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Gaibandha MP, police untouchable

  • Published at 05:05 pm December 16th, 2016
  • Last updated at 05:45 pm December 16th, 2016
Gaibandha MP, police untouchable
Indigenous leaders have rejected the probe report of Gaibandha district administration on the November 6 eviction drive since it does not contain the names of the local MP, UNO and police who instigated the attack on Santals, and those who perpetrated arson attacks and looted hundreds of houses. The 24-page probe report submitted to the Cabinet Division on November 28 names Chairman of Sapmara Union Parishad Shakil Akand Bulbul, also the president of Bangladesh Chhatra League’s Gobindaganj unit, as the lone “mastermind.” The report was also placed before the High Court. [caption id="attachment_40493" align="alignleft" width="256"]Abul Kalam Azad MP Abul Kalam Azad MP[/caption] The probe committee did not mention the name of Gobindaganj lawmaker Prof Abul Kalam Azad, who was standing behind Bulbul with a gun, during the eviction drive when the police were seen torching Santal houses and the locals looting valuables of around 2,000 houses in 15 villages in Madarpur and Joypurpara areas.
Watch: Police set fire to Santal houses in Gaibandha
The report blames Shahebganj-Baghda Farm Bhumi Uddhar Sangram Committee President Shahjahan Ali Pradhan for instigating the attack on police and the magistrate, who led the eviction drive to reclaim around 100 acres of the 1,842-acre farmland of Rangpur Sugar Mills Ltd. Affected Santals say that the district administration’s investigation committee refrained from mentioning that No 2 Katabari Union Parishad Chairman M Rezaul Karim Rafique, UNO Abdul Hannan, Gobindaganj OC Mozammel Huq and Sub-Inspector Abdul Gafur also instigated the violent attack.
Also Read- ‘Santals’ claims on sugar mill land valid’
It also did not say that three Santals were killed and 30 others including nine policemen injured during the drive, and that the Santal houses were looted and torched. To hide the evidence of burnt Santal homesteads, the mill authorities even ploughed the vacated land with tractors and sowed sugarcane seeds. The report highlights that the “indigenous peoples and some illegal Bangali miscreants” attacked on the police and magistrate, and nine policemen were injured by the Santals’ arrows. It says enraged by the acts of the indigenous peoples and unruly Bangalis, some locals torched their illegal establishments.
Watch: Tractor tramples burned down Santal village in Gaibandha
Other names raised by the affected Santals as instigators are the mill’s MD Abdul Awal and local Awami League leader Md Hossain Fuku. [arve url="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfZ6Dr4BayU"/] The land in question, originally owned by local Santals and some Bangalis, was acquired by the then-East Pakistan government in 1962 for the sugar mill. In 2014, it was found that the contract for acquisition had been violated by the mill authorities as they leased out part of the land for farming other crops than sugarcane.  
Also Read- ‘Attack on Santals was planned’
As the contract stated that any violation would transfer the land’s ownership back to the original owners, the Santals along with some Bangalis built some 600 homes in July. Both Sapmara UP Chairman Bulbul and Gobindaganj MP Azad had urged them to start living on the land.
Also Read- Gobindaganj Santals still under constant threat
Jatiya Adivasi Parishad President Rabindranath Soren terms the probe report one-sided. “We have learnt that none of those involved was named in the report. The probe body did not accuse the police even though photos and videos of law enforcers torching Santal houses have gone viral. “According to the affected people, the MP was standing with UP Chairman Bulbul during the drive. Bulbul used Shahjahan Ali in his favour,” he told Bangla Tribune. On July 3, Deputy Commissioner Md Abdus Samad sent a letter to the Cabinet Division stating that the lawmaker was engaged with the matter for a peaceful solution as the mill’s managing director had sought legal remedy. “It proves that the lawmaker was not only an instigator, but also took part in the drive. Everybody knows it through the media. Everyone knows that the MP was holding a firearm on that day,” the indigenous leader said.
Also Read- IGP: probe will reveal if police torched Santal houses
Police filed a case against the Santals for obstructing them from performing their duties. On the other hand, Swapan Marmu, from Moalipara village in Gobindaganj, filed a case accusing 500-600 unnamed on November 16 for the clashes and casualties. Santal leaders, however, claimed that Swapan was not from the affected area, and that the local police had tactfully made a Santal file the case to save the real culprits. Thomas Hembrom, one of the evicted Santals, filed a general diary with Gobindaganj police on November 26 accusing 32 people including the MP and 400-500 unnamed others as suspects. Several rights groups and eminent citizens who visited the area later told the media that the lawmaker had been directly involved with the violent eviction drive.
Also Read- Gaibandha DC exempted upon unconditional apology
When contacted, DC Samad refused to make any comment saying that it was a confidential matter. “You are not supposed to know about the report. If you are aware of it, then it is beyond your jurisdiction. I will not make any comment on the report. It is the matter of the Cabinet Division,” he told this correspondent. The government has plans to set up a five star hotel, an eco-park and fish processing plants under a Tk623 crore project, and a thermal power plant on the land.
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