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Sugar Mill clash: Another Santal dead

  • Published at 11:12 pm November 8th, 2016
  • Last updated at 11:20 pm November 8th, 2016
Sugar Mill clash: Another Santal dead
Another body of a Santal member was found yesterday following a clash over a land dispute on Sunday as the ethnic minority people protested what they called the grabbing of their land by a sugar mill authorities. Police recovered the body from a crop field of Baghda farm area under Rangpur Sugar mill at Gobindaganj in Gaibandha. The deceased was identified as Mongol Madri (50), son of Jetha Madri from Dandupur village under Ghoraghat Upazila in Dinajpur, Subrata Kumar Sarkar, officer-in-charge of Gobindaganj Police Station said. “Locals spotted the body at around 11pm on Monday in a sugarcane field under Baghda farm area. Being informed, police recovered the body and sent it to Gaibandha Sadar Hospital for an autopsy,” he said. The body was later handed over to the family members of the deceased. The OC also said they had arrested three indigenous people – Dijen Tutu, Choron Soren and Bimol Kishku – on Monday while they were undergoing treatment at Rangpur Medical College Hospital.
Also read- Rangpur sugar mill clash: 1 Santal dies, 1,000 families flee
Another Majhiya Hembrom was arrested from Gobindaganj yesterday. On Sunday, a clash took place after Santals of Sahebganj-Baghda farm in Gaibandha chased a group of Rangpur Sugar Mill staff who came to harvest sugarcane in sugar mill’s plantation area. A Santal man - Shyamal Soren - was killed and 30 others were injured in the clash between sugar mill workers and protesters while over 1,000 families left their homesteads after looting and mass arrest drives. Although three days have passed since the clash took place, the government basically did nothing to protect the ethnic minority people, the indigenous leaders alleged. Shahebganj-Baghda Farm Bhumi Uddhar Songram Committee's Vice-President Philimon Baske said: “Our people are living in fear and anxiety as the local toughs of lawmaker and chairman including Chhatra League were flexing their muscles.” The weapon-wielding goons are roaming around threatening Santal community people with dire consequence, he said. Members of Santal community in exchange for anonymity alleged that law enforcers were siding with local MP, chairman and sugar mill authorities. The attackers torched a number of houses and establishments of Santal community in presence of policemen, they claimed. Gaibandha  Sugar Mill “Although the land dispute is between the mill authorities and the Santal community people parliament member Abul Kalam Azad and 5 No Shapmara Union Chairman Shakil Aknd Bulbul's men are launching attacks on us to evict us from the land with the help of police,” Philimon Baske told the Dhaka Tribune. He also said four to five of their community members had remained missing since the clash erupted. However, Police Super of Gaibandha M Ashraful Islam told the Dhaka Tribune that the situation was under control and policemen were deployed in and around the area to avert any untoward incident.

Mill authorities begins cultivation on Santal land

Meanwhile, the mill authorities have started cultivation in the sugarcane fields where the Santal-Bangali people had been living as of Sunday. During a visit, Santals belonging to the area told this correspondent that the locals had set fire to their makeshift houses in presence of police on Sunday. Tension is still running high in the area.

Contradictory remarks over relief distribution

Lawmaker of Gaibandha -4 constituency Abul Kalam Azad yesterday distributed 10 kg of rice and Tk500 to each of 50 families living in Santal villages - Madarpur and Joypurpara - of Khamarpur Bazar in Gobindaganj, reports our correspondent. However, Philimon Baske told the Dhaka Tribune that they were offered relief but the Santal people rejected. When asked, Gobindaganj Upazila Parishad Chairman Faruk Kabir Ahmed declined to comment on the matter and asked the correspondent to talk tothe local MP. The mobile phone of  Gaibandha -4 constituency lawmaker Abul Kalam Azad was switched off as of filing of this report at 7:15pm.

Immediate arrest of perpetrators, killers of Shaymol demanded

Meanwhile, speakers at human chains in Dhaka and Gaibandha yesterday demanded immediate arrest and exemplary punishment of the perpetrators. Jatiya Adibasi Parishad President Rabindranath Soren presided over the human chain in the capital where speakers called upon the government to return the land to the original owners. Meanwhile, speakers at a protest programme held in Gaibandha city demanded immediate arrest of the killer of Shyamol Hembron. Santals have long been in dispute over the land after the mill authorities started leasing out the land to locals for the cultivation of rice and other crops violating a contract. The erstwhile Pakistan government acquired 1842 acres of land from Santals for the sugar mill authorities under a contract that only sugarcane could be cultivated there, they said. Although the agreement stated that the land would be returned to the original owners if it is used for any other purposes, it did not happen in reality although the mill authorities have long been allowing tobacco and rice farming for years on the land. According to the leaders of ethnic minority people as the contract was violated four months ago indigenous Santal people and some Bengali locals occupied around 100 acres of land, building makeshift houses there, and demanded return of their lands that belonged to their forefathers.
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