from colorful threads and embroidered with adept hands.
I bought along a pair of clay bangles, adorned with beautiful strokes of paint.
These breathtaking pieces of art should be exhibited around the country, not kept in dusty shelves rarely visited by people.
The ethnic community is filled with wonderful people who possess unique skills. They deserve to be a part of Bangladesh just as much as any other citizen does.
Yes, the government should take an initiative to improve their lives. However, what we keep forgetting is that each of us play a role in building up the system, and until or unless we start believing these people deserve a proper life like any other human being, the government can never truly improve their lives.
Writing about the ethnic community may not drastically change their unfair lives. But I dare to hope it may change a few perspectives. Perhaps, if we all stop thinking they are different in a wrong way, and for a change try to accept the differences and appreciate them, we could all live in harmony, and take pride in every talented soul that lives among us. After all, every one of us are human beings, with the exact same goal: to live, happily.
About the Author
Syeda Maisha Zahir
Chief Editor of the Refugees and Racial Minorities department
Maisha is an O level graduate from Chittagong International School. Her interests include reading, writing, music, baking and poetry recitation. She enjoys discussing and learning about world issues.