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Attack on Santals: Local MP, UP representatives had direct role


Local lawmaker, union parishad chairman and members and the local administration were “directly involved” in the November 6 attack on Santals in Gaibandha, said a civil body yesterday, quoting victims and locals.
They placed a seven-point demand including a judicial enquiry into the incident to bring the perpetrators to book, compensation to the victims’ families and withdrawal of the officials involved of the local administration.
Under the banner of Shachetan Nagarik, rights activists, university teachers, politicians and minority community leaders pressed the demands at a press conference at Dhaka Reporters’ Unity (DRU). They there revealed what they had found out during a visit on November 13 to the evicted Santals and Bangalees in Gaibandha.
Meanwhile, a fire broke out at a field of Rangpur Sugar Mills in Gobindaganj upazila of Gaibandha, two weeks after the eviction of Santals from the farm’s land.
The cause of the fire damaging crops on 11 acres of land was unknown until filing of the report at 9:00pm yesterday, said Alamgir Hossain Khan, assistant general manager and superintendent of the farm.
Fire fighters put out the fire, reports our local correspondent.
The mill authority last year planted seeds on 600 acres of its land divided into eight blocks for sugarcane cultivation by rotation, said Managing Director Abdul Awal. The damaged crops amount to 160 tonnes equal to one-day’s crushing input this harvesting season, he added.
At the DRU, civil society members said the state must bear medical expenses of the Santals injured in the eviction drive, withdraw “false cases” filed against Adivasis and re-build Fulmani Murmu Shishu Shiksha O Sangskriti Kendra set ablaze at the time of the eviction.
“Talking to us, Santal people directly held local lawmaker Abul Kalam Azad and Union Parishad Chairman Shakil Akhand Bulbul responsible for the attack,” said Sanjeeb Drong, general secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum, while reading out the keynote paper.
Gaibandha MP Abul Kalam refuted the allegation. He said he was not in the area on the day of the incident.
Santals and Bangalee farmers clashed with sugar mill labourers and police as they tried to drive them out from a disputed land. When Adivasis resisted the eviction move, police opened fire at them, leaving three Santals dead and more than 20 injured, Sanjeeb said.
Two Santals were reported to have been killed but the Adivasi leader named three — Shyamol Hembrom, Mangal Mardi and Ramesh Tudu.
Eminent columnist Syed Abul Maksud said what was done with the Santals was not only violation of human rights and their “right to land” but also violation of the constitution.
Oikya NAP President Pankaj Bhattacharya lambasted Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu and Industries Secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan for their role in the incident.
He said he had spoken with the industries minister regarding a peaceful solution to the matter but the minister spoke in favour of evicting Santals, which was unexpected.
The withdrawal of policemen and officials responsible is not enough; they must be brought to book, Pankaj said.
Dhaka University Prof Abul Barkat said Santals played a pivotal role in every movement against the British colonial rule and the Pakistan rule.
Whenever they were attacked, the successive governments kept their eyes shut, he said.
During the regime of Ayub Khan, Santals were forced to give their land to the sugar mill, said rights activist Khushi Kabir, adding that the Adivasis have the right to get land of their forefathers back since the mill authority violated the agreement signed in 1960s.
According to the agreement, the land should be used only for sugarcane cultivation but it has been used for growing potato, tobacco, pumpkin and rice.
Rangpur mill authority has begun planting sugarcane seeds on the disputed land for the next year’s harvesting season.
Source; The Daily Star
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