Police clashed with Santals in Gaibandha on Sunday over a land dispute causing 21 locals being injured and injuring 9 police officers.
The clash happened over 1882 acres of land in Shahebganj where sugar cane was being farmed. The land is claimed by Rangpur Sugar Mill in Gobindaganj in Gaibandha.
On Sunday, the conflict took violent and physical turns at intervals from 10am to 1pm.
Gobindaganj police officer-in-charge Subrata Kumar Sarkar told Dhaka Tribune: “The locals have long disputed the ownership of the land with the sugar mill. When the sugar mill employees tried to harvest the sugar cane this morning under police protection, they were attacked by locals including Santals.
“The Santals shot at us with bows and arrows. We fired back with rubber bullets and tear gas to bring the situation under control,” he added.
“The sugar mill sent its goon to evict us from our lands, our houses,” said Shahjahan Ali, general secretary of the Shahebganj Land Reclamation Struggle Committee.
Silimin Bakshe, vice-president of the Land Reclamation Struggle Committee said: “The sugar mill authorities acquired the lands in 1955 under a contract that stipulated only sugar cane will be farmed there. The contract stated that the land will be tBut they have been farming tobacco and rice for years there.
“We asked them for our land, but they refused. We protested, and they came to drive us away from our ancestral lands,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
Abdul Awal, managing director of Rangpur Sugar Mill claimed that the allegations of the locals were baseless and unfound.
He said: “If the mill breaches the contract, the land will be reclaimed by the government, not the locals.”