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Santal houses looted, torched

Bangalee villagers go on the rampage as clash over disputed land leaves 1 dead
Star Report

Firefighters dousing the fire at a Santal home in Parbatipur of Dinajpur yesterday following a clash between the Santals and Bangalees over the ownership of a piece of land. Photo: Star
At least six houses were set ablaze and several others looted in a Santal village by people from nearby villages after a clash over disputed land left one killed in Parbatipur upazila of Dinajpur yesterday.
The deceased was identified as Sohag Islam, 30, son of Zahurul Islam from Habibpur village. Police arrested 19 people of the Santal community in connection with the killing.
The clash ensued when Sohag and his father along with some labourers had moved to till a piece of land at Barodol Sarkar para, a Santal majority village. A few Santal families claim ownership of the land for over decades now, according to locals.

All males of Sarkar para village where 56 Santal families live have fled their homes to evade arrest. Those who have stayed back, especially women and children, are living in fear of further attacks.
Locals said Md Zahurul Islam was involved in a long-standing dispute over 18 acres of land with some Santal men including Joseph Tudu, Stiphen Tudu and Masrui Tudu.
Witnesses said when Zahurul Islam and his son Sohag started tilling the land around 9:30 am, Santal people protested, claiming it was their property.  Soon the two groups were locked in wranglings. As a few more Bangalees joined hands with Zahurul and Sohag, it turned into a violent clash.
Zahurul had tried to grab this land many times before, locals claimed.
In yesterday’s clash, Santals used their traditional weapon bow and arrow. Sohag died on the spot as he was hit in the middle of the chest by three arrows. Zahurul was also injured in the clash, said locals.
Women in tears after Bangalees vandalised and looted their homes. Photo: Star
Police recovered the body from the spot and sent it to Dinajpur Medical College Hospital for an autopsy. Zahurul too was sent to the hospital for treatment.
Before Zahurul was admitted to the hospital, our Dinajpur correspondent asked him whether he had any legal document proving his ownership of the disputed land. He however could not say if he had any papers.
When the news of Sohag’s death spread, around three to four hundred people from nearby villages rushed to the Santal village and vandalised their houses and looted food grains, utensils, furniture and cattle.
The angry mob also set fire to at least 12 houses in the village, Joseph Tudu claimed.
The arson attack and looting continued for nearly two hours.
“There is not a single grain of food left in the village. They’ve even taken away the tubewells after dismantling them,” said a Santal woman requesting anonymity.
A team of police from Parbatipur police station arrived in the village around 11:40am. However, they could not bring the situation under control. Later, additional forces of police, BGB and Rab members from Dinajpur and Phulbari went there and controlled the situation.
Ahmed Shamim Al Raji and Ruhul Amin, deputy commissioner and superintendent of police of Dinajpur, visited the village around 1:40 pm. They said police and BGB forces would guard the area for maintaining peace.
Rabindranath Soren, president of Jatiya Adivasi Parishad, said: “The dispute began soon after the independence, which saw several clashes in the past decades. In fact, there were several attempts to grab the land of indigenous people here.”
At least 2,500 acres of land belonging to the Santal people were grabbed by Bangalees with forged documents in Dinajpur alone since 1975.  At least 40 Santal people who used to own land or protested attempts at grabbing their land were killed over the years in the district, added Rabindranath.
Published: 12:01 am Sunday, January 25, 2015
Last modified: 10:15 pm Sunday, January 25, 2015

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