Indigenous Khasi villagers attacked by land grabbers in Moulvibazar, 20 injured, Adivasi rights activists protest

On 30 May 2014, the Bengali land grabbers attacked on 79 Khasi families at Nahar Punji-1, a hilltop village of the indigenous Khasi people in Srimangalupazila under Moulvibazar district with an aim to grabbing land that belonging to the Khasi people.

It is learnt that on 30 May, Friday at around 12:00 noon a big group of tea garden workers from Nahar–1 (Aslom) tea garden came to the KhasiPunji with stick and sharp weapons. First of all the attackers’ occupied newly built but unfinished houses belonging to Khasi people. They also tried to build the house using their house building materials that they brought with them.

Learning this news, AsrinPoshayad (28) wife of Punji’s assistant ‘montri’DibarminPohtam (38) went to the spot and requested the tea workers not to build any house in the Khasis’ land. However, the tea workers refused to listen her and they attacked her. In this situation, some of the Khasi people came forward to safe her and they were also beaten up by the attackers. The identified injured Khasis are – Dil Sumer (45), AsrinPoshayad (28), DaimondLamin (40), KmenKhongstia (3o) and TwisChella (30). When this news spread out among the Khasis, other Khasi people from the Punji came the spot and started throwing stone to the attackers for their self-defense. As a result, the attackers retreated and some of them got injured when they going back hurriedly.

Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Srimangal police station Abdul Jalil inspected the spot and commented no bullet were fired from Khasis’ side. With the help of police the critically injured Khasis were admitted into Sylhet and Srimangal Health Complex.

It is learnt that on that Friday most of the Khasi men were in their works. In the meantime, the land grabbers took this opportunity to grab the land by making new house on Khasi peoples land.

According to Khasi people, the community is living on government khas land and paying tax to the union parishad. They started living there way before Nahar Tea Estate was set up, in 1964, whose owner took lease of the tea garden land from the government. But the garden owner is unlawfully claiming the ownership of also that khas land where Khasis are residing.

It is mentionable that in Nahar-1 Khasi Punji, a land of 200 acres and Nahar-2 Khasi Punji, a land of 250  acres, more than 600 indigenous Khasi and Garo families were living for long time.

A fearful night in Nahar-1 Khasipunjee:

Untitled-1Mr. Dibarmin, assistant montri of that punjee said that it is a planned attacking on Khasi to evict us from our land. He described the whole incident of the day and claim that the tea garden management tried to turn the track of the occurrence and blamed the Khasi people.

The men strongly did their night duty after the incident to save their land, their lives and children staying in the betel leaf garden and in punjee too. On the same day, at night, around 10:00 pm the BGB personnel came to the punjee and conduct their patrolling to ensure the security of Khasi people and observed the situation of event. About 12:00 am some outsiders spread the rumors that the tea garden management filed a case and police came to arrest the Khasi criminals with 2 jeeps. So they scared and got worries that night. They did not sleep till to the next day for fear of attack/ harassment.

The situation is very critical now in Nahar. The Khasis are passing each moment with distress and worries. The main problems are the Khasis cannot sell the betel leaf which is the main incoming source of them, scare of attacking, disconnect with others for blockade and economical problem.

Human Chain in Kulaura in protest of the attack

Following this planned attack for grabbing land, on 2 June 2014, Adivasis and different rights based organization organize a human chain in front of ShaheedMinar in Kulaura. In this protest 10 different organizations have joined and demanded punishment of the attackers and permanent solution of land problem. The organizations that joined and expressed their solidarity are – Khasi Student Union, BAPA, AdivasiNariUnnoyon Federation, Kapaeeng Foundation, KUBORAZ, Tribal Welfare Association, Bangladesh Garo Students Union, Kulaura Press Club, BondonSonatanJuboSongathon etc.

It is a “planned attack”, said Khalek Parvez Box, general secretary of Kulaura Press Club, while addressing the human chain.

In a statement, BAPA said, “We think, the attack was part of an enduring scheme to evict the Khasis, which has been perpetrated by the Nahar Tea Estate authorities for the last several years. We demand exemplary punishment for the attackers. At the same time, we strongly urge the government to secure the lives of Khasis and permanently solve their land problem.”

Other speakers, in the human chain, accused PijushKanti Bhattacharya, manager of Nahar Tea Garden, who is allegedly trying to grab 200 acres of land populated by Khasis.

Protest in Dhaka

In protest of the Nahar Punjee incident on 4 June 4, 2014 a human chain program was organized in front of National Press Club. 11 rights based organization including Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum, BAPA, Ain O Shalish Kendra, Jatiya Adivasi Parishad, Kapaeeng Foundation, ALRD, IED, Nagorik Uddyog and Green Voice jointly organized this protest rally. During the human chain all the speakers condemned the attack and demanded exemplary punishment of the culprits. In this program many organizations such as TIB, Action Aid, Manusher Jonno Foundation, Mass Line Media, Campaign for Human Rights, Hill Women Federation etc also expressed their solidarity.