Indigenous peoples in fear of eviction in Dharmapolli of Rajshahi


Hill Voice, 29 August 2020, Rajshahi: A housing project is being carried out in Catholic Christian Dharmapolli of Rajshahi district. As a result, 130 families of indigenous peoples living in rural areas are in fear of eviction. They alleged that without their opinion, the Catholic Christian authorities have sold 475 acres of rural land to the Rajshahi Christian Co-operative Housing Society. There are 12-13 Indigenous houses on this land.

Mushrail Dharmapolli of Parila Union of Paba Police Station under the Catholic Christian Dharma Province of Rajshahi was built about 20 years ago. The villagers fear that housing projects will be built in the entire village in phases. Under the conditions, they will not be able to buy plots for the housing project because of their financial condition. As a result, they will be gradually evicted from Dharmapolli area. Although the housing society says, they will give the plot in easy instalments. If the residents here buy a plot, they will be able to live on their own land without resorting to Dharmapolli.

According to the residents of Dharmapolli, the village was built on the initiative of Paolo Chechiri, an Italian citizen (priest). He bought the land by collecting money from his family, relatives and friends in Italy. Here 130 families of landless poor Santal, Orao, Pahariya and other indigenous people living in different places of Rajshahi district were housed. They are brought in with the assurance of being able to live for generations. An elementary school was built.

They further said, with the help of Chicheri, many indigenous students were able to get higher education. Chechiri is absolutely revered by them. He has done more such villages. Chechiri left Bangladesh for Italy a few years ago. From then on, the native Bengali fathers got the responsibility of taking care of all this. The Bengali fathers do not keep in touch with them so much that the indigenous people of the religious villages do not have as cordial relations with these Bengali fathers as before. Various assistance, especially educational assistance, was discontinued. Christian Mission-run primary schools have already closed in several villages. Residents fear that all schools will be closed in phases.

A local father who worked with Father Chechiri, who did not want to mention his named said that Father Chechiri had given a place to these impoverished indigenous people in the countryside with a lot of love. He showed them the dream of a better life. Now if he hears that the people he loves from the countryside is going to evict, he will feel very sad and miserable.

Kamal Hasda is now a doctor with the help of Chechiri said, ‘I could not have come to this stage without his help. His love is not forgetful. But I can’t sleep at night when I hear that the people he loves will be evicted. I burst into tears. It is unrighteous, injustice. The people of the village will not accept it.

Narendranath Tudu, a leading person of the housing society, said in the first light, ‘This society has been formed to create better housing for the indigenous people. But where indigenous people are already living, I am strongly opposed to buying my own land. And at the rate of Tk. 2 lakh 60 thousand per katha (1.65 decimal), not a single family in Mushrail Dharmapolli will be able to buy land on the condition of paying 35 per cent first and the entire amount in 36 instalments. They will be evicted inhumanely.

Jarvez Rosario, head of the Rajshahi Catholic Church said, in the first light that no land had been sold for eviction. They will be rehabilitated on easy terms. This step has been taken for the purpose that they should live a dignified life on their own land without being sheltered for life. This measure will be taken in every Dharmapolli in phases. The land of the Dharmapolli has a lot of rent. The residents do not even pay the rent. Many of them just want to get, do not want to give anything. This mentality needs to change.

Regarding the closure of rural primary schools, he said, ‘The number of students has decreased. Let the students go to the government primary school next, this is what we want. The government is providing various facilities including stipends for the students there. We no longer receive foreign aid. In all cases, the cost has to be reduced. It is difficult to run the schools.

Source: Prothom Alo