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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Communal attack on indigenous Santal village by Bengali land grabbers in Dinajpur, 25 houses gutted and 65 houses vandalised & looted

Source: Kapaeeng Foundation

On 24 January 2014 an indigenous Santal village named Chirkuta (Habibpur) under Mostafapur union of Parbotipur upazila in Dinajpur district went under attack allegedly by a group of Bengali land grabbers. The land grabbers looted and vandalized all the houses and belongings of indigenous peoples, leaving all indigenous families literally destitute.

It is learnt that on the day of incident at around 7.30 am, Zahurul Islam (50) and his brother Ziarul Mandal, both sons of late Mohammad Ali, from Habibpur under Parbotipur upazila in Dinjapur district went to work on 19 acres land of Joseph Tudu and his family. When Joseph Tudu and his family members came to know about the incident, they tried to stop alleged land grabbers and some altercation took place between two groups. At some point around a dozen of Bengalis joined in favor of Jahurul’s family and the feud turned violent. As a result, some Santals villagers were forced to shot arrows in order to defend themselves. Later, Zahurul's son Safiul Islam Sohag (22) was found dead. Besides, some Santal villagers namely Rakib Tudu, Ruben Tudu and Kablu Tudu were injured in the clash.

After learning about the incident, hundreds of Bengalis encircled whole Chirakuta village with locally made weapons including ramda, machete, sharp knife, and dagger. However, they did not attack until police held 19 Santal men. After police took those people, the assailants broke over the Santal houses — they set fire on at least 25 houses and vandalized 65 houses of Santal villagers and looted all the belongings of indigenous villagers including food, kitchen utensils, furniture, cattle and tube wells, leaving each and every indigenous family literally destitute. The attackers also set fire on a primary school run by Caritas-Bangladesh. Beside, in the attack, one Mikhalina Murmu (28), a pregnant indigenous woman, and one Mikhael Tudu were tortured and survived serious injury. Both of them were later admitted to Dinajpur sadar hospital.

Mahmudul Hoque (29), the uncle of Saiful Islam Sohag, filed a case (case No. 22, dated 24/01/14) with Parbotipur police station against indigenous Santals accusing named 28 and 14 unanimous indigenous persons. On the other hand, a Santal woman victim named Nilima Hembrom filed a case (case No. 29, dated 28/01/2014) against 76 identified Bengali persons and many unknown persons with Parbotipur police station in connection with this incident.

Police has not arrested any of the attackers as of yet, although all the 19 indigenous persons who were held by the police earlier have remained under the custody of the police except for Antineus Tudu, a candidate of Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examination, whose exam is scheduled to be held from 2nd February 2015. On 29 January, the court granted bail to until the SSC examination period.

It is mentionable that Zahurul Islam has been claiming his ownership over the land of Joseph for last few years. In this situation several talks and arbitrations took place between Joshep Tudu and Zahurul Islam. The local UP chairman, police and other villagers also joined the talks. Every time Joseph Tudu showed land documents whereas Zahurul Islam failed to show any.

On 27 January, a three-member probe committee was formed by Shamim Al Razi, the Deputy Commissioner of Dinajpur district to investigate the incident. The probe committee is supposed to submit their probe report within 15 days since the formation of the committee. The members of this team are Touhidul Islam, Additional District Magistrate, Dinajpur; Sushanta Sarkar, Assistant Superintendent of Police (Sadar circle), Dinajpur; and Jahangir Alam, Assistant Commissioner of Land, Parbotipur upazilla.

On 25 January, an onsite enquiry team of Jatiya Adivasi Parisad (JAP) visited Chirakuta village. The team found obvious signs of demolition of indigenous houses including remnants of clay-made walls, ashes, charcoal and other debris from burning. They also found that all the indigenous men fled the village and all the young girls were sent to their relatives’ elsewhere allegedly due to the fear of police arrest and further attack by the Bengalis.

The investigation team of JAP found the evidence that the case of land grabbing was turned into a communal attack. They also claimed that although the clash was between two families, other Bengali people who were incited to make this brutal attack on indigenous Santals.

Different citizen groups and indigenous peoples’ organizations condemned the brutal attack on indigenous Santals of Chirakuta and demanded to bring all the perpetrators to justice. Indigenous peoples organizations including Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum, JAP, Kapaeeng Foundation, and Bangladesh Indigenous Students Action Forum staged demonstrations to protest against the attack.

Name of Santal villagers against whom land grabbers filed cases and among them police held 19 persons from sl. 1 to 19 villagers:
1. Barnabas Tudu, 40,
2. Habil Tudu, 55, both son of Late Manir Tudu
3. Antinues Tudu, 22,
4. Emelius Tudu, 20, both son of Josef Tudu
5. Jibon Hembrom, 22, son of Vadu Hembrom
6. Khalil Tudu (Ripan), 25, son of unknown
7. Lazarus Tudu, 20, both son of Habil Tudu
8. Juwel Tudu, 22,
9. Bifol Mardi, 20, son of Noren Mardi
10. Noren Mardi, 51,
11. Mosoi Tudu, 58, son of late Mohon Tudu
12. Chelsu Hembrom (Rengta), 45,
13. Renatus Hembrom, 40, both son of late Regna Hembrom
14. Rakib Murmu, 32, son of Suren Murmu
15. Romesh Soren, 50, son late Dhanai Soren
16. Alfaskius Tudu, 43,
17. Karlus Tudu, 30, both son of Gonesh Tudu
18. Bachu Barman, 38, son of late Ghutu Barman
19. Hayus Tudu (Thosa), 42, son of Churkai tudu
20. Josef Tudu, 55,
21. Mikhael Tudu, 45, both son of late Raghunath Tudu
22. Aihas Tudu, 45, son of Churkai Tudu
23. Kistu Tudu, 35, son of late Sam Tudu
24. Gudai Tudu, 58, son of late Manir Tudu
25. Srimon Tudu, 35,
26. Noren Mastar, 42,
27. Vadu Hembrom, 50, son of late Chotu Hembrom
28. Benedic Tudu, 25

Please visit for following for lList of loses of indigenous Santal villagers of Chirakuta village under Parbotipur upazilla in Dinajpur

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Development without consent!

Address indigenous concerns

Source: The Daily Star, 20 January 2015

The establishment of a Rangamati Science & Technology University has generated widespread protests by indigenous communities and civil society groups who believe that, in the absence of full implementation of the CHT Accord, the project will further displace and deprive already marginalised indigenous communities. We urge the government to take serious note of these concerns.

Why should indigenous people be opposed to development projects? Obviously there are reasons for this opposition. First, they take it as an imposition, as the decision was taken without prior consultation with local communities and representative institutions, even though the Accord stipulates that no land within the control and jurisdiction of the Hill District Council (HDC) shall be acquired or transferred by the government without consultation and consent of the HDC. It also recognises the rights of indigenous people to decide their own development priorities through representative institutions.

Second, the track record of the government in matters of development project in the CHT has not been one of trust and confidence-building. Indigenous communities fear that they will be evicted from their lands, as they have been in the past, to make way for the institution and for non-indigenous students, teachers and staff who will consequently settle in the area.
Development in a democracy must be of, for and by the people. Any decision taken without the people's consultation and in violation of the Accord can hardly be effective or desired.
We implore the government to prioritise indigenous demands in designing development projects and to implement the accord without further delay, allaying all concerns.