Santal students seek punishment for local reps
Santal Students' Union, Bangladesh (Sasu) yesterday protested the recent killing of three Santals in Gabindaganj and demanded that the 1,842-acre land, which Santals claim belongs to their ancestors, be returned to the minority community.
Holding a rally in front of the capital's Jatiya Press Club, the protesters put forward an eight-point demand including compensation for Santal victims, formation of a separate land commission for ethnic minorities of northern Bangladesh, and ensuring punishment for those involved in the assault on the Santals.
They said the land was "requisitioned" for cultivating sugarcane from the Santals and Bangalis as per a 1962 deal between the then Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation and East Pakistan, reports our staff correspondent.
"The land was not acquired, but requisitioned, meaning if the land was not used as per terms set in the deal, then the corporation would have to surrender it to the people to whom it belonged," claimed former Sasu president Subodh M Baske, when addressing the rally.
"Grabbers occupied as many as 27 lakh acres of land in the country. But administrations did not bother to reclaim the land," he alleged, lamenting that the Santals continued to be evicted from their forefathers' land.
Accusing local public representatives of being involved in the attacks, Sasu Secretary Sumon Michael Murmu alleged, "The Santal community is being deprived of their land rights and their houses were set on fire and many of the Santal families fell prey to brutal oppressions, which are a flagrant violation of human rights."
Different organisations including United People's Democratic Front and Pahari Chhatra Parishad showed solidarity with the protesters.
Meanwhile, in Rangpur, leaders of Jatiya Adivasi Parishad (Jap) at a press conference, held in the chamber of commerce and industry auditorium, also demanded stern actions against the offenders and a judicial inquiry into the incidents, adds our Dinajpur correspondent.
When reading out a statement, Jap President Rabindranath Soren too alleged that the local representatives were behind the eviction, but the administration was yet to take any action against them. He announced to rally, wearing black masks, across the country on Monday.
The Jap leader put forward another 10-point demand including cancellation of cases against the Santal men filed by police and ensuring land rights and security of the country's minorities.
Jap secretary Sobin Chandra Munda and its Rangpur unit president Advocate Monilal Das were present, among others.