September 30th, 2011, the opening day of Jum Library will be remembered as a very meaningful day not only for Human Asia (President: Changrok Soh) but also for me, myself. For Human Asia, the opening meant a lot in that it made a contribution to improving human rights for Asians in Korea through a humanitarian campaign, expanding its field of activity from foreign countries which it had focused more. For me personally, it was more fulfilling than any other projects I had worked on as I could give Jumma refugees visible and practical help.
The library was able to be open with the help of many. Two publishers, BIR Publishing Co., Ltd. (CEO: Sanghee Park) andKinderland (CEO: Jongwon Lim), gladly donated one thousand books respectively when they learned that the Jumma refugee children in Korea could not study and read many books under the difficult circumstances. Monami Co., Ltd. (CEO: Hakyung Song), a stationery company, generously offered stationery supplies for the children and MediPeace (Chairperson: Youngseok Kang), global health NGO, had The Jumma Peoples’ Network Korea (JPNK) office wallpapered for free, making the library much more beautiful. The opening ceremony of Jum Library, which held at JPNKlocated in Kimpo on Friday September 30th, had more significantmeaning as not only the organizers and sponsors but also people from various communities and civic groups were present.
Most Koreans are unfamiliar with the term, ‘Jumma’. They are the indigenous peoples mostly residing in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region of Bangladesh. As ethnic minority, they account for only 0.7% of Bangladesh total population, with 650,000. During the Partition of India in 1947, Indian subcontinent was partitioned on the basis of religion, Pakistan for Muslims and secular India for non-Muslims and Muslims alike. Despite 98.5% of the population of the Chittagong were Jummas and thus non-Muslims, the Pakistani leadership conspired and the Boundary Commission of Great Britain ceded the Chittagon to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in violation of the principles of partition and against the wishes of the Jumma peoples. During Bangladesh’s war of independence with Pakistan in 1971, Jummas sided with Bangladesh’s majority Bengalis. After the independence however, Bangladesh government did not accept Jumma people’s demand for autonomy. Instead, Jumma people are subjected to such human rights violations as land-grabbing, sexual assault, violence and murder, often organized and/or condoned by the Bangladesh government. Escaping from such human rights violations, some of them become refugees in other countries, away from their home.
In Kimpo’s Yangchon district specifically, there reside about 60 Jumma people around the JPNK headquarter. 47 of them have already obtained refugee status. JPNK strives to raise awareness on the human rights situations of Chittagong Hill Tracts and Jumma people, seeking solidarity for peace and the promotion of human rights. They maintain close ties with other ethnic minorities residing in Mongolia, Burma, etc. They also advocate for improving human rights of low-income multicultural families.
Through his address of thanks, JPNK President Jagadish Tanchangya explained that "Jum", the name of the library, was a local term used in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh. He said that for Jumma people who grew rice, cotton, sesame, fruits and vegetables "Jum" was an farming method and an important means of living. And in that sense "Jum Library" was a knowledge supplier which provided Jummaswith intellectual produce that they needed every day, he added. He sent his gratitude to all the parties concerned with the library, saying that the library was a dream come true for around seventy Jummas living in Korea. I felt more affinity when I learned the meaning of the word "Jum."
After the book donation and ribbon cutting, everybody came together by sharing traditional Jumma dishes and celebrating the library opening. I felt so great when I looked at the children with big smiles and about two thousandvolumes of Korean and five hundred English books. As I thought that the library would be used as an after-school study room for Jumma children and a resting place filled with knowledge for Jumma people, I was once again reminded that our job, working together to look around the marginalized people in our society and making as many of them as happy, was very much valuable. As a member of Human Asia, I want to continue to pay attention to Asian people with compromised human rights and take the lead to improve them even a little.
Program Manager of Human Asia