Local ruling party leaders are threatening them with dire consequences, said Jatiya Adibashi Parishad President Rabindranath Saren.
He termed the November 6 police attack a crime against humanity.
He yesterday said: “The 2,500 evicted families of Shahebganj-Bagda Farm under Gobindaganj upazila in Gaibandha, who took refuge in two nearby Santal villages, are being threatened continuously by local political muscle power loyal to local lawmaker Principal Abul Kalam Azad. The two villages are just beside the Sugar Mill authorities of which took part in the bloody eviction drive.”
Contacted, Subrata Kumar Sarkar, officer-in-charge of Gobindaganj police station claimed to the Dhaka Tribune “The evicted Santals have no problems now and are staying nearby villages adjacent to the Sugar Mill.”
“What happened on November 6 was nothing but crimes against humanity. And none but state run powers backed the sporadic hate crimes orchestrated under the leadership of ruling party’s MP Azad, in order to uproot them from their ancestral land, and loot their properties.”
Expressing grave concern over the remarks of deputy attorney general terming the killings “a small casualty”; Saren said: “How can it be a small casualty when policemen shooting indiscriminately killed three unarmed sandals, being instructed through hand-mike by a lawmaker?”
“None but the state is responsible for launching the attack coordinated by police and local goons; evicting more than 2,500 families after burning their homes to ashes. Three were killed and numerous others inured who even were deprived of proper treatment, as they were sure to be arrested immediately after reaching the hospital,” he added.
Handcuffs that Gaibandha Police put at the hands of two critically injured Santals while undergoing treatment receiving bullet injuries in the attack at Rangpur Medical College Hospital were opened only after the High Court ordered concerned police officials to remove the bondage.
Arguing that the Gaibanda eviction was not a matter of court only, Saren said: “Both legal and political measures should be mingled to solve the crisis properly. There is no determined political will in practice to defend the individual and human rights of the country’s minority communities.”
“If any determined political will to defend such rights really existed in the country, the indigenous people would have got a better life here; the evicted families 2,500 families would have been rehabilitated. Their immeasurable sufferings are increasing day by day due to lack of sincerity of the government to resolve the problem,” he said, adding that these always ill-treated indigenous people,interestingly, become very important during the polls.
According to Santals’ allegation, around 2,500 Santal families were kicked out of their homes through an unprecedented eviction drive conducted by police, accompanied by armed goons loyal to local lawmaker Principal Abul Kalam Azad. They set ablaze hundreds of makeshift homes after ransacking and looting each and every valuables.
At present, three indigenous people – Dijen Tudu, Charan Tudu and Bimal Kisku – are undergoing treatment at National Institute of Eye Science and Hospital in Dhaka under police surveillance, after receiving bullet injuries from the police attack.
While contacted, Shahebganj-Baghda Farm Bhumi Uddhar Songram Committee’s Vice-President Philimon Baske said: “The government has provided reliefs twice to only 434 had families but it was inadequate. We demand compensations and financial supports from the government, besides relocation on our ancestral land.”
The Santal leader said: “The evicted Santals have taken refuges at nearby villages, local schools and churches since the November 6 attack. But the goons loyal to local MP Principal Abul Kalam Azad, Shapmara UP chairman Shakil Aknd Bulbul and Katabari UP chairman Rezaul Karim Rafiq are still continuously threatening them not to return to their ancestral land.”
Rabindranath Saren in this regard said: “Certainly the victims need relief and governmental support immediately as they are living here and there under the open sky without any access to food, water and treatment. Diseases like cold, pneumonia and diarrhea might plague the community anytime.”
Informing that both Santals and Bengalis are jointly carrying out the ongoing land reclaiming movement as members of both were evicted, he said: “The only solution to the problem is returning their land to them as they won’t ever agree to be rehabilitated at anywhere else.”
While contacted, Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum’s Finance Secretary Andrew Sholmar said: “According to the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (also known as “ILO-convention 169”), Bangladesh government is legally bound to consult the indigenous communities prior to adopting any development project on their land. But the government is evicting Santals violating the agreement.
“The eviction drive was lunched following a government decision. Violating ILO-convention 169, the state and ruling party-backed corporate are carrying out their whims without any concern of local indigenous community,” he said.
In the meantime, no visible progress could be seen in the investigation of the murder case filed against 33 named and 300-400 anonymous attackers in connection with the killings, looting, arson and illegal eviction of the indigenous community people on November 6. Among others, local AL lawmaker from Gaibandha-4 constituency Principal Abul Kalam Azad, Rangpur Sugar Mills managing director Abdul Awal, Gobindaganj UNO Md Abdul Hannan and chairmen of Shapmara and Katabari unions Shakil Aknd Bulbul and Rezaul Karim Rafiq were accused in the case filed with Gobindaganj police
station by one Thomas Hembrom, on behalf of the indigenous Santal community.
Gobindaganj OC Subrata Kumar claimed: “Investigation into their (Santals) allegation is going on.”