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Ethnicity and Linguistic Diversity

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Bangladesh is well known for the ethnic homogeneity of its population. Here, over 98 percent of the people are Bengalis who speak Bangla language. People who speak in Arabic, Persian, Turkic and English languages also have contributed to the ethnic characteristics of the region.

Being a member of the Indo-European family of languages, Bangla (sometimes called Bengali) is the official language of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. People of Bangladesh closely identify themselves with their national language. Bangla is a language having a strong cultural heritage in literature, music, and poetry, and at least two Bengali poets are well known in the West: Rabindranath Tagore, a Nobel laureate; and Kazi Nazrul Islam, national poet of Bangladesh, known as the “voice of Bengali nationalism and independence.” Bangla language has been enriched by several regional dialects. The dialects of Sylhet, Chittagong, and Noakhali have strong Arab-Persian influences. English, whose cultural influence seemed to have crested by the late 1980s, remained nonetheless an important language in Bangladesh.

Biharis, a group that comprised Urdu-speaking non-Bengali Muslim refugees from Bihar and other parts of northern India, numbered about 1 million in 1971 but had reduced to around 600,000 by the late 1980s. They once had domination on the upper levels of Bengali society. Many also held jobs on the railroads and in heavy industry. As such they stood to lose from Bangladesh independence and sided with Pakistan during the 1971 war. Hundreds of thousands of Biharis were deported to Pakistan after the war.

Bangladesh’s tribal population consisted of 897,828 persons, just over 1 percent of the total population, at the time of the 1981 census. They lived primarily in the Chittagong Hills and in the regions of Mymensingh, Sylhet, and Rajshahi. The majority of the tribal population (778,425) living in rural settings practiced shifting cultivation. Most tribal people were of SinoTibetan descent and had distinctive Mongoloid features. They are different in their social organization, marriage customs, birth and death rites, food, and other social customs from the people of the rest of the country. They spoke Tibeto-Burman languages. In the mid-1980s, the percentage distribution of tribal population by religion was Hindu 24, Buddhist 44, Christian 13, and others 19.

There are the four largest tribes who were the Chakmas, Marmas (or Maghs), Tipperas (or Tipras), and Mros (or Moorangs). The tribes tended to intermix and could be distinguished from one another more by differences in their dialect, dress, and customs than by tribal cohesion. Only the Chakmas and Marmas displayed formal tribal organization, although all groups contained distinct clans. By far the largest tribe, the Chakmas were of mixed origin but reflected more Bengali influence than any other tribe. Unlike the other tribes, the Chakmas and Marmas generally lived in the highland valleys. Most Chakmas were Buddhists, but some practiced Hinduism or animism.

Of Burmese ancestry, the Marmas regarded Burma as the center of their cultural life. Members of the Marma tribe didn’t like the more widely used term Maghs, which had come to mean pirates. Though several religions, including Islam, were represented amongthe Marmas, nearly all of the Marmas were Buddhists. The Tipperas were nearly all Hindus and accounted for virtually the entire Hindu population of the Chittagong Hills. They had migrated gradually from the northern Chittagong Hills. The northern Tipperas were influenced by Bengali culture. A small southern section which is known as the Mrungs showed considerably less Bengali influence.

The Mros, considered the original inhabitants of the Chittagong Hills, lived on hilltops and often fortified their villages. They had no written language of their own, but some could read the Burmese and Bangla scripts. Most of them claimed to be Buddhists, but their religious practices were largely animistic. Tribal groups in other parts of the country included Santals in Rajshahi and Dinajpur, and Khasis, Garos, and Khajons in Mymensingh and Sylhet regions. Primarily poor peasants, these people all belonged to groups in the adjoining tribal areas of India.

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GradesFixer. (2019, February, 11) Ethnicity and Linguistic Diversity. Retrived September 21, 2019, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/ethnicity-and-linguistic-diversity/
"Ethnicity and Linguistic Diversity." GradesFixer, 11 Feb. 2019, https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/ethnicity-and-linguistic-diversity/. Accessed 21 September 2019.
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