Land-grabbers harass minorities with minister’s backing

National Citizens Coordination Cell for the Implementation of the Vested Property Return Act holds a press conference at the National Press Club on Thursday. — New Age photo

National Citizens Coordination Cell for the Implementation of the Vested Property Return Act holds a press conference at the National Press Club on Thursday. — New Age photo

Locals and rights activists on Thursday said locally influential people were trying to evict religious minority people at Parbortipur in Dinajpur from their ancestral homes and land.
They urged the authorities to take necessary steps to stop land grabbers using political and muscle power, at a press conference held at the National Press Club.
The conference was jointly organised by nine organisations under the banner of National Citizens’ Coordination Cell to Implement the Vested Property Return Act.
While presenting the Cell’s point of view, Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council general secretary Rana Dashgupta said villagers from Goyalpara and Babupara villages at Chandipur union under Parbotipur upazila in Dinajpur district had come to them seeking help last year.
The villagers alleged that 55 families, of which members of 40 families were Khayitro, were living and cultivating 25.78 acres of land at Chandipur Mouza inherited from their ancestors.
Since 2002, local leader Emdadul Islam Chowdhury and his followers were trying to grab the land forcefully by filing false cases, they said.
The villagers also alleged Emdadul was trying to grab the land with backing of local lawmaker and primary and mass education minister Mostafizur Rahman.
The Cell activists visited the villages between January 30 and February 1 this year.
While presenting a report on the visit, Association for Land Reform and Development law officer AKM Bulbul Ahmed said since 1947 the land was under the possession of villagers while the authorities never tried to take over the land.
The villagers alleged that time to time Emdadul with his men tried to take crops from their land, attacked the village women and steal cows.
The report said Emdadul had claimed he had been given possession of the land in 2002 and denied attacking the minority people.
The report quoted the minister saying that the land was not vested property anymore and the person who had been given possession of the land had the right to go to his land.
The report said the land was never under the possession of Emdadul who also failed to show any proof of the land’s ownership and possession, and had filed about 20 cases against the villagers.
He was using local Awami League leaders, journalists, the minister’s name and police harassment to take possession of the land, it said.
Ain O Salish Kendra executive director Sultana Kamal said the villagers were not able to live their daily life, including sending their children to schools and cultivating land, due to harassment.
When they protest they are harassed and cases are filed against them, she said.
Sultana urged the government and the minister to take necessary initiatives to stop the harassment of minority people at the two villages.  The Cell leaders said if the local leader receives court order only then can he take possession of the land and not by force.
The conference was attended, among others, by Bangladesh Legal Aid Services’ Trust law adviser ASM Rezaul Karim, Bangladesh Puja Udjapan Parishad president Kajal Devnath, ALRD executive director Shamsul Huda and some villagers.

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