The government will take necessary steps to permanently solve the problem of the Santal community of Gaibandha's Gobindaganj upazila, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader told representatives of the ethnic minority group yesterday.
The team of representatives placed a 10-point charter of demands to the minister and informed him about the current situation of the evicted Santal people.
Quader, also general secretary of the Awami League, said the government was eager to solve their problems, and he would soon sit down with them again after taking some steps in this regard, said an AL leader who was present at the meeting.
"During the meeting he called up the deputy inspector general of Rangpur range and the deputy commissioner of Gaibandha and asked them to ensure safety and security of local Santal people," said AL organising secretary Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury.
He was also present at the meeting along with the ruling party lawmaker Dipu Moni, held at the Dhanmondi office of the AL president.
Santal people of Gobindaganj was recently evicted from the land which they claim belonged to their ancestors. There were clashes and attacks on the community people and their houses, leading to deaths, injuries, and loss of properties.
The team of representatives demanded withdrawal of all cases filed against Santal people following the movement of Sahebganj-Bagda land reclamation committee, compensation for their standing crops and fish in the ponds they had during the eviction drive on November 6, compensation to the families of the dead, injured, and other victims, rebuilding of all of their houses, religious institutions, and schools that were torched during the eviction drive, removal of the barbed wire fence installed along the Santal village, trial of the masterminds of the November 6 attacks, removal of the upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) and officer-in-charge of Gobindaganj Police Station, and punishment for those police officers who “set fire” to their houses and officials of Rangpur Sugar Mills who leased out the mills' land, which they claim to be theirs.
After a two-hour meeting, Rabindranath Soren, president of Jatiya Adivasi Council, told journalists that they demanded return of their ancestral land. He said the Santal people did not want to move to a new place away from the present Santal village and they were also not habituated to live in cluster villages.
They had their crematorium and graveyard at that place where they buried their forefathers and also they had religious institutions there, he added.
Among others, Philimon Bhaske, vice-president of Sahebganj-Bagdafarm Bhumi Uddhar Sangram Committee, was present at the meeting.