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Santal man being treated with hand cuffed, tied: No case filed over the killing of Santal men

12:00 AM, November 13, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 05:12 AM, November 13, 2016
[  Bullet-hit Choron Soren with one of his hands cuffed to his bed at Rangpur Medical College Hospital yesterday. The Santal man, who was shot in the leg during the November 6 attack on his community in Gaibandha, was undergoing treatment under police custody. Photo: Star  ]

Choron Soren was at his home seven days ago when employees of Rangpur Sugar Mills, along with police, attacked Santals in Gaibandha's Gobindaganj to evict ethnic minority families from disputed land.
The attackers beat up the 52-year-old, forced him out of home and took away valuables before torching the house in presence of police.
As he protested the brutality, cops fired shots in his legs, Choron told The Daily Star yesterday.
His fellow Santals later sent him to Rangpur Medical College Hospital (RMCH) on the night of November 6.
Waking up in the following morning, he found one of his hands handcuffed to a rope which was tied to the bed.
Cops arrested him in a case filed with Gobindaganj Police Station in connection with the attack.
Choron has been under police custody since then. He is among the 42 people named by police in the case.
“We were told by police that we are terrorists and were accused in two cases…. This is very unfortunate that the Santals who tried to save their belongings have now become terrorists,” said the victim with tears in his eyes.
His wife Pani Murmu said they were left homeless after the November 6 attack, but nobody inquired about how they were bearing the treatment costs.
Another accused in the case, bullet injured 38-year-old Bimal Kisku, was found sleeping at ward-31 of the hospital as doctors administered painkillers and sedatives to him.
According to doctors, both the patients were shot.
Bimal's wife Chichili Soren said they already spent all their savings for her husband's treatment.
Another arrestee Dijen Tudu was referred to a Dhaka hospital on Thursday with eye injuries.
Philimon Baske, president of Rangpur Sugar Mills Land Recovery Committee, said the treatment of the two was disrupted for handcuffs. Santal men could not visit the duo at the hospital for fear of arrest, he alleged.
Following the attack, the evicted Santals moved to nearby villages and started living in makeshift houses. Gripped by a sense of insecurity, they still cannot go out of the villages.
The Santals were scared that they might come under attack again from Bangalees, said Rafayel Hasda, leader of evicted families.
Ethnic minority people alleged that no case was filed yet in connection with the November 6 killings, looting and arson attack. The Gaibandha district administration was yet to form a probe committee to investigate the incident, said Robindranath Soren, president of Jatiya Adivasi Parishad.
Md Abdus Samad, deputy commissioner of Gaibandha, and Ashraful Alam, superintendent of district police, visited Gobindaganj yesterday. They talked to victims and assured them of rehabilitation.
The DC said a cluster village would be built soon on 10 acres of land to rehabilitate the landless Santals.
The villagers demanded the DC's office investigate the firing by police on the Santals.
Meanwhile, students of the ethnic minority community were still skipping classes.
“I stopped going to college when I heard that people of our community were being attacked,” Merina Soren, a student of Ghoraghat Degree College in Ghoraghat upazila of Dinajpur, told The Daily Star over the phone.                             
The clash on November 6 ensued at Shahebganj cane farm of Rangpur Sugar Mills over harvesting sugarcane. The clash left two Santals dead and 25 people, including nine cops, injured.
Asked why cops opened fire on the Santals, SP Ashraful said police were forced to fire shots in presence of a magistrate as they came under an arrow attack.         
During the Pakistan regime in 1952, the government had acquired 1,840 acres of land at Shahebganj to set up a sugarcane farm.
The DC's office acquired the land for the then Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation, which subsequently set up Rangpur (Mahimaganj) Sugar Mills between 1954 and 1957.
In 1962, the DC office, on behalf of land owners, signed an agreement with the corporation. The deal stated that the land was acquired for cultivation of sugarcane by the mill authorities. The corporation would return the land to the government if it was used for farming any other crop.
However, the deal was violated by the mill authorities as they leased out most of the land in 2004 for cultivation of rice, wheat, mustard, tobacco and maize.
Philimon Baske said the Santals started building houses on the land about six months ago after they learnt that the mill authorities were planting other crops illegally.

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