Bangladesh police make arrest in killing of tribal villager

Family say he was killed in long-running land dispute
Bangladesh police make arrest in killing of tribal villager

Villagers carry the body of a man killed in a land dispute in this file photo. (Photo by Antuni David)

Police in the Dinajpur district of northern Bangladesh arrested one person after a tribal Santal farmer was beaten to death by Muslim men on Saturday, allegedly over a long-running land dispute.

Dhudu Soren, 52, the father of four, died in a hospital in neighboring Rangpur district on Saturday after being beaten and stabbed by a group of Muslims, allegedly led by Abdul Goffar, while on his way to a local market in Khalippur village.

Over four decades Goffar’s family has been in dispute over 2.74 acres of land owned by Dhudu’s family. A legal battle in the court is ongoing.

Dhudu’s family members allege that in 1971 Dhudu’s father Fagu Soren and in 2011 his brother Gosai Soren were victims of secret killings by Goffar’s men.

“A case was filed against eight people by Dhudu’s son Robi on Sunday and we arrested Goffar’s wife. The other accused, including prime suspect Goffar, have fled the area and we are trying to locate and arrest them too,” said Mohammad Amirul Islam, of Nwabganj police station in Dinajpur.

Islam said they found serious injuries to the hands and legs of Dhudu before his body was sent for a post mortem. “The culprits used bamboo sticks and a knife to attack him. We have seized the weapons.”

Robi Soren said that his father’s life had been threatened on many occasions by Goffar and his men.

“They have made false land documents to grab our lands but we have fought against them for years. They have killed my grandfather and uncle in the past and now they have killed my father. We want justice and exemplary punishment of the culprits,” said Soren.

Howa Bibi, the lone arrestee, denied all the allegations against her husband and other family members during initial questioning, said officer Islam. “She said her husband purchased the land from Dhudu’s father long ago and added that they had problems with Dhudu but never threatened his life.

About 1.6 million tribal people from more than a dozen small ethnic groups live in northern Bangladesh alongside majority Muslims, often fighting to save their land from land grabbers.

During British rule, the tribals migrated to Bangladesh from various Indian states to work as railroad, construction and agricultural workers. The British gave them land to live on and cultivate mostly through verbal permission. This has led to decades of disputes over land titles.

The torture and killing of tribal people for their land is too common but justice is never done for them, said Rabindranath Soren, president of Jatiya Adivashi Parishad, a tribal rights forum covering northern Bangladesh.

“Since the war of independence in 1971, at least 140 tribal people have been killed and dozens of tribal women have been raped, but justice was never meted out because tribal people are poor, illiterate and marginalized,” said Soren.

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