Judicial probe demanded
The minority Santals in Gaibandha were victims of a planned attack, alleged members of Sahebganj Baghda Farm Bhumi Uddhar Sanghati Committee, a civic solidarity platform, on Thursday.
‘What happened there was police accompanied influential people in the arson of the property of minority people,’ said independent researcher Swapan Adnan, at a news briefing at Dhaka Reporters Unity.
Adnan was one of the eight members who formed the solidarity platform after police allegedly opened fire on the Santal-inhabited neighborhood of Sahebganj Baghda Farm, on November 6.
The civic body came up with a number of observations after visiting the affected area to find out circumstances that led to the fatal violence and arsons.
‘If it was an incident resulting from an eviction drive to free land from its grabbers, there would have been official orders, either from the court or from the deputy commissioner of the district,’ said Swapan, adding, ‘no such order was found or produced by police.’
The attacked Santals and some Bengalis had resettled in the land of Rangpur Sugar Mills after the mills stopped operation, claimed a written statement, read out by the platform’s convener, Jyotirmoy Barua.
From them the government had acquired the land for establishing the mills in the 1960s on the condition that the land would be restored to their owners once the mills suspended manufacturing sugar.
‘But the return of the owners to their land and the demand for getting it back angered the mills’ manager and the local parliamentarian who were making fortune with the land in their possessions,’ said Jyotirmoy.
The MP’s follower, the local UP chairman and his musclemen, backed by police and the sugar mill’s manager, launched the attack to coerce the Santals and the Bengalis into vacating the properties, claimed the activist.
‘The circumstances under which police opened fire need to be probed,’ he added.
According to that statement, about 2,500 inhabitants were displaced after the assailants set the entire establishments, including 600 houses, on fire on November 8, two days after police had opened fire on Santals, killing an ethnic youth. The body of another Santal man was found dumped in a rice field on November 7. At least 20 other were injured.
About two hundred of the ethnic minority people have taken shelter in two villages adjacent to the sugar mills while the rest are hiding, fearing further attack.
‘The victims are starving as they cannot come out of their shelters fearing further attacks while there is no effort from the government to feed them,’ said Jyotirmoy.
‘Handcuffed to sick beds and guarded by police, the wounded Santals allegedly received threats of being killed,’ said Jyotirmoy.
Others who visited Gaibandha as part of the platform are Zakir Hossain, Hasnat Qayum, Firoz Ahmed, Arup Rahee, Mosahida Sultana, and Rezaur Rahman.
They also called on the government for opening a judicial probe into the ethnic persecution as the perpetrators belonged to the institutions that were supposed to protect the victims.
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