Civic rights groups demand exemplary punishment to perpetrators and justice of victims of attack on indigenous Santals in Dinajpur

press conference 17.06.2014_ANCivic rights groups demanded impartial investigation of the attack on indigenous Santal people and justice of indigenous victims of the attack in Nawabganj of Dinajpur district. They also demanded exemplary punishment to the perpetrators, and compensation and medical supports for the victims at a press conference organized by several civil society and human right groups led by Kapaeeng Foundation on 17 June 2014 at the Dhaka Reporters Unity in Dhaka. Razib Mir, assistant professor of Department of Mass Communication and Journalism of Jagannath University read out press statement of the civic rights groups while Dipayan Khisa of Kapaeeng Foundation moderated the event.
In the press conference, eminent columnist and researcher Syed Abul Maksud said, the local administration did not play their role properly during and after the attack took place on Santal people. He raised the question that while police and local administration live on people’s money, how much sincere are they towards serving people? He also demanded immediate action against the perpetrators as per existing laws of the country and ensure exemplary punishment of the perpetrators.
Eminent politician Pankaj Bhattacharya said, government is not favor of indigenous peoples and expressed his doubts about whether the justice of the victim indigenous people would be ensured. He also demanded to form a separate land commission for the plains indigenous peoples in order for resolving land related disputes and stern actions against the perpetrators.
Professor Dr. Noor Mahammad Talukdar, president of Bangladesh College and University Teachers Council said that they had seen lack of coordination between Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) of Nawabganj upazila and Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Dinajpur district. Due to non-cooperation of local police and administration, the criminals are still scot-free. He demanded an end to all the anomalous activities of these authorities. He demanded compensation for the victims, and impartial investigation of the incident and actions against the perpetrators without any delay.
Besides, Advocate Nilufar Banu, human rights activist; Khandakar Rezuanul Karim, human rights activist; Biplob Rahman, senior correspondent of Daily Khaler Kantho; Tanvir Ahmed, staff correspondent of Daily Bhorer Khagoj and Ripon Chandra Banai, member of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum also spoke in the press conference.
In the press statement, Mr. Razib Mir, on behalf of the civic groups, shared the findings of an onsite inquiry conducted by a team of civic groups. The gist of the onsite inquiry is outlined that on 9 May 2014, a group of 11 indigenous Santal workers from Sreerampur village of Nawabgonj upazila under Dinajpur district, four of which are male workers and seven female, were reaping boro paddy in the fields of Shahidul Islam as contract workers. Thinking that they might face problem finding a trolley for their work the next day, indigenous workers were loading ripe paddy on a power tiller even in the evening. At that time, they were suddenly attacked before Shahidul Islam by a group of land grabbers led by Mohammad Mahabur Rahman and Mohammad Hafijur Rahman both sons of Noor Islam of Kazipara Kazipara village of Nawabgonj upazila under Dinajpur district. While the attack was being made, the culprits encircled the Santal workers and beat them up indiscriminately. Later the victims were forcefully taken to the Kazipara Bazar. In there, the perpetrators tied the hands and legs of the victims with ropes and hanged them upside down from a banyan tree. Afterwards, the culprits again beat the indigenous men inhumanly with iron rods until making them senseless. Immediately after the attack, the miscreants left the spot.
When the local people came to know about the attack, they rescued the victims from the spot and sent them to the Phulbari Upazila Government Health Complex. Considering critical condition of two victims, the duty doctor referred them to Dinajpur Medical College Hospital for better treatment. The victims are still undergoing medical treatment. The four victims are:
1) Sonaram Tudu, 27, son of late Charan Tudu;
2) Babulal Soren, 48, son of Mangal Soren;
3) Som Soren, 43, son of Sardar Soren and
4) Bablu Soren, 25, son of Baraka Soren.
On 14 May 2014, wounded SonaramTudu filed a case against Mahabura Rahman, 30, son of Noor Islam; Hafizur Rahman, 26, son of Noor Islam; Kamal, 37, son of late Kawsar; Nur Islam, 50, Rafiqul Islam, 32, son of late Ansar Ali; Rezaul Islam, 32, son of late Mofar; Md. Atul Mia, 44, son of Achitullah and Khorshed Ali, 24, son of Atul Mia with Nawabganj police station. The case number is 10 under sections of 43/447/323/325/326/307/506/144.
The defendants have been threatening the plaintiff’s family in different ways after the case was filed against them. As a result, indigenous peoples are too fearful to send their children to school. They cannot now able to freely work in the fields. So now they are under severe financial crisis, safety and security. Nirata Tudu, wife of victim Som Soren said, her family was facing very critical situation because her husband was the only bread earner in the family. Sometimes they cannot even secure three square meals a day. It is very crucial for her family since there are two small children in the family who are starving at times due to lack of food. Also, the victims are not getting adequate medical treatment due to their financial hardship being faced by their families.
In the press conference, civil society members mentioned the following demands:
  • Immediately ensure impartial investigation of the incident and justice of the victims
  • Ensure medical treatment and compensation for the victims
  • Ensure security and enhance the confidence of the local Santals
  • Ensure measures to return the properties of the Santals that have been expropriated by the land grabbers and in order for that establish a land commission for Indigenous peoples of the plains.
  • Ensure measures for free and secured movement of indigenous students to go to (and come back) from educational institutes from home.
It is mentionable that the onsite enquiry of the incident was conducted on 11 and 12 June 2014 by a team comprising of members from civil society. The onsite enquiry team comprised of Professor Dr. Noor Mohammad Talukdar, President of Bangladesh College and University Teachers Council; Sanjeeb Drong, general secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum; Razib Mir, Assistant professor of Jagannath University; Dipayon Khisa, member of Kapaeeng Foundation; Khandakar Rezuanul Karim, human rights activist; Biplob Rahman, senior correspondent of Daily Khaler Kantho; Tanvir Ahmed, staff correspondent of Daily Bhorer Khagoj; Antara Biswas, journalist of Ekattor TV and Ripon Chandra Banai, member of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum among others.