Attack on Santal village: Truth-concealing investigation not acceptable

People across Bangladesh were furious for the arson attack and destruction of homes of Santal community people in Sahebganj of Gobindaganj, Gaibandha on 6 November 2016. People from different walks of life also demonstrated demanding trial of the perpetrators involved with the nefarious incident then. But the charge sheet police submitted after a long two years and eight months, disappointed them instead of making them hopeful of getting justice.

Police Bureau of Investigation (PBI) on Sunday submitted a charge sheet to the court accusing 90 people for attacking, vandalising, looting and setting fire to the Santal village. Victim Santals have rejected the charge sheet and blocked the Gaibandha-Dinajpur road for two and a half hours on that very day in protest. They also warned of more agitation programmes in the future.

In the photographs and video that went viral online in November 2016 showed policemen wearing helmet and bulletproof vests setting fire to Santal village shanties in Gobindaganj of Gaibandha. Private television channels also showed those photographs while newspapers published those as well. We assume three policemen were withdrawn for their involvement with the incident.

In this context, excluding their names from the charge sheet by PBI is nothing short of concealing the truth. Such farce in the name of investigation is not called for. We have seen earlier investigating teams take resort to ill-tactics if they find any law enforcement agency members involved with the incident. In no way the police department is responsible if any of its members is found to be accused in any crime or facing trial for it. Rather, the department becomes responsible if it tries to save the member involved with the crime. If the law enforcement itself obstruct the pace of law, the people have no scope to get justice.

The Santal victims claimed that the arson attack on their village was carried out following the directions of Abul Kalam Azad, a local MP, but the PBI dropped his name from the investigation report as well. The question is, if not Abul Kalam, who instigated the local influential quarters and the policemen to attack the poor and helpless Santals?

Gaibandha's police superintendent said, "We could not find any evidence against police to be involved with the attack.” The video footage, however, showed three policemen were setting fire to Santal houses. Yet, the PBI investigation did not find any evidence.

The SP claimed it took some time to file the charge sheet to uncover the mystery and investigate the matter properly just to bring the main accused to book. The Santal victims did not raise question about the delay. They questioned the accuracy of the investigation. Notably, all the 25 accused have been released on bail during the investigation.

Such partial charge sheet is not only against the spirit of justice but it also creates the ground for more attacks. Police investigating team took credit for recovering looted materials from the attacker's house and arresting 25 accused. But how come the police could not find the miscreants who were clearly seen in the video footage by the whole nation? This investigation is in no way acceptable. We are demanding the PBI charge sheet be reviewed.