Christmas, the biggest religious festival of the Christian community, is called Borodin in Bangla. The Santal community calls it Sorhai, which is celebrated on December 25 every year. But this year, the indigenous community in Gaibandha's Gobindaganj won't have any Christmas. Thanks to an eviction drive last month, they now have no home and no money.
The Santals who were driven out of the disputed land of Rangpur Sugar Mills in Sahebganj last month have taken shelter in nearby Madarpur and Joypur villages.
Most of them are farm labourers. They have been passing their days without work since their eviction by police and sugar mills staff.
"How can we celebrate Sorhai this year? We have no money and are living in a virtual confinement here," said Golapi Hembram, 51, a farm labourer, adding that cultivation of Boro paddy already began in many places.
No Santals had work during last Aman paddy harvesting season, she said.
There is a demand for Santal man and woman as farm workers as they are hard workers and honest, she said. She also talked about how she celebrated the festival last year with her family members.
Each of her family members got new clothes on this occasion last year, and they arranged special food for the day. But this year, they will not be able to afford those as they have no money, she added.
However, the Santals would offer prayers at Madarpur church.
Virgilas Hembram, 38, said they had no job as they could not go outside Madarpur and Joypur in fear of being attacked. Besides, many villagers were not interested in employing the Santal men after the November 6 incident.
After their eviction, many non-government organisations distributed clothes and food among the victims. But supply of relief is now inadequate, said Virgilas.
The indigenous people are living in makeshift tents.
Claiming the ownership of the land of Sahebganj-Bagda sugarcane farm of Rangpur Sugar Mills, the Santals started erecting houses on the disputed land in June this year. They had cultivated paddy on 100 acres of land.
On November 6, a tripartite clash broke out between the Santals, factory staff and police over the eviction.
The clash left three Santal men dead and 20 others, including nine policemen, injured.
After the eviction, the sugar mills authorities harvested their cultivated paddy and handed it over to the Santals following a High Court order.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org