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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Nearly 2 lakh minority Hindus lost lands worth about $156 million in Bangladesh

Nearly 2 lakh minority Hindus lost lands worth about $156 million in Bangladesh
Sun, 2007-05-27 05:44
By M Rama Rao - Reporting for Asian Tribune from Delhi

New Delhi, 27 May,( Nearly two lakh Hindus have lost 22 lakh acres of their land and houses during the last six years, a Dhaka University Professor says. The market value of this land is Taka 2, 52,000 crore (about $156 million), which is more than half of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).
'This is a man-made problem contrary to the spirit of humanity. We have to get rid of this uncivilised state of affairs to establish a civilised society. Otherwise, we have to face a bigger historic catastrophe,' Professor Abdul Barkat, who teaches economics, insists in his research paper, 'Deprivation of affected million families: Living with Vested Property in Bangladesh'.
Politically powerful people grabbed most of the Hindu lands during the reign of Begum Khaleda Zia's BNP-led four-party alliance between 2001 and 2006. Forty-five per cent of the land grabbers were affiliated with the BNP, 31 per cent with the Awami League, eight per cent with Jamaat-e-Islami and six per cent with the Jatiya Party and other political organisations, the New Age, Dhaka daily quotes Prof Barkat as saying in his report, which will be published shortly.
Some 12 lakh or 44 per cent of the 27 lakh Hindu households in the country were affected by the Enemy Property Act 1965 and its post-independence version, the Vested Property Act 1974.
The Begum Sheikh Hasina led Awami League government annulled this Act in 2001. It wanted to return the 'vested' property to their original Hindu owners. The move was criticised as a 'political tokenism' aimed to appease minority voters prior to the general elections.
But in reality, as Professor Barkat study shows the Hasina largesse did not benefit the Hindu minority, who owned land at the time of partition. Infact, it ended up displacing most of them from their ancestral land.
While trying to review the impact of the law on the land ownership of the Hindu community, Prof Barkat found that no list of the people evicted or the quantum of lands grabbed on the basis of the Vested Property Act has been prepared till date.
Instead, politically powerful people grabbed most of the land during the reign of the BNP-led alliance government between 2001 and 2006.
The affected Hindu families met with more incidents of violence and repression in the immediate-past five years of the BNP-led government than in the previous five years of the Awami League government, the Barkat research report concludes, according to The New Age.
Prof Barkat points out that 53 per cent of the family displacement and 74 per cent of the land grabbing occurred following the India-Pakistan War in 1965. The then Pakistan government introduced the Enemy Property (Custody and Registration) Order II as a tool for appropriating the lands of the minority Hindus.
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 contributed to the phenomenon, according to Professor Barkat's study covering 6 districts across the country. More than 60 per cent of the owners and the successors of 'vested properties' are either dead or have left the country.
The Professor doesn't think the land grab was a problem of 'Hindu versus Muslim' polarisation. "Criminals do not bother whether a piece of land is owned by a Hindu, a Muslim or a Santal and they simply loot property. The problem highlights the 'inability' and 'weakness' of the majority people to raise protests though they are non-communal".
- Asian Tribune -

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