09/21/2022, 17.36
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Attacks against tribal people increase in Bangladesh over their land

by Sumon Corraya

An indigenous man was killed last month. A few weeks later, tribal people spoke out against water poisoning by a rubber company. For Catholic activist, no one has been tried for this and other murders.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – A tribal man named Narendra Nath Munda was killed in Dhumghat, a village in Satkhira the district.

While the local police filed charges against 22 people, the victim's son, Sanatan Munda, claims that at least 200 people attacked local residents last month to seize their lands,

“They surrounded 10-12 houses and then beat us," he told AsiaNews. “At the time, four people, including my father, were ploughing the land. We couldn't help them because we too were attacked.”

“After three hours and a half of rampage, they (the attackers) left and we went to the field and rescued four people. They were injured and we took them to the hospital. The next day, 17 August, my father died.”

Sanatan said he called the police to little avail. "We called the local UP[*] chairman but he did not take any step to protect us. I called the police station several times, but by the time the police finally arrived, the attackers were already gone.”

The area that was attacked is home to some 32 tribal families living in two settlements with 60 hectares of land. In 2015, the attackers fabricated documents to claim some of the land.

Shyamnagar police station chief Kazi Wahid Morshed denied allegations that his officers failed to respond. “We went there quickly, but the attackers had already run away. We arrested five people and we are looking for others.”

A few days later, tribal residents in Lama, a village in Bandarban district, reported that their waterfall, the only source of drinking water for dozens of families, was poisoned.

Because of this, they staged a protest against the Lama Rubber Industry Company, whose employees were seen dumping poison into the waterfall.

Rejecting the allegations, the company's manager said he did not know "who poured the poison” and that “Our workers don’t even go near their area out of fear.”

“There have been attacks on and killings of tribal people, not only in Satkhira, but also in Gaibandha and other areas. The main goal is to evict tribals from their land, a trend that has increased in the last few years,” said Sanjeeb Drong general secretary Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum (BIPF),

Mr Drong explained that evictions happen two ways: the government forces indigenous people to move by creating parks and hotels for tourists in the name of development, and land grabbers attack and kill tribal people or produce fake documents.

"Some tribals were also killed in Madhupur Naogaon but there was no trial for these murders," BIPF’s general secretary explained. “As a result, the message is that there is no justice if tribals are killed.”

[*] Union Parishad or Union Council.

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