Gobindaganj, Bangladesh – Hundreds of indigenous people in Bangladesh gathered on Jan. 11 to form a human chain, demanding justice for the murder of a Catholic government officer. The protesters, who assembled in Gobindaganj in Bangladesh’s northern Gaibandha district, accused a local lawmaker of involvement in the death of Ovidio Mardy, an acting assistant land commissioner, when he was killed on Jan. 11, 2014.
Mardy, who was a staunch advocate for the land rights of tribal people, allegedly faced opposition from influential individuals, including ruling Awami League lawmaker Abul Kalam Azad. Azad’s name has been linked to the murder case along with 12 others. Philemon Baske, the president of the joint platform of indigenous people deprived of land rights in Gaibandha, expressed concerns about the newly elected lawmaker’s potential to obstruct justice.
Several organizations, including the Ovidio Mardy Commemoration Committee and the Adivasi Bangali Samhati Parishad, joined forces to organize the protest. They intend to seek a judicial probe into the murder, according to Father Samson Marandy of Dinajpur diocese, who is Mardy’s elder brother.
Marandy revealed that Mardy was assaulted and left for dead in a nearby sugarcane field, with the attackers attempting to stage the incident as a road accident. The police registered the incident as an accident case, however, it was later discovered that the case was fake, filed after forging the signature of Mardy’s wife. Lawyer Musfiqul Huda further emphasized that the murder was well-planned.
In addition to advocating for tribal land rights, Mardy had also prevented individuals, including Azad and his brother, from grabbing land from tribal persons. The priest stated that the murder case was filed in 2019, but police investigation failed to find any evidence. This led to Marandy filing a no-confidence complaint about the police probe on April 21, 2022.
Speakers at the protest allege that efforts to delay the hearing have been made through the use of money and muscle power. They emphasize that the tribal population in Bangladesh often faces discrimination and struggles against land dispossession, and the indigenous population continues to endure acute poverty levels.
Bangladesh is not a party to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which sets forth universal standards for the survival, dignity, well-being, and rights of the world’s indigenous peoples. The indigenous population in the country faces challenges due to an influx of non-indigenous people, leading to further disenfranchisement of the original inhabitants.