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Blockade of tribal Christians ends

Week-long stoppage set up by local tea workers over alleged murder of one of their number

Blockade of tribal Christians ends
A tribal planter collects betel leaves from trees reporter, Moulvibazar

June 15, 2011

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Tribal Christians in six southeast villages were released yesterday from a week-long blockade set up by local tea workers over alleged murder of one of their number. About 1,500 mostly Catholic tribal Khasia people in the betel leaf plantation villages were blockaded by Hindu and Muslim tea laborers after a Hindu worker, Amal Balmik Das, 24, was killed in the plantation area by security guards. The guards, who are Muslims, clashed with Das and his accomplices when they tried to steal betel leaves. Das was badly beaten up with sharp weapons and eventually died. Tea workers later blocked all kinds of vehicular and human movement across the area, spreading panic among tribals. Local sources say stealing betel leaves was a regular offence in plantation villages, causing huge loss for tribal people who largely depend on them for their living. The blockade caused them to go hungry as they were unable to go to markets. The local St. Joseph’s Catholic parish council intervened to solve the problem and with help from local government administration and law-keepers the blockade was withdrawn. “We held several meetings with protesters and they withdrew the blockade after we assured them we would give the offending guards to the police,” said Holy Cross Father Michael Sarkar, 39, local parish priest. The priest pointed out that trouble in Khasia villages is frequent as an influential group is continuously threatening their living and ancestral lands.
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