Hundreds of Santal Christians from Gaibandha still displaced after five months
by Sumon Corraya

On 6 April, thousands of Catholics marched in solidarity with tribal Santal. Last November, the latter were attacked by police and Muslims who set fire to their homes. At present, about 250 Christian families are still living in tents, in conditions of extreme need and in fear of attack.

Gaibandha (AsiaNews) – Five months after their land was taken, Santal Christians are still displaced, threatened by Muslims.

Speaking to AsiaNews, some note that back in November, they were chased off their land in Gaibandha district (north-western Bangladesh) after a clash with police.

"At least 250 families are living in tents,” said Fr Samson Marandy, a tribal parish priest in Mariampur. “The rains have arrived causing huge problems. Many are leaving for other places in search of work. The community is in a situation of extreme need."

Everything began on 6 November 2016, when police and local Muslims attacked Christians, mostly ethnic Santal Catholics, over a land dispute.

The clash resulted in the deaths of three Christians and the wounding of about 30 people, including nine police officers.

Witnesses said that police had arrest warrants for 300 Santal, who fled to avoid jail. Others tried to defend themselves with bows and arrows, injuring some agents. Their houses were ransacked and looted.

The clergyman reports that attack survivors are "living in extreme conditions, and are in need of legal support and a safe haven. Our people are determined to regain their land. I am on their side. "

Along with Santal, thousands of Catholics took to the streets on 6 April in a show of solidarity. They want an investigation into the attack.

"We see no improvement. Tribals are forced to live in the open,” said Mathies Marandy, general secretary of the Adabashi (Tribal) Federation.

Christians also complain that whilst they are not allowed to get back their legitimate possessions, those who incited the Muslims are still at large. After five months, even the policemen responsible for torching their homes have not been identified.

"We are afraid even to go out because the Bangladeshis are threatening us,” said Nirmol Murmu, one of the victims. “We dare not even go to the local market."