IT IS disappointing that the Police Bureau of Investigation could make no progress in its investigation of the killing of two Santals and the burning of their houses while evicting them from Gobindaganj in Gaibandha on November 6, 2016. The police on December 12 that year recorded a case filed by a local accusing 500 to 600 unnamed people of attacking the Santals although the complainant was neither a Santal nor was affected by the incident. Following High Court orders, the police recorded another case filed by a Santal who was a victim of the eviction. The case, as New Age reported on Friday, named 32 accused, including a ruling Awami League lawmaker, the Rangpur Sugar Mills managing director, Gobindaganj upazila nirbahi officer and some politically influential people and 600 others unnamed. The unpalatable fact is that the 600 unnamed accused included a number of police per sonnel. What is disconcerting is that although a PBI additional superintendent of police, investigating the incident on the High Court’s order of December 14, 2016, said that he had been provided with a copy of the internal police inquiry report that found a police sub-inspector and a constable to have taken part in burning Santal shanties, there is still no progress in the investigation.
Such killing and burning incidents concerning ethnic minorities, such as Santals, always stir public outcry and prompt authorities to take action — administrative, legal and otherwise. Regrettably, however, such action lasts as long as the initial furore lasts. Once the media move on to other issues, the authorities also seem to lose interest. Allegations have, meanwhile, been rife that investigations of such killings are stalled, often indefinitely, because of underhand dealings between the accused and the police. Then, of course, it is also possible that such cases hardly reach their logical conclusion because of the ineptitude and inefficiency of the investigators. In the end, prohibitive legal precedents, required to prevent the recurrence of such incidents, are often not set, emboldening miscreants of any origin to repeat such incidents with renewed ferocity. One, however, should not forget that Santals have always lived with dignity, waging a war against the permanent settlement of Lord Cornwallis in 1855, playing a role in the Indian subcontinent’s war for independence from the British rulers in 1857, rising up in resistance when West Pakistan’s rulers, in the united Pakistan days, acquired their land in Gobindaganj for sugarcane farming in the 1960s. Their history has always been impregnated with valour and patriotic spirit but has also been, at the same time, one of subjugation and exploitation by the rulers of the day.
It is imperative that the authorities should order competent and credible inquiry of the atrocious incident of killing Santals and burning their houses and have the responsible individuals prosecuted efficiently and punished exemplarily. The authorities concerned should remember that this community has a right to justice; and any violation of their right would be a social crime.
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