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Defining 'Indigenous' in Bangladesh: International Law in Domestic Context

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Bangladesh is one of the 11 states which abstained in voting on the United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The reason as stated by the representative of Bangladesh at UN is that the term 'indigenous peoples' has not been clearly defined or identified in the aforementioned Declaration. In fact, the government of Bangladesh has been persistently denying many of the marginal communities' claim to recognition as indigenous peoples. The article argues that the state of non-dominance is one of the determining criteria of the definitions of indigenous peoples in international law. Drawing on the discourses of subaltern historiography and internal colonialism, this article further argues that the said marginal communities of Bangladesh indeed meet all the criteria including non-dominance inasmuch as they are entitled to recognition and legal protection as indigenous peoples. Case studies on historical profiles of three marginal communities of Bangladesh are provided as factual evidence in support of the above proposition.


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Affiliations: 1: LLM in International Legal Studies (NYU), Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh


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