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Fate of Santals remains unchanged

[ Two women are seen looking at their land where they have sowed paddy. The High Court has ordered Rangpur Sugar Mill and the local administration to allow the Santals of Gobindaganj in Gaibandha to harvest the paddy they had cultivated DHAKA TRIBUNE

No headway in land dispute issue

Sixteen days passed since people of Santal community have been evicted from their ancestral houses located at Gobindaganj upazila, Gaibandha, the indigenous people are still suffering for lack of food and daily needs.
Since their eviction, homeless Santals have been living in abandoned houses. People, who could not manage houses, have built makeshift houses under the open sky, as authorities concerned yet to solve land dispute.
Rangpur Sugar Mill authorities and Santals are hard-and-fast on their own stands about the disputed land. Mill authorities have determined not to give the land to Santals saying that mill authorities had purchased the land. But Santals people want back their ancestral land saying that mill authorities had broken their promises over acquisition.
New home for Santals
With a view to setting up new habitation for Santals, the government has decided to build new homes for Santals on over 10 acres of land in Katabari area.
On Sunday, Deputy Commissioner Abdus Samad informed Santals about government’s decision. But Santals did not agree with the DC. They said they did not want any kind of mercy from the DC, they wanted their land.
Rabindranath Soren, president of Jatiya Adivasi Parishad, said: “The DC ignored our demand. We have sacrificed our lives for our land. We want back our land at any cost. We want our ancestral land back because mill authorities have broken promises which they gave us before acquisition of land.”
Refusing offer of new houses, Barnabas Tudu, head of a Santals community,  said: “We do not want governments’ mercy, we want back our land. We will never go to rehabilitation camp.”
Mill authorities have already said it would harvest paddy cultivated on the disputed land on behalf of Santal people while the indigenous said they would themselves harvest the crop.
Upazila Nirbahi Officer Md Abdul Hannan, Managing Director of the mill Abdul Awal and Officer-in-Charge of Gaibandha police station Subrata Kumar Sarkar met leaders of the ethnic community on Monday.
They sought a list of the farmers who had cultivated paddy on the land. They said they would supply the paddy to farmers after harvest. Santals leaders then said they would talk with mill authorities later about the matter.
However, Deputy Commissioner Abdus Samad said: “If Santals will not contact with us, we will arrange harvesting of paddy.
Four more arrested
Police detained four persons in a case filed over the eviction drive run by the local authorities on the Santals community.
The detainees are Shayed Ali, 35, Mokhlesur Rahman, 28, Rofiqul Islam, 35 and Abdul Mannan, 54.
Police have arrested a total of 16 people so far in this connection.
Schools for Santals children
Local NGO Gono Songstha with the help of BRAC has set up two school-cum-recreation centres at Madarpur and Joypurpara villages.
Ghatak-Dalal Nirmul Committee delegate visits Gobindaganj
A delegate of Ghatak-Dalal Nirmul Committee met Santals community living in Gobindaganj upazila, yesterday. The delegates promised that they would help the Santals to fulfil their demands.


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