A land dispute in Bangladesh turned ugly when a mob ransacked several houses and left one injured. Roughly 50-60 armed individuals attacked Ichhachhara village in Moulvibazar on the evening of Nov. 9, hours after a Muslim man was evicted from a Christian’s land.
Angered by the eviction from the land that he reportedly occupied illegally per local parish priest Oblate Father Joseph Gomes, Rafiq Ali led the assailants who attacked a grocery shop as well houses and the chapel. The village was mostly inhabited by Khasi Christians, UCA News reported.
“The attackers also pelted bricks and stones at village houses,” Father Gomes said. “One villager was hurt. We demand justice for the attack and the end of abuses against ethnic people.”
Throughout the commotion, the mob also threw bricks and stones at village houses. This led to one villager getting hurt. Father Gomes is now demanding justice for the attack and hopefully, puts an end to the abuses against the ethnic people.
"The land and betel leaf plantation belong to a Khasi man, Josper Amlorong. But Ali grabbed it by force with fake documents," Father Gomes said.
The village is covered by Sylhet Diocese's Immaculate Conception Church of Lakhimpur.
But for Father Gomes, the actions go beyond their issue with Amalrang. It was the fact that they had intended to vandalize the chapel, desecrating the altar and leaving fences broken that dismayed him.
Local police confirmed that the attack was tied up to a land dispute and that Ali was aggrieved by the decision. This was seen as the motive as to why he led the attack on the village that night.
"The local administration is trying for a compromise. If that does not happen, we will take action against attackers as per the law," Binay Bhushan Roy, officer-in-charge of the area said.
Land grabbing, eviction and violence against ethnic Khasi people in northeast Bangladesh are nothing new. A series of incidents related to this unfortunate occurrence has happened in the past years.
An estimated 40,000 Khasia live in Bangladesh, most of whom are Christians. They reside in forested cluster villages called punji and relying on betel leaf plantations for a livelihood.
To somehow restore order and ease the tension, the five-acre property is now under the jurisdiction of the local Union Parishad (UP) chairman and two members. Village police will be helping to guard the property.
The Daily Star tried to reach out to Ali to get his version of the incident but calls to his phone were not answered.
Amlorong and his family are now left to struggle financially following the assault. Making this worse for the lawful owner of the land is that he is dealing with cancer for the past three years. He has not been getting timely treatment for cancer in his body. The betel leaf garden was the only source of income for him and his family like most Khasis.
The incident has raised tension in the small ethnic community which is comprised of about 12,000 members residing at the 32 villages in the Upazila.