20 years of deprivation of justice for Alfred Soren’s murder


Nipon Tripura

‘The tears of the Chengi river, Bhimpur merged in the fresh blood of Alfred Soren’- when I listen to this song of Madol, I remember the martyr Alfred Soren who was killed by the land grabbers. I remember his uncompromising long struggling life, his fighting against land grabbers. Today is his 20th martyrdom day.

On 18 August 2000, at eleven o’clock in the morning, the heinous attack and violence on 13 indigenous families in Bhimpur village of Mohadebpur upazila of Naogaon district by the land grabbers Hatem and Gadai Lashkar with their more than 150 hiring murderous forces defeated medieval barbarism. The indigenous people were shocked by this surprise attack. The killers shouted for Alfred Soren. The killers proceeded to set fire to the houses one after one. The demonic torture went on whoever they got in front. The children were thrown into the pond. Leaders of the Adivasi Parishad named Jagannath Soren and a 30-year-old person named Jatin Soren were thrown into the fire. Alfred Soren’s elder brother’s wife, Pansiri, was kicked in the abdomen and had an immature abortion.

All around, when the sky was heavy with the screams of the indigenous people and the flames of the fire, the murderers were looking for Alfred Soren in a drunken rage. Alfred Soren’s sister Rebeka Soren took refuge in a sack of rice inside a house next door to live with her brother. After a while, the killers also set fire to that house. Unable to cope with the heat of the fire, Rebeka Soran broke the window and tried to flee with her brother. But as soon as they came out from the house, the killers caught Alfred Soren. The miscreants began to hit one after the other with the Ramda (sharp weapon) and a spear. At one point, Alfred Saran fell to the ground.

The killers cut off his hands and feet while he was injured and pleaded not to kill him, but the killers did not listen to him. Instead, the assassins hit Alfred Soren with a spear. Then Alfred fell to his death. Sister Rebeka Soran could do nothing but watch her brother die standing just 50 yards away.

At that time, the houses of 13 families of the indigenous village of Bhimpur were reduced to ashes by the flames of the fire. 30/35 indigenous people were seriously injured. The hellish attack lasted for three hours from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. Despite this long-running hellish violence, the police played a silent and passive role.

It is to be noted that 13 indigenous Santal families used to live on one acre of land with Dag No. 166 and 168 at Bhimpur village of Bhimpur mouza. Some distance away from there was 90/95 bighas of khas land. Alfred Soren wanted to organize the landless and indigenous peoples of the area aimed at distributing this land among the poor indigenous people and the landless people of the area by settling the land in their name. In it, land grabbers Hatem-Gadai gang and their terrorist forces brutally killed Alfred Soren. The day Alfred was assassinated, a gathering of landless people was to take place at the local Nauhata intersection. After waking up in the morning, he went to oversee the work of stage making and returned home at around 10:30 am. The incident took place shortly after having lunch at home.

His younger sister, Rebeka Soren, filed two separate cases under the Murder and Public Security Act in connection with the murder of indigenous leader Alfred Soren. After investigating the case, Mohadevpur police filed a charge-sheet in the name of 91 accused. Police also arrested several accused. At that time, the Naogaon District and Sessions Judge’s Court began taking evidence in the case. Out of 41 witnesses, only 13 testified. The High Court adjourned the case for three months after more than 60 accused, including former UP chairman Hatem Ali and Sitesh Chandra Bhattacharya alias Gadai, filed a writ petition in the High Court against the Public Security Act. By taking the advantage to it, the accused came out of the jail taking bail from the court. The two petitions are High Court No. 2322/2001 and Civil Petition No. 420/2003. The accused are currently staying in the area. The case is waiting for hearing in the high court.

Meanwhile, the accused have been released on bail and have been threatening Alfred Soren’s family and witnesses at different times. Many indigenous people have already moved away and left the country. Even the wife and children of the slain Alfred Soren no longer live there.

Today marks the 20th anniversary of Alfred Soren’s assassination, but no trial has yet taken place. Most of the land on which Alfred Soren had to give his life is now in the hands of the killers. Although the Naogaon District and Sessions Court did not settle the case, but gave settlement of 63 bigha land out of 95 acres of khas land in favor of the Alfred Soren and his fellows. But on behalf of the land grabbers, the Mohadevpur police administration mediated through Alfred Soren’s sister Rebeka Soren and allowed the indigenous people to use the nominal 30 bighas of land. At present the indigenous people are cultivating 30 bighas of land there.

Alfred Soren’s struggle was for the rights of landless and indigenous peoples. Alfred Soren’s sacrifice will inspire Indigenous peoples in the Indigenous Land Rights Movement. Today I remember Alfred Soren with humble love and respect. Alfred Soren will survive as a torchbearer in the ongoing struggle for the protection of the indigenous national existence.