10 March 2016— ALRD and other eight organizations under the banner of National Citizens’ Coordination Cell to Implement the Vested Property Return Act jointly organized a press conference at the National Press Club on 10 March 2016 with the support of ILC. The press conference aimed to make public the report of the fact finding visit in Dinajpur district to probe an allegation of land grabbing attempts by the ruling party men. The visit was conducted by the representatives of the Coordination Cell from January 30 to February 1 this year.
In this press conference, rights activists and minority leaders urged the government to take necessary actions against the persons with malign intention trying to grab lands of religious minorities in Parbatipur under Dinajpur, and ensure safety and security of all religious minorities at large.
While reading out the position paper on behalf of the Coordination Cell, Advocate Rana Dashgupta, general secretary of Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council said that villagers from Goyalpara and Babupara villages at Chandipur union under Parbotipur upazila in Dinajpur district 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. These families are heavily dependent on this land for livelihood. Four villagers were also present in the conference. The representatives from the villager also alleged, since 2002, local leader Emdadul Islam Chowdhury and his followers were trying to grab the land with false documents and attacked the residents with hired goons, apart from forcefully harvesting paddy and accusing members of the minority community in false cases. On January 23, Emdadul’s men attacked these families, torched and ransacked their houses and tortured the women in presence of police.
While presenting a report on the visit, Mr. AKM Bulbul Ahmed, Program Officer (law) of Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD) said, since 1947 the land was under the possession of villagers while the authorities never tried to take over the land. 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. Besides, 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.
Right activist Advocate Sultana Kamal, executive director of Ain o Salish Kendra said the villagers were not able to live their daily life, including sending their children to schools and cultivating land, due to harassment. She 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 he can take possession of the land, not by force. The conference was attended, among others, by Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) law adviser ASM Rezaul Karim, Bangladesh Puja Udjapan Parishad president Kajal Devnath, ALRD executive director Shamsul Huda. A significant number of journalists and media persons from almost all national media attended the conference. The conference was highlighted in the news and stories published and telecasted by both print, online and electronic media.
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