The Santals are the largest indigenous group on the Indian subcontinent. It was on my father's homeland in the district of Noagaon in northern Bangladesh that I met a group of them.

They have always lived off of this land, cultivating rice and vegetables, hunting and fishing in the surrounding nature, but in recent years holding on to their ancestral land has become a struggle.

One of their leaders Bishwanath Hembrom says: "Local authorities have become greedy". 

I recognised the deep look in his gaze. This wasn't the first group of Santals I had met. Years ago, I was reporting on one of their communities in the Indian state of Orissa.  

There, they were fighting a corporation that was trying to evict them from their land to exploit bauxite. That battle is ongoing.

The Santals are the largest indigenous group on the Indian subcontinent. It was on my father's homeland in the district of Noagaon in northern Bangladesh that I met a group of them.

They have always lived off of this land, cultivating rice and vegetables, hunting and fishing in the surrounding nature, but in recent years holding on to their ancestral land has become a struggle.

One of their leaders Bishwanath Hembrom says: "Local authorities have become greedy". 

I recognised the deep look in his gaze. This wasn't the first group of Santals I had met. Years ago, I was reporting on one of their communities in the Indian state of Orissa.  

There, they were fighting a corporation that was trying to evict them from their land to exploit bauxite. That battle is ongoing. Here in Bangladesh, it's the government's forest department that want them out. 

For the Santals, this land is sacred, it belongs to God and no one has the right to take it.

I met with the chief conservator of the forest department and asked him what he will do with this land.

"We are only reclaiming the land. I promise, this for their own good, the Santals will be resettled," he replies. 

Bangladesh is a small country with a big population. Rice can be grown on even the tiniest parcel of land but there simply isn't enough to go around. It is expensive, and for those who have it, guarded with care.  

The forest department claims they will plant trees on the forest as part of their afforestation programme, but indigenous right activist believe the forest department will resell the land they 'reclaim' to private developers. 

Abul Barakat, a professor at Dhaka University and an indigenous rights activist, explains that: "There is a history and a pattern of authorities forcibly taking the land of minorities."

Barakat says a total of 6.4 million acres of land has been taken from minority groups. Bengali Hindus and indigenous tribal minorities lost out the most.  

He explains the role of a Vested Interest Act, a law that was enacted when Bangladesh was still part of Pakistan.

The law allowed the government to take over private property from Hindus and indigenous people whom they declared as enemies of the state.

Yet four decades after Bangladesh's creation minorities continue to be the victims of this law.

Even though it was repealed last December, local authorities continue to use it to take over land.

The threat of land loss and discrimination has caused many minorities to leave over the years. Indigenous rights activists say eight million people, mostly Bengali Hindus have left Bangladesh to live in neighboring India. 

The Santals in Noagaon stand strong, when I asked the forest department if it was involved in land grabbing he strongly denied being involved in such activities.

At the end of our interview, he asked me where I was from, I said my father is from Noagaon where the Santals live.

He replied: "No wonder you care. You must be one of them, here no one cares about the Santal."