Indigenous Santals formed a human chain along Rangpur-Bogra highway at Gobindaganj in the district yesterday demanding return of their forefathers’ land and punishment of those involved in torching and looting their houses in the name of eviction at Sahebganj sugarcane farm in November last year.
Around 500 Santal men, women and children moved from Madarpur and Joypurpara, beating drums while parading around seven kilometres, to attend the programme organised by Jatiya Adivasi Parishad and Bagda Farm Bhumi Uddhar Sangram Committee.
The then Pakistan government in 1950’s acquired 1842 acres of lands mostly belonging to the Santal community people and set up a sugarcane farm at Sahebganj in Gobindaganj upazila for supplying sugarcane to operate Rangpur Sugar Mills, speakers at the programme said.
But in recent past, the mills authority started growing different crops other than sugarcane on the farm in violation of the agreement with Bangladesh Sugar and Food Industries Corporation, and so, the Santals demanded return of their forefathers’ land that had been acquired.
The Santals erected huts on nearly hundred acres of lands at Sahebganj farm on July 1 last year and police on November 6 attacked the Santal occupied lands and police and locals torched and looted Santal houses, the speakers said, adding that police firing centring the incident left two Santals killed and many others injured, they said.
Terming lawmaker Abul Kalam Azad, Sapmara Union Parishad Chairman Shakil Akand Bulbul and sugar mills Managing Director Abdul Awal as instigators for the attack on Santals, the speakers demanded arrest and punishment of them and all those involved in the attack.
Meanwhile, a police report identified two policemen responsible for torching Santal houses in the area.
Mihir Ghosh, a leader of Communist Party of Bangladesh, Shahjahan Ali, secretary of Bagda Farm Bhumi Uddher Sangram Committee, Sufal Hembrom, organising secretary of Bhumi Uddhar Committee, Probir Chakravarti of Jano Uddog, and Protiva Sarkar Boby, president of Bangladesh Jubo Union’s Gaibandha unit, spoke at the programme.