As many as 29 families of a small ethnic community, known as Mundas in Ullapara upazila of Sirajganj, have been living in miserable conditions as the male members of the community have been in hiding for the past seven months to evade arrest in a murder case.
The adult males of the Mundas are staying away from their village, Chaitrahati, after they were implicated in a murder case filed in April by influential locals who had encroached upon 130 acres of landed endowment of their temple -- Jagadishwari Mata Mondir, alleged the community members.
On October 14, when Alokesh Murali, 40, one among the absconding males, died, the other male members of the community had to refrain from attending funeral of the deceased, they also said.
Subol Chandra Chakrabarti, a priest of the temple, said on April 13, a clash between the community members and the encroachers left one person dead and 20 others injured.
The clash erupted after Delbar Pramanik, the mastermind of the encroachers, started catching fish in a pond belonging to the temple.
Afterwards, both feuding groups filed cases against each other. But the affluent encroachers, who are influential in the area, came out of jail on bail.
The Mundas, however, had been on the run ever since to avoid arrest, he added.
Sumitra Murali, widow of Alokesh, said wailing, "My husband fell sick while in hiding with all the other male members of our village. And that's why he could not seek necessary medical help. He finally died [without treatment]."
Another of the villagers, Fulmani Murali, said her two sons were breadwinners of the family. After they absconded, other members of her family are facing wretched living conditions.
"I was pregnant when my husband went into hiding following the clash. I later gave birth to our baby, but my husband still couldn't see the newborn," said Sanjita Murali of the village.
Alleged encroacher Delbar Pramanik's son Abdul Hannan, however, claimed, "The Mundas have no rights over the land because it's government property. We've leased it from the government. And so we cultivate and catch fish there."
Nevertheless, "They attacked us suddenly on that day [April 13]. They killed my cousin," he claimed further.
Contacted, Ullapara Upazila Nirbahi Officer Dewan Moudud Ahmed said they were investigating into the incident. "Multiple cases remain pending at the court over the property. Hence, we will act as per the court's directive."
RIGHTS GROUPS VISIT CHAITRAHATI
Meanwhile, officials of different human rights organisations and leaders of indigenous communities visited Chaitrahati village on Sunday.
Officials of the organisations -- including Bangladesh Legal Aid Services Trust (BLAST), Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela), ALRD, Nijera Kori, Jatiya Adibashi Parishad and Bangladesh Adibashi Forum -- during their visit witnessed sufferings of the Mundas without the male members of their families at the village, said Bivuti Vushon Mahato, central committee member of Jatiya Adibashi Parishad.