Farida C. Khan

Predicaments of Plains Adibashis or Indigenous Groups in Bangladesh

Building on visits made to different parts of Bangladesh, this talk will describe the ongoing problems faced by various adibashi groups in Bangladesh. Large numbers of adibashis in the Eastern part of the country are located in the less densely populated hills as opposed to others who are part of the plains, many living at the edge of forests in their own villages or intermingled with other communities. This talk will focus on these communities who are not in the hills – or can be called plains adibashis. These peoples are very often indistinguishable in appearance from mainstream Bangladeshis and both the state and society has largely tended
to deny that they belong to unique communities. It has therefore been necessary to place the recognition of their identity on to a political platform. The plains adibashis have joined the clearly distinguishable hills adibashis to further this political program.
The distinctions of identity are disappearing among plains adibashis, often through rapid or slow violence, making it difficult to identify them as separate groups. How are the state and society complicit in such a disappearance of identity and what is the future of such a transition? Under the assumption that preservation is desirable, what types of forces are in place allowing preservation, what kind of preservation has been encouraged, and what possibilities exist within the current frameworks?