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Another Santal dies : Fear still grips community in Gobindaganj, demand for returning their land pours in

Star Report:
Police recovered the body of an elderly Santal man from a paddy field in Shahebganj sugarcane farm yesterday raising the death toll of Sunday's clash between police, labourers and Santal community people to two.
The Santal community of Madarpur Santal village in Gobindaganj of Gaibandha had identified the body as Mangol Majhdi, who had been missing since the clash.
Police took the body there yesterday afternoon after an autopsy.
Four-five people of the Santal community are still missing, claimed Soban Soren of Madarpur yesterday over telephone.
Waziur Rahman Rafel, former president of Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) Gaibandha district, who was present when a police van took the body of Mangol Majhdi to the village, told The Daily Star over phone that they found stamp ink on the thumb of the corpse.
"There is stamp ink in his hand which means somebody took his thumb print before his death," said Rafel.
Santal man Shyamal Hembram, 35, who was injured during the clash, died of his wounds Sunday night at Dinajpur Medical College Hospital.
The clash had left 20 people including policemen injured.
Fear has gripped the indigenous community people there. Men were not going out of their homes and there was a crisis of food.
“We are living as if we are in detention in the village and we have no communication with relatives, even locals do not allow the relatives to come here,” said Gonesh Kisku of Joypur village.
“Most of the Santal people there are labourers and live hand to mouth … as all work stopped and they are starving,” he added.
His wife said they had food for the four-member family for just two days.
Gonesh said, “On early Monday morning a section of people from nearby Goyalpara, Rampur and Sapmara villages thronged here and started looting cattle and valuables. Hearing about this, people from Khamarpara rushed there and resisted the looting … .”
“It's a miracle that my house was safe from looting, but in sugarcane farm my 22 bamboo poles, 10 chairs and other equipment were looted Sunday night,” he added.
Police arrested four Santal men in connection with shooting arrows and the clash at Shahebganj sugarcane farm, said Subrota Kumar Sarker, OC Gobindagnaj Police Station.
During the Pakistan regime in 1952, the government acquired 1,840 acres of land at Shahebganj to set up a sugarcane farm.
The deputy commissioner's office acquired the land for the then Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation, which established Rangpur (Mahimaganj) Sugar Mills between 1954 and 1957. The original land owners were given only Tk 8.07 lakh for the vast land. Later in 1962, the DC office, on behalf of the land owners, signed an agreement with the corporation.
The deal stated that the land was acquired for cultivation of sugarcane by the mill authorities. If the land was used for farming any other crops, the corporation shall surrender the land to the government (the DC office).
However, the agreement was violated as the mill authorities leased out most of the land for cultivation of crops like rice, wheat, mustard, tobacco, and maize.
According to the Gobindaganj upazila land office, 1,502 acres of the total 1,842.3 acres was leased out and used for farming other crops. A letter of the office, dated June 28, 2015, says only 92-97 acres of the total land was being used for the cultivation of sugarcane in 2014-15 fiscal year.
Four months ago, indigenous people occupied around 100 acres of land and built makeshift sheds and homes on the plea that the land belonged to their forefathers.
The indigenous people of Rangpur Divisional Adivasi Forum yesterday urged the government to return the acquired land to families that were evicted for the farm and demanded a probe committee to identify the people responsible for Sunday's clash.
Michael Malo, a lawyer of Dinajpur, at a press conference of the forum in Dinajpur Press Club yesterday said the sugar mill illegal leased out the land to influential people when sugar production at the mills ended on March 31, 2004.
The land was being used for producing tobacco, wheat, paddy and other crops, he said.
Ain O Salish Kendra in a statement expressed concern and demanded the government take necessary steps to prevent such incidents.
The Communist Party of Bangladesh and BSD formed a human chain along DB Road in Gaibandha Town yesterday to protest police firing on the minority group.


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