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Going blind doesn't worry him, losing his land does: injured, arrested Santal man of Gaibandha panicking over how to support his family

12:00 AM, November 16, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:07 AM, November 16, 2016
[ Dwijen Tudu in his hospital bed yesterday, while a policeman guarding him talks over the phone. Dwijen has almost gone blind but all he cares about is returning to his land. Photo: Akram Hosen ] 

With his left eye completely gone and reddish liquid oozing out all the time from the right, Dwijen can hardly make out the faces of people around him.
But whenever he realises a visitor is here, the landless Santal of Gaibandha asks one question repeatedly.
"Will we be able to go back to our land? Will they [the government] take any measure for us? No matter what happens to me, my children, wife and parents would need a place to live,” he keeps on saying.
Dwijen Tudu, 36, a day labourer, is one of the 15-20 people injured during the November 6 eviction drive at Shahebganj Sugar Mills in Gobindaganj of Gaibandha that also left two Santals dead.
He received numerous pallet injuries in the upper part of his body and one of the pallets went through his left eye.
“Doctors say I am not likely to be able to see with my left eye again while the right eye is also not working right,” he told this correspondent who was visiting the National Institute of Ophthalmology and Hospital in the capital yesterday.
He is one of the three injured Santal men shown arrested in a case filed after the November 6 incident. Police brought him to the hospital, hand cuffed and tied two days later.
Police on Monday took off the handcuffs hours after a High Court directive. Three policemen, however, were seen on guard.
“We starved for the first few days when we came here. I had to share whatever the hospital gave him,” said Dwijen's younger sister Martha Tudu.
She, however, was grateful that people sympathetic to the cause of the Santals have been coming to the hospital with food over the last couple of days.
Dwijen's father Iliam Tudu, a man in his mid 70s, told The Daily Star that he was concerned about Dwijen's well being as he is his only son.
“I can hardly stand on my feet. He was the breadwinner of the family. His children will starve if he goes blind,” he said.
Director of the hospital Golam Mostafa said a five-member medical board formed to treat him found that his left eye was too damaged to treat.


Families evicted from the predominantly indigenous villages in Gobindaganj upazila of Gaibandha have been asking the local administration to reclaim their ancestral land.
The families first lost their homes and were forced to leave the area in 1962, when the Pakistan government acquired the land for cultivation of sugarcane to be used in Rangpur Sugar Mill, found a probe by additional deputy commissioner (revenue) of the district last year.
The probe was conducted after the families rendered homeless on November 6, brought the issue to the attention of the administration in March last year.
The memorandum, which allowed Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation to acquire the 1,842.3 acres of land, mentioned that the land would be taken back by the government and returned to its previous state, if anything but sugarcane was cultivated there, added the report.
However, paddy, wheat, maize, tobacco, potato and mustard were found to be cultivated in the area by influential people who leased the area from the mill authorities, found the probe by the administration which concluded that the Santals had a claim to the land.

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