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Ethnic man dies in mob attack on Bangladeshi village

Munda villagers accuse Muslims of attempting to drive them out and grab their land
An indigenous villager was killed in an attack on a Munda community in Shyamnagar subdistrict of Satkhira district on Aug. 19

An indigenous villager was killed in an attack on a Munda community in Shyamnagar subdistrict of Satkhira district on Aug. 19. (Photo supplied)

Published: August 23, 2022 04:25 AM GMT
Updated: August 23, 2022 06:24 AM GMT

An elderly Munda man died from serious injuries two days after hundreds of Muslims attacked a village inhabited by the ethnic minority community in southern Bangladesh, leaving several injured.

Narendra Munda, 65, died in Dhumghat, a village in Satkhira district on Aug 20, locals said.

His death came after about 200 Muslims surrounded the village of 27 Munda families and attacked villagers with the alleged intent to grab their land and drive out the mostly Hindu indigenous community, they said. 

The mob, armed with homemade weapons, attacked Narendra Munda and other villagers as they attempted to resist.

Munda leaders and activists say the attack was carried out because they are a marginalized minority in the Muslim-majority country.

“The Munda people are a small community and most of them practice Hinduism, so the Muslim majority think there will be no justice if they are attacked,” said Nilima Munda, vice chairman of Sundarban Adivasi Munda Sangstha, a development organization for the Munda community living near the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest.

"They think it is very easy to take our land"

“They [Muslims] are trying to drive the Munda out of the country so that they can grab our land. They think it is very easy to take our land because no powerful person sides with the minority Munda,” Nilima told UCA News.

Narendra’s son Sonaton Munda, 38, said all they want is to live on their ancestral land with dignity.

“We have been living here for almost 200 years, this is the land of our ancestors. We could not even imagine that we would be attacked like this. They killed my father. I demand exemplary punishment,” Sonaton told UCA News.

“As we are a minority and have no one to stand up for us, they attacked us,” he said.

However, a case on behalf of the Mundas has been filed with the local police and 17 people have been accused.

Kazi Wahid Murshed, an officer at the nearby Shyamnagar police station, said four people have been arrested so far.

“There are influential people who sow fear so that minorities will flee"

“We are investigating the incident and trying to arrest the accused,” the police officer told UCA News.

But Nilima Munda said those arrested are not the main culprits and if the administration did not arrest the masterminds soon, they would stage a protest.

“Hindus, Mundas, and other minorities in these areas are often persecuted. But now it has gained public attention because one person has been killed,” said Daud Jiban Das, secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of Khulna Diocese which covers this area.

“There are influential people who sow fear so that minorities will flee to India and they can take the vacated land,” said Das.

“These incidents can be suppressed to a large extent if the government is active and if justice is swift. We advocate on behalf of the Church at various times with the administration. The Church is also working to educate the Mundas and other minorities so that they can seek justice,” he said.

The Munda people are a proto-Australoid ethnic group originally from India’s Bihar state who migrated to present-day Bangladesh over 200 years ago during British colonial rule.

About 40,000 Munda are spread over northwest and southwest Bangladesh out of the estimated three million indigenous people in a nation of over 165 million.

The Munda people in the Sundarbans remain one of Bangladesh’s most marginalized communities due to their lack of education, poverty, and isolation from mainstream society. About 6,000 live in Satkhira district near the Sundarbans forest.

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