bdnews24.com senior correspondent
Dhaka, Feb 23 (bdnews24.com)- The Bangla and English editions of the Banglapedia, the national encyclopaedia of Bangladesh, contain confusing information about the small or minority nationality.
Investigation has revealed that wrong notions about the language, culture and history of the people have found place in the first national encyclopaedia of the country.
banglapedia.org website and computer disc (CD) also shows this.
Asiatic Society of Bangladesh published the encyclopaedia in March 2003.
When the attention of the leaders of these people and the intellectuals was drawn to the matter recently, they expressed their resentment to bdnews24.com.
They demanded withdrawal of the wrong information about the people of the smaller nationalities from the corpus.
The Banglapedia has also used negative words "Mogh" for Marma and Rakhaine, "Tipra" for Tripura and "Murang" for Mros. The encyclopaedia has described them as "Upajati" (tribes) though none of these people call themselves so.
Various wrong notions have been provided in the encyclopaedia about their way of life and culture. Besides, many pieces of information provided in Banglapedia are antiquated and have no relevance with their present day lifestyle.
General secretary of 'Adivasi Forum', a platform of the smaller nationality people, and noted writer Sanjib Drong recently told bdnews24.com, "None of the information about the people of the small nationalities in the Banglapedia was acceptable at all. It insulted 30 lakh people of the country by presenting distorted information about them. The encyclopaedia looked at the indigenous people with a negative attitude."
He demanded immediate withdrawal of the distorted information regarding these people from the Banglapedia and publication of a new edition incorporating views of the intellectuals and researchers representing these people.
Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council member and Jana Sanghati Samity top leader Rupayan Dewan said, "The Banglapedia showed indifference and neglect to the minority nationalities by terming them as "tribes".
"The History of Chittagong Hill Tracts has not also been properly presented in the Banglapedia. It does not mention the miserable life of about 70,000 hill refugees, neither has it portrayed the changes in the geographical situation of Chittagong Hill Tracts due to Kaptai Lake and sufferings in public life."
"Banglapedia does not give any idea of the shrinking of public life in Chittagong Hill Tracts as the Peace Agreement has not yet been implemented even nine years after the signing of the deal."
Leader of the Garo people and writer Badhan Areng has also expressed similar views.
"The encyclopaedia is replete with distortion of facts about Garos. Most of the information regarding the food habit, alphabet and lifestyle of Garos included in the Banglapedia is wrong," said Badhan.
He said, "The profession of Garos-irrespective of educated or illiterate- has changed long ago. Besides, Garos are not Khasias. All the small nationality people of the country are bilingual. Their formal language is Bangla."
Tripura leader Binotamoy Dhamai said, "There is no similarity between our alphabet and Chakma alphabet. As we don't have any alphabet we have been practising our language using Roman or English alphabet for long."
Mro leader Ronglai Mro "We have been demeaned in the Banglapedia by being described as Murong. Mro people have their own religion and alphabet named "Krama".
Chief editor of Banglapedia Prof Sirajul Islam, meanwhile, admitted the mistakes and inclusion of confusing information about the small nationality people in the national encyclopaedia.
"The indigenous leaders and intellectuals have already informed us about the matter," he said.
"One of the causes of distortion of information is that the majority Bangalees think the smaller nationalities are undeveloped, primitive and uncivilised. This is a limitation of attitude. This is a serious flaw in this research oriented book 'Banglapedia," the chief of the national corpus said.
"A nationality however small it may be, deserves respect for their food habit, culture, heritage etc."
Prof Sirajul Islam said that in the second edition of the Banglapedia all information regarding the minority nationality people would be dropped and initiative had been taken to include new entries. The indigenous writers and intellectuals would given the responsibility. A researcher of anthropology would edit the part. The opinions of different indigenous leaders would also be sought before publication of the second edition."
He said that in the second edition of the Banglapedia the word "tribe" "upajati" would be replaced by words like "small linguistic nationalities".
What kind of wrong and confusing information are there in Banglapedia? Here are a few examples:
About "upajati (tribe)" the Banglapedia says, "A good number of upajatis (tribes) of Bangladesh have now forgotten their own language and speak in Bangla.... Except for one or two, all upajati languages are unwritten, those have no written form. Excepting Chakma and Mogh other languages do not have their own alphabets." (Second volume, Page-9).
"Garo language can easily be written in Bangla. At present Garos use Garo language at family level and their formal language is Bangla". (second volume, page-10)
"The Moghs build their houses in plain land." (Second volume, Page-16)
On Chittagong Hill Tracts Banglapedia says, "The hilly lands are unfit for farming.... Attempts are being made for jhum farming on the slopes of the hills." (Fifth volume, page-371)
"The huge loss suffered by the hill people due to construction of Kaptai Lake has created discontent among them. They had to loose 40 per cent of their main land due to the lake. About one lakh people lost their homesteads. Many of them have reportedly migrated to Arunachal in India..... A two-decade-long armed rebellion came to an end through the signing of a peace agreement on December 2, 1997.
The internet edition also says, "The main source of income of the
Garos are jhum cultivation on the slopes of hills, poultry rearing and hunting. Another main source of their income is handicrafts and cottage industry."
"If the husband is impotent Khasia girls are allowed to have more than one husband."
"There is similarity between Chama and Tripura alphabets. However the alphabets in the two languages are pronounced differently."
"Most of the Murangs are Christians and Buddhists. Recently another religion Krama has been introduced."