‘Their cries fell on govt’s deaf ears’ | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 07, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:14 AM, November 07, 2019

‘Their cries fell on govt’s deaf ears’

Prof Mesbah Kamal says about attack on Santal community in Gaibandha

Dhaka University Professor Mesbah Kamal yesterday alleged that the government is acting clueless regarding the attack on Santal community in Gaibandha, as it failed to ensure justice even after three years of the incident.

The news of the attack spread widely, drawing criticism from different parts of the world, but the government is yet to take any initiative to ensure justice and protect rights of the indigenous community, he said.

“…It seems not one but both ears of the government were not functioning. Otherwise, they would listen to the cries of those people,” added Prof Mesbah, an academician renowned for his work on indigenous communities’ rights.

He made the remarks while speaking at a press conference in the capital. Five non-government organisations, including Kapaeeng Foundation and Jatiya Adivasi Parishad, arranged the event on the occasion of third anniversary of the Gaibandha attack.

On November 6 in 2016, three Santal men were killed and several others were injured during a clash between the community and police along with employees of Rangpur Sugar Mill, over a land.

The clash transpired when more than 2,000 Santal and Bengali families were ousted by the law enforcers and the sugar mill authority from the “disputed” farmland -- on which the mill was established -- in Gobindaganj upazila of Gaibandha district.

One particular video during the eviction -- which showed policemen firing bullets and torching a house belonging to the community -- went viral and earned widespread criticism.

“How shameless and impudent the government has become! It doesn’t care about [some] of the citizens,” said Prof Mesbah, at the press conference.

Criticising involvement of Awami League leader and former lawmaker Abul Kalam Azad in the attack, he asked why action against him was not taken.

“Will the state promote such [land] grabbers? Will AL turn into a party of grabbers?” -- asked the academician.

If AL does not want to turn into a party of occupiers, it will have to ensure justice for the killing of the Santal men by bringing all the accused, including the lawmaker, under trial immediately, he added.

Mesbah demanded constitutional recognition of the minority communities.

He also urged the industries minister to listen to the grievances of the community, who are suffering due to the attack and the eviction, and take necessary steps to ensure their safety and livelihood.

Speaking at the event, Rabindranath Soren, president of Jatiya Adivasi Parishad, condemned dropping the names of 11 prime accused, including AL leader Azad, and policemen from the charge sheet of the case filed over the attack.

“…When will the deaf government listen to our grievances? When will the indigenous people get justice?” -- Rabindranath asked.

He demanded that authorities concerned cancel the “farcical” charge sheet, press charges against the prime accused Azad and policemen, hand over the land to the rightful claimant, and withdraw the cases filed against them based on false allegation.

Shamsul Huda, executive director of Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD); Sanjeeb Drong, general secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum; and Ruhin Hossain Prince, a central leader of Communist Party of Bangladesh, also spoke at the programme.

Dhaka University Professor Mesbah Kamal yesterday alleged that the government is acting clueless regarding the attack on Santal community in Gaibandha, as it failed to ensure justice even after three years of the incident.

The news of the attack spread widely, drawing criticism from different parts of the world, but the government is yet to take any initiative to ensure justice and protect rights of the indigenous community, he said.

“…It seems not one but both ears of the government were not functioning. Otherwise, they would have heard the cries of those people,” added Prof Mesbah, an academician renowned for his work on indigenous communities’ rights.

He made the remarks while speaking at a press conference in the capital. Five non-government organisations, including Kapaeeng Foundation and Jatiya Adivasi Parishad, arranged the event on the occasion of third anniversary of the Gaibandha attack.

On November 6 in 2016, three Santal men were killed and several others were injured during a clash between the community and police along with employees of Rangpur Sugar Mill, over a land.

The clash transpired when more than 2,000 Santal and Bengali families were ousted by the law enforcers and the sugar mill authority from the “disputed” farmland -- on which the mill was established -- in Gobindaganj upazila of the district.

One particular video during the eviction -- which showed policemen firing bullets and torching a house belonging to the community -- went viral and earned widespread criticism.

“How shameless and impudent the government has become! It doesn’t care about [some of the] citizens,” said Prof Mesbah, at the press conference.

Criticising involvement of Awami League leader and former lawmaker Abul Kalam Azad in the attack, he asked why action against him was not taken.

“Will the state promote such [land] grabbers? Will AL turn into a party of grabbers?” -- asked the academician.

If AL does not want to turn into a party of occupiers, it will have to ensure justice for the killing of the Santal men by bringing all the accused, including the lawmaker, under trial immediately, Mesbah added.

He also demanded constitutional recognition of ethnic minority communities.

He further urged the industries minister to listen to the grievances of the community, who are suffering due to the attack and the eviction, and take necessary steps to ensure their safety and livelihood.

Speaking at the event, Rabindranath Soren, president of Jatiya Adivasi Parishad, condemned dropping the names of 11 prime accused, including AL leader Azad, and policemen from the charge sheet of the case filed over the attack.

“…When will the deaf government listen to our grievances? When will the indigenous people get justice?” Rabindranath asked.

He demanded that authorities concerned cancel the “farcical” charge sheet, press charges against the prime accused Azad and policemen, hand over the land to the rightful claimant, and withdraw the cases filed against them based on false allegations.

Shamsul Huda, executive director of Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD); Sanjeeb Drong, general secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum; and Ruhin Hossain Prince, a central leader of Communist Party of Bangladesh, also spoke at the programme.

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