Santals demand justice for murder and return of ancestral land in Gaibandha

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Hill Voice, 21 July 2020, Gaibandha: In Gaibandha, the Santal peoples have organized protest rally demanding 7 points including the trial of indiscriminate killing of Santals and return of their ancestral land. The hour-long program was held on Monday, 20 July 2020 at Katamor area of Gobindaganj upazila on the Gobindaganj-Dinajpur road where thousands of Santal men and women from Santal inhabited village of Madarpur and Joypurpara took part with banners, festoons and red flags.

Organized by Sahebganj-Bagdapharm Land Restoration Movement Committee, Jatiya Adivasi Parishad, Adivasi Bangali Samhati Parishad and Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB), the program was presided over by Dr. Philimon Baske, President of Sahebganj-Bagdapharm Land restoration movement Committee.

In this program the representatives of different organizations including Tajul Islam, President of Gabindhaganj upazila CPB, Rabindranath Saren, President of Jatiya Adivasi Parishad, Jafurul Islam, General Secretary of movement Committee, Swapan Sheikh, Organizing Secretary of the same Committee, Ganesh Murmu, treasurer of the movement committee, Mizanur Rahman Mizan, General Secretary of Juba Union spoked there.

Speakers of the protest rally said that, four years have passed since Santal’s murder in Sahebganj-Bagdafarm in Gobindhaganj, but no accused has been arrested yet. The administration is wasting time in the name of investigation. Various promises made by the government have not been implemented even today.

The hellish atrocities perpetrated by the local administration in the name of eviction of Santals from their homes will become a part of history, the speakers said. The speakers also threatened to launch a greater movement if those involved in the killings will not be arrested immediately.

It may be mentioned that in 1962, the Rangpur Sugar Mill Authority acquired 1,642 acres of land in Sahebganj-Bagdafarm area of Gobindaganj for sugarcane cultivation, Sugar mill authorities enter into agreements with landowners at the time of land acquisition. The agreement states that if anything other sugarcane is cultivated in the land, it will be returned to the original owners.

When the land was leased a few years ago, various crops including paddy, jute and tobacco were cultivated there. The Santal peoples, the real owners of the land, started a movement demanding the return of these lands, alleging breach of contract. On 1 July 2017, the authority built a house on about 100 acres of land and started cultivating paddy, jute and masakalai. The sugar mill authority planted sugarcane in the remaining land.

The Santals were evicted from the area on 6 November 2016. In the clashes, the police and the executive magistrate fired indiscriminately on the Santals on behalf of the occupiers. Three Santals died in it. Santals were evicted by setting fire to houses during this incident. Following these incidents, Tomas Hembram filed a case on 26 November of that year against the perpetrators.