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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Attack, Eviction in Gaibandha: Santals sue MP, UNO, 31 others: 600 more anonymous accused in latest case

12:00 AM, November 27, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:33 AM, November 27, 2016

The evicted Santals. Star file photo
Santals of Gaibandha filed a case against 33, including a local Awami League lawmaker and the UNO of Gobindaganj, yesterday, nearly three weeks after their eviction from a disputed land.
AL lawmaker from Gaibandha-4 Principal Abul Kalam Azad and Gobindaganj Upazila Nirbahi Officer Abdul Hannan have been accused of “ordering” an attack on the indigenous community, said Thomas Hembrom who filed the case on behalf of the Shahebganj-Bagdafarm Bhumi Uddhar Sangram Committee. 
The rest of the accused named, including Shapmara and Katabari unions' chairmen Shakil Akand Bulbul and Rezaul Karim Rafique, and Managing Director of Rangpur Sugar Mills Abdul Awal, are said to have taken part in the attack.

The plaintiff also accused 600 anonymous people, said Nazmul Ahmed, officer-in-charge (investigation) of Gobindaganj Police Station.
“As we received the FIR, it means the case has been registered,” OC Subrata Kumar Sarkar told our Gaibandha correspondent last night. 
On November 6, police along with staff of the mill clashed with Adivasis during a drive to evict them from around 100 acres of the sugarcane farm, which had been acquired from the ancestors of the indigenous community. Santals now want the land in Gobindaganj back saying an agreement signed in 1962 after the land acquirement was violated.
The clash left two Santals dead, six missing and 20 others, including nine policemen, injured.
Santal leaders, however, claim the number of dead is three.
Following the eviction, police filed a case against Adivasis accusing them of intercepting law enforcers when they were discharging their duties, and also of attacking policemen. Four Santals were arrested in the case and released on bail.
The Santal community alleged that police had not received any case from it. 
Earlier, a case was filed on November 17 by Shwapan Murmu, a Santal man, against 500 unidentified people in connection with the November 6 incident, but local Santal leaders say Shwapan does not represent them.
Police have so far arrested 21 people in the previous case.
Hembrom, a member of the Bhumi Uddhar committee, yesterday went to the police station along with his lawyers to file a case. Rights organisations Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), Nijera Kari, ALRD and BLAST gave them legal support.
About the delay in filing the case, he said police had previously declined taking cases from Santals. Later, they were busy caring for the injured.
Regarding Shwapan's case, Hembrom said Shwapan does not represent the community.
He filed the case on behalf of the Bhumi Uddhar committee that represents the Santal community, he added.
About legal support, Nur Khan Liton, acting executive director of the ASK, said the rights body provided the Santals with the legal support since police had declined to take cases from them.
MP Abul Kalam Azad could not be reached on phone.
Earlier, he told The Daily Star that he was not in the area on the day of the incident, terming the allegations brought against him “baseless and politically motivated.”
Contacted, UNO Abdul Hannan said last night that he was not aware of any case filed against him.
He along with four other executive magistrates discharged duties on instructions of the district magistrate on November 6, he added.
On November 19, a civil body quoting victims and locals said local lawmaker, union parishad chairman and members and the local administration were “directly involved” in the attack on Santals.
Under the banner of Shachetan Nagarik, rights activists, university teachers, politicians and minority community leaders spoke of their findings at a press conference upon visiting the affected area in Gaibandha.

BACKGROUND

During the Pakistan regime in 1952, the government acquired 1,840 acres of land at Shahebganj to set up the sugarcane farm.
The deputy commissioner's (DC) office acquired the land for the then Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation that 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 sugarcane cultivation. If the land is used for farming any other crop, the corporation shall surrender it to the government (the DC office).
However, the agreement was violated as the mill authorities leased out most of the land for growing crops like rice, wheat, mustard, tobacco, and maize.
Four months ago, Santal people occupied around 100 acres of land and built makeshift sheds on the plea that the land belonged to their forefathers.

SANTALS RECEIVING PADDY

Meanwhile, harvest of Aman grown by Adivasis on the land was going on for the third day yesterday.
Following a High Court order, people of Rangpur Sugar Mills began harvesting Aman paddy and handed the crops to the evicted Santals.
At first, leaders of the community refused to receive the paddy, demanding removal of the barbed-wire fence erected around the land and withdrawal of cases filed against them.
They started receiving paddy on Thursday night.




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