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Santal communities in Khagrachhari deprived of land, education, jobs

  • Published at 12:02 am August 10th, 2019
Web-Khagrachhari
Map of Khagrachhari district

After the ethnic group moved here from Rangamati during the construction of the Kaptai Dam in 1960, they were under the impression that they would be provided with land as compensation

Santal communities in Khagrachhari are suffering inhumane conditions, as they live their lives under extreme poverty, and the lack of basic facilities like education, and decent jobs.

After the ethnic group moved here from Rangamati during the construction of the Kaptai Dam in 1960, they were under the impression that they would be provided with land as compensation.

Moinamati Santal, a local, said: "We have lived here for decades, after we were forced out of our homes. Despite this we are not the owner of our land, the rich and powerful are.

“My family of four live in poverty. Three members of my family work really hard in the lands, but we can save very little to none after paying the land owner."

On a visit to a Santal village in Panchhari upazila, this correspondent found that there were no higher secondary schools for the children of 39 Santal families. The nearest primary school is across the risky and dangerous Chengi River, most students cannot attend school there for 2-3 months during the rainy season, every year.

Sagarika Santal, a primary school teacher, said: "I had to go to my school and college in Panchhari Sadar about 10-12km away from home. I had to walk when I did not have enough money."

"After much hardship I finished my studies but to no benefit. I was rejected in many government jobs, as I failed to bribe the officials. I don't even get paid properly at my current job."

The government has Hill Districts Councils to look into problems of indigenous communities in Rangamati, Khagrachhari, and Bandarban. Representatives from the various communities, report on issues that need attention to government officials . 

However, as Santal people in Khagrachhari has no such representative, coupled with bribe business, and local politics, they are failing to get the benefits of  the quota, and other opportunities that are available for the indigenous communities, said Milon Santal, president of Panchhari Santal Kallyan Parishad.

He added: “Santal people in Khagrachhari are deprived of land, and other rights. They have been living here for decades, but the ownership was not transferred to them. Influential people own the lands with money, and power. 

“Recently, a Santal Crematorium in Lakkhichhari upazila was forcefully grabbed by a local influential."

He further added: "After the Kaptai dam we lost our ancestral heritage. And here poor Santal families, who are providing education to their children through hardship, are suffering due to lack of proper job opportunities."