Tangail, the banana war of persecuted Garo Christians
Protest of the tribals for the sudden felling of 300 plants in the land they cultivate. The Garo are Catholics whom the government tries to remove from "their" forest.
Tangail (AsiaNews) - Yesterday morning the staff of the forestry department (FD) went to the village of Pagmari of Tangail, in the diocese of Mymensingh, and felled 500 banana trees. Pagmari is a Catholic village located in the Modhupur forest where about 20 families live.
These families have lived in villages for hundreds of years. The tribals are born there and die there. Thousands of Christians live in the Modhupur National Park area. In 1962, the government defined Modhupur as a national park.
Since that announcement, Garo Christians have been persecuted by the government. Before 1971, the Pakistani government tried to evict Christians. After 1971, the Bangladesh government has taken over attempts to evict them.
Fresh Basonti Rema, Garo farmer tells AsiaNews: “Yesterday morning some members of the forestry department came to our farmland and cut down all the banana trees. We have lived here for over a hundred years. I want a fee for cutting my banana trees. I want the punishment of the guilty. "
Rema has informed that his loss is estimated at about 300,000 BDT (approximately 3000 euros). Banana cultivation is its main source of income. He took out a loan and now he can't pay it back.
Holy Cross priest, Father Somir Peter D'Rozario, deputy parish priest of the parish of Pirgacha, which covers that area, tells AsiaNews: “We heard the banana tree cutting accident. We are concerned about the Catholics of the village of Pagmari. This incident must be addressed so that the faithful of his parish can live in peace.”
Yesterday after the destruction of the banana trees, local Christian Garo protested and surrounded the office of the Forestry Department. Alik Mree, Secretary General of Bangladesh Garo Chhattro Songothon (BAGACHHAS), tells AsiaNews: “In the afternoon we protested. We protested in front of the forest department office and surrounded him. We wanted to know why the Garo banana trees were damaged. "They demanded the resignation of the forestry officer of the Modhupur Forest. It seemed that if the office of the Forestry Department did not cooperate with the Garo tribals, they would not take care of the Modhupur forest However, as tribals, the Garo genuinely care for the forest.
Mree says they will stage a huge protest if the Forest Department office doesn't stop cutting banana trees to evict the Garo tribe.
Forestry officer Abdul Ahad said Garo Christians yesterday attacked staff from the Forest Department office after their planned eviction from government land. To resolve the conflict there will be a meeting with Garo leaders. A senior forestry department (FD) official said illegal banana groves are being cut down. This land amounts to 3,600 acres.
Muslim human rights activist Firoz Ahmed wrote on his Facebook will not be a solution to take the lands of the Garo, who are a minority. Instead of persecuting them, the should be shown dignity and welcome. Protest for damage to the banana garden.