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BNP: Fair probe on Santal attack if party assumes office

Md Tazul Islam, Gaibandha. Published at 12:07 AM November 19, 2016
[Santal children, displaced due to the violence on November 6 over land dispute in Gaibandha's Gobindaganj, were living a woeful life under open sky. The picture was taken on November 9, 2016Mehedi Hasan]

A delegation of the BNP has blamed the local Awami League lawmaker and the union paarishad chairman for leading the eviction of Santals from Shahebganj-Bagda Farm area in Gaibandha on November 6.

The team led by BNP chairperson’s advisory panel member Zainul Abdin Farooq visited the affected area yesterday morning and spoke to the Santals.
Talking to reporters, he demanded a judicial inquiry into the incident and asked the government to take necessary measures so that no culprit can escape.
“No one including the religious minorities is safe during the incumbent Awami League-led government. We will ensure fair investigation if the party assumes office,” Farooq said.
They also distributed 200 sarees and lungis among the victims.
Some 150 families accepted government aid from an executive magistrate on Wednesday, five days after they rejected relief materials from the local UNO, Abdul Hannan, who had allegedly ordered the police to open fire on the Santals.
On November 6, Gobindaganj upazila administration evicted around 2,000 families from their ancestral land of 15 villages in Sahebganj-Bagda area in Gaibandha. Three Santal men died and at least 30 others were injured as they protested the eviction drive carried out by the police and RAB members.
The local Bangalis, allegedly loyal to the local lawmaker, were invited to take part in the eviction through loudspeakers. They looted the houses before burning them to ashes. They also attacked the Santal houses the following day.
Police filed a case naming 42 Santals and 300-400 unnamed persons for obstructing the law enforcers from performing their duties during the drive. Three injured Santals were shown arrested in the case.
On the other hand, a Santal man from the nearby area named Swapan Marmu who was not affected by the eviction drive filed a case early Thursday accusing 500-600 unknown people for the attack on the indigenous peoples’ houses, deaths, looting houses and arson attacks.
Five local Muslims were arrested soon after filing of the case, which Santal leaders term mysterious and claim was filed under the pressure of the police as the law enforcers are trying to save the main culprits.
Three more Bangalis were arrested in the case on Thursday night. They are Sadikul Islam and Lebu Mia of Katabari village, and Ziaur Rahman of Norengabad village under the upazila.
Locals say many male persons have fled their houses to evade wholesale arrest.
The affected Santals are set to file a case over the November 6 incident on Sunday or Monday, said Jatiya Adivasi Parishad President Rabindranath Soren. The case filed by Swapan Marmu could be a conspiracy.
Santal leader Philimon Busk alleged that Swapan Marmu was not an affected person. He might have filed the case to serve the purpose of some vested quarters.
Philimon urged the law enforcers not to harass any innocent Bangali as the protesters who demand their ancestral land back from Rangpur Sugar Mill also include Hindus and Muslims.
Superintendent of Police Ashraful Islam, however, claimed that they were conducting the investigation properly.

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