Repeal of Act brings no relief to Hindu families

Haroon Habib

Political backing for land grabbing in Bangladesh, says study by professor

  • Some 2 lakh families lose 1.22 lakh bighas of land
  • No list of people evicted

DHAKA: A study in Bangladesh says nearly two lakh Hindu families have lost 1.22 lakh bighas of land, including their houses, in the six years since the `Vested Property Act' was annulled in 2001 to return property to their original owners.

Abul Barkat, Professor of Economics at Dhaka University who has done the study, says some 12 lakh or 44 per cent of the 27 lakh Hindu households were affected by the infamous Enemy Property Act, 1965 and its post-independence version, the Vested Property Act 1974, reported the New Age daily of Dhaka.

In 2001, the then Awami League government led by Sheikh Hasina repealed the Vested Property Act with a view to restoring ownership of the lost land to affected Hindu families. But the study claims that the scrapping of the Act has not ended deprivation of the Hindu community due to `deliberate delay' and `criminalisation of the political economy.'

Following the India-Pakistan war in 1965, the then Pakistan government introduced the Enemy Property (Custody and Registration) Order II, which was widely criticised as a tool for appropriating the land of the minority population and forcing them to cross the border to India.

The newspaper said research found that no list of the people evicted or the quantum of land grabbed on the basis of the Act has been prepared till date.

Powerful connections

Instead, politically powerful people grabbed most of the land during the reign of the BNP-led alliance government between 2001 and 2006. Forty-five per cent of the land grabbers were associated with the BNP, 31 per cent with the Awami League, 8 per cent with Jamaat-e-Islami and 6 per cent with the Jatiya Party and other political organisations, claims the researcher.

He mentions that the affected Hindu families met with more incidents of violence and repression in the immediate-past five years of the BNP-Jamaat coalition government than in the previous five years of the Awami League government.

Political elements, locally influential people in collaboration with the land administration, trickery by land officials and employees themselves, use of force and crookedness, fake documentation, contracted farmers and death or exile of original owners have also been blamed for land grabbing and perpetuation of the `vested properties.'

The economist, who earlier had conducted a sensational study on Bangladesh's `Fundamentalist Economy', points out that 53 per cent of the family displacement and 74 per cent of the land grabbing occurred before the country's independence in 1971.

Tragic effects

In view of the gravity of the problem that has had tragic effects on the demography over 42 years, the professor acknowledges that it will also be a tough task to establish the rights of the original owners. According to him, more than 60 per cent of the owners and the successors of `vested properties' are either dead or have left the country.

`This is a man-made problem contrary to the spirit of humanity. We have to get rid of this uncivilised state of affairs. Otherwise, we have to face a bigger historic catastrophe,' Prof. Barkat insists in his research paper, `Deprivation of affected million families: Living with Vested Property in Bangladesh.'

He also dismisses the `Hindu versus Muslim' polarisation in the problem and claims that it is an issue created by communal elements and vested interests groups. `Criminals do not bother whether a piece of land is owned by a Hindu, a Muslim or a Santal; they resort to easy means to loot property.'

To solve the residual problems of the highly controversial Act, Prof. Barkat has come up with a number of recommendations such as identification and listing of such cases and lands, amendments to certain provisions of the 2001 law that hinders its implementation, cancellation of leases of such land to different people for 99 years, and involving citizens' groups in addressing the problem.

Source: The Hindu

No comments:

Post a Comment