Enraged, hungry, and out of work, ethnic minority Santals in Gaibandha’s Gobindaganj are rejecting the government relief sent for them after eviction from their lands.
Today, local administration tried to distribute 20kg rice, a kilogramme of pulse and a litre of oil among the Santals – who refused to accept the aid because of “out of anger”, our correspondent reports from the spot.
According to Gobindaganj Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Abdul Hannan, a van took the relief to Motherpur and Joypur villages of 134 Santal families around 11:00am.
READ MORE: Not words, they want their land back
“They have no work to do; and since the eviction, they are virtually cordoned,” he said. “The government is providing them with aid out of humanitarian grounds.”
Some 60 years ago, the then Pakistan government acquired the lands of the Santals there with the promise of sugarcane cultivation for Rangpur Sugar Mills. But recently, the contract was breached and the land was leased out for other crops.
Angered, the Santals reclaimed part of their ancestral lands two months ago. The authorities tried to drive them away with force last week – triggering a clash that left at least three Santals dead and hundreds of ethnic families homeless.
“We have been evicted from our lands. Our livestock looted. Now, we won’t take relief even if we die out of hunger. We want our land back,” said fiery Rina Mardi, a youth of 28-years-old.
‘VESTED QUARTER BEHIND ATTACK’
“A vested quarter” was involved with the attack on Santals, alleged Industries Secretary Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan today.
Bhuiyan while addressing a press briefing at the Ministry of Industries in Dhaka this morning, said that law enforcers are working round the clock to identify the culprits, reports Bangla daily Prothom Alo.