Santal families evicted from Shahebganj-Bagda Farm of Rangpur Sugar Mills at Gobindaganj in Gaibandha on November 6 rejected on Saturday a government proposal for their rehabilitation.
They said that they did not want to be rehabilitated anywhere as landless people rather they wanted their ownership on the farm land, as Gaibandha deputy commissioner Md Abdus Samad told them on Saturday that the district administration selected 10 acres of khas land at Katabari of Gobindagonj upazila for their rehabilitation.
The deputy commissioner made the proposal while visiting them at Madarpur village, where many evicted Santals look shelter.
Police along with ruling Awami League activists evicted about 1,500 Santal families from the farm area and set ablaze their recently set up thatched houses following clashes between police and the minority group that left two Santals dead and 20 injured.
Most of the evicted Santal families have taken shelters at nearby Madarpur and Joypur villages.
Deputy commissioner Abdus Samad said that the district administration had selected the land as the Prime Minister’s Office asked him to rehabilitate the evicted Santals with all facilities within three months.
He asked the evicted families to prepare an accurate list of them detailing their latest economic status so that the government could rehabilitate them accordingly.
He said that the government wanted first to rehabilitate the local Santal families according to their necessity and if needed the government would also rehabilitate the other evicted Santal families coming from other districts.
Leaders of the evicted Santal families rejected the proposal saying that instead they wanted to ‘get back’ their ownership on the farm land.
Their leader Rafayel Hazda told the deputy commissioner that the Santal families would not accept the proposal as they did not want to be rehabilitated as landless people.
He said that the Santals wanted the government to help them in restoring their ownership on the farm land.
Badus Salam replied that any land dispute must be resolved by the courts and here the government had nothing to do.
He asked the Santal families to file cases with the courts if they had proper documents to prove their ownership on the farm land.
‘If the courts adjudge in favour of the Santals, the government would help them getting possession of the farm land,’ he said.
During the debate between the deputy commissioner and the Santals, two judges were present.
Senior assistant judge Shahadat Hossain assured the Santals of required cooperation in getting justice if they filed lawsuits.
He told the Santals that if they really wanted to prove their ownership on the land they must file cases otherwise they would never get the land.
The deputy commissioner said that he had no alternative to take side of Rangpur Sugar Mills as the mill authorities had all legal documents including record of rights and the payment of land development tax to prove their ownership.
In 2015, the Santals formed Shahebganj-Bagda Farm Bhumi Uddhar Sangram Committee under the leadership of local AL leader Md Shakil Ahammad Bulbul, also the Sapmara union parishad chairman.
Santal families from different parts of the country came to the farm land and started setting up dwellings from the first week of July 2016 to ‘restore ownership on their ancestral land.’
The Santal families said that the then Pakistan government forcibly acquired their lands paying no compensation.
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