A number of eminent personalities including 13 parliament members of minority community along with Bangladesh Hindu-Buddha-Christian Oikkya Parishad signed the memorandum with a 7-point demand and submitted to the prime minister’s office, seeking changes to ''Vested Property Return (amendment) Act'' in light of the Supreme Court verdict .
It may be mentioned here that the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in a judgment in 2006 said: “Since the law of enemy property itself died with the repeal of Ordinance No.1 of 1969 on 23 -3-1974 no further vested property case can be started thereafter on the basis of the law which is already dead. Accordingly, there is no basis at all to treat the case land as vested property upon started VP Case (58 DLR 2006 pp 177-185)
The Awami League Hindu lawmakers placed their other demands include a clear definition of vested property on the basis of Supreme Court's orders, return of all properties grabbed after 1974 and formation of tribunals at districts to dispose of the cases. The parishad General Secretary, Advocate Ranadas Gupta, handed the memorandum over to PM's personal secretary, said the daily star.
This is the first time in the history of independent Bangladesh, member of Parliament of minority community belonging to the ruling Awami League placed their 7-point coconscious demand.
A political analyst said , the minority community including Buddhist, Christians and Adibashis in Bangladesh participated in the War of Liberation so that in the newly liberated country we would enjoy equal status and rights along with the majority community. But in practice, the persecution of the Hindus continued like Pakistani days even after independence.
The forms of oppression of the religious minorities are manifold.
Constitutionally, we have been downgraded by introduction of Islam as State religion of Bangladesh; economically, we have been crippled through systematic discriminatory laws like Enemy turned Vested Property Act and unequal application of laws and practices; politically, we have been segregated and alienated from the mainstream rather we become stooge of so-called secularism.
The great Bengali Hindu race have been made a non-entity in different government institutions including army, police, judicial and administrative and non-government services like Bank and industries; we are under threat of conversion i.e. socially, culturally and observing religious rites, we are insecure.
The VP Act was practically declared void by promulgating ‘The Enemy Property (Continuance of Emergency Provisions) (Repeal) Act XLV in parliament on 23 March 1974.. But immediately afterwards another declaration named the Vested and Non-resident Property (Administration) Act XL VI of 1974 brought the above act into force. This Act was later amended on 27 November 1976 by the Enemy Property (Continuance of Emergency Provision) (Repeal) (Amendment) Ordinance 1976. The government, or any officer or authority as directed by the government, was empowered to administer, control, manage and dispose of, by transfer or otherwise the enemy property or enemy firms known as ‘vested property’.
The Government of Bangladesh has, within the framework of this law, taken possession of property declared to belong to the enemy, by appropriating the property of members of the Hindu minority who had migrated to India, or by appropriating the property of people who were heirs or co –owners.
Since then the issue has been rolling with ordinances, amendments, circulars, memos, and committee and so on. But no tangible action has yet been taken by the Government to solve the contentious issue of minority Hindus. Though renamed as the Vested Property Act in 1974, the law still retains the fundamental ability to deprive a Bangladeshi citizen of his/her property simply by declaration of that person as an enemy of the state.
Leaving the country through abandonment is cited as the most common reason for this, and it is frequently the case that Hindu families who have one or several members leaving the country (for economic as well as political reasons) have their entire property confiscated due to labeling as enemy. So, the properties which have been included under VPA since 23 March 1974 should be immediately exempted and returned those property to the legal owners.
Awami League leader Suranjit Sengupta MP said enactment of the Vested Property Return (Amendment) Act might be delayed for an indefinite period unless its bill is placed in the next parliament session.
Suranjit, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on law ministry, said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina postponed its tabling in the parliament although the cabinet approved the bill last November2009.
The prime minister did this because of her belief that different opinions exist among the Hindu community leaders on the draft act, he added. "There exist differences and there will. But it should not cause delay in the bill placement," Suranjit said at a discussion in last month.
Suranjit, senior politician and lawmaker since independent Bangladesh, said the parliamentary standing committee is there to look at the amendments if necessary and will make it ready for placement in the parliament.
If the bill is sent back to the ministry for another drafting, vested quarters are ready to take opportunities to impose tangle, he said. The vested property, which was termed enemy property before the Liberation War in 1971, was left behind by the Hindus during the 1947 partition and the India-Pakistan war in 1965.
The government took the properties' ownership by enacting the enemy property act after independence in 1971, and renamed the law as the Vested Property Act in 1974.
The law still retains the fundamental ability to deprive a Bangladeshi citizen of his/her property simply by declaring them as enemies of the state. Properties of Hindu families that left the country have been confiscated as they were labeled as state enemy, reported the daily star.
It may be recalled that Human Rights Congress for Bangladesh Minorities (HRCBM), an NGO possessing special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, has by its Bangladesh Chapter's Secretary General Mr Rabindranath Trivedi, who is an ex additional secretary to the Government of Bangladesh, filed a writ petition on 10 August 2008 to the High Court Divisions of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh on the complete abolishment of Vested Property Act.
Former Deputy Attorney General Barrister Nikhilesh Dutta and Senior Advocate S N Goswami moved the case for the petition and Deputy Attorney General Mr Razik Al Jali for the respondents. The Government has not yet replied.
Bangladesh Hindus have lost 22 lakh acres of their land and houses during the last six years (2001-2006), 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,
- Asian Tribune -