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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hindu MPs signed memo to Prime minister Sheikh Hasina to amend vested property return act

Source: Asian Tribune

From our diplomatic correspondent
Dhaka, 03 October , ( :

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 -

Ethnic minorities facing diverse challenges

Source: The Daily Star News

Photo: Munir uz Zaman/ Drik News

Extreme poverty is common in Bangladesh, but the experiences of the different groups of people who live with it are not all the same. We must not forget that while there are common characteristics of life in extreme poverty, some groups of people face very specific challenges to their ability to live with security and dignity.

Policy-makers and the public alike need to be sensitive to these differences when considering how to help "the extreme poor," and must avoid lumping these divergent experiences together.

The extremely poor non-Bengali (other terms include "ethnic minority" or adivasi) population of Bangladesh are a case in point. Their experiences of life at the very bottom differ a good deal from their Bengali counterparts, and they face particular challenges in escaping the vicious cycle of extreme poverty and marginalisation. As such, empowering adivasi people to lift themselves out of poverty will require a tailored set of policies designed to address their specific constraints.

Exactly this kind of nuanced approach to development policy-making should be at the heart of the government's Millennium Development commitment to the eradication of extreme poverty by 2015.

Trouble with jobs

Most extremely poor households face job worries, due to things like seasonal changes in demand for agricultural day labour. For adivasi people, this insecurity is made worse by the fact that they are often paid less than Bengali labourers for the same work -- while adivasi women are paid at a lower rate again. As a result, adivasi households and particularly those that are headed by women are vulnerable to the effects of fluctuations in labour demand and health shocks. This desperate situation forces many adivasi to sell their labour in advance -- for an even lower rate -- during the lean seasons, and work for longer hours just to feed their families.

Migration pressures

For many extremely poor people, a lack of jobs forces migration to find work in neighbouring areas, with some even taking temporary residence in other districts and sending money back to the household.

Adivasi workers tend to migrate less than their Bengali counterparts because of worries -- based on past experiences of discrimination -- that if they leave their living place to find work, their land or homestead might be occupied by others illegally and they might end up homeless.

Certain cultural beliefs also play a part; namely that their ancestors lie with them in their homestead so that if they leave their home the ancestors will be displeased and migrants will suffer dire consequences. This means extremely poor adivasis are less able to move to find better wages, making their situation even more perilous.

Challenges at school

In general, educational facilities for the extreme poor are limited and of poor quality. This has prompted recent efforts from the government, NGOs and missionaries to make primarily education comparatively more accessible. However, children from extremely poor adivasi families face different barriers in school.

Government primary schools use Bangla as the language of instruction, English is also taught, but there are rarely primary school provisions for instruction in any adivasi language, making it difficult for adivasi children to compete at school in Bangla with their Bengali classmates.

Coupled with existing social and cultural differences between adivasi and Bengali, a disproportionately high number of adivasi children are illiterate, leading to high drop-out rates among adivasi children, thereby increasing the likelihood of low wages in adulthood.

Political barriers

Finally, extremely poor adivasi communities face distinct political barriers to their development. While the extreme poor across Bangladesh rarely attain significant positions in local-level politics and power structures, the adivasi are particularly affected by political marginalisation. Even in areas where they make up a reasonable proportion of the population, they generally struggle to compete for political representation, lacking the necessary money, education, experience and political networks.

While in recent years, some adivasi leaders (for example in the Barind Tract region) are coming forward to run in Union Parishad elections -- with the support of some NGOs and Christian Missions -- this is not enough to ensure the needs of the most vulnerable adivasi are mainstreamed in the local political agenda.

The "extreme poor" are not all alike

Thinking of the extreme poor as a homogenous group of needy citizens for whom there is simple set of possible development interventions does a disservice to the variation in experiences of groups in extreme poverty.

The specific challenges facing adivasi people in extreme poverty remind us of the importance of policy-making that is nuanced and sensitive to the particular social and economic constraints of different groups. At least for those extremely poor adivasi people, policies designed to link them to the mainstream of Bangladesh's development initiatives will be fundamental for them to lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

Hasina extols secularism amid sectarian violence

Source: Daily Times

* Bangladeshi PM says secularism one of four main pillars of constitution

* Six cops suspended for attacking Hindu devotees

DHAKA: Even as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed extols the virtues of secularism and thanks her law enforcement agencies for ensuring a peaceful environment, there are reports of attacks on Puja mandaps across Bangladesh.

Hasina has said that everyone in Bangladesh is at liberty to practice his or her religion. “Secularism is one of the four main pillars of our constitution and it sounds hollow if people cannot practice their religions,” she said during her visit to the Dhakeshwari Temple.

She was greeted with flowers by leaders of the Hindu community. Her comments came amid reports on the same day that six cops were suspended in Sunamganj for attacking Hindu devotees at a Puja celebration. Another police sub-inspector was withdrawn for burning a festoon bearing an image of the goddess Durga.

In Narayanganj, 15 drunkards attacked a Puja pavilion. Police later arrested two of them. Hasina said, “Peace is the central message of all religions. We are working towards achieving that goal.” She went on to say that when her government took over the administration, it was beset with many problems and that they were trying to address them.

The prime minister quoted lines from the Sura-e-Kafirun, which recognises people’s right to religion. She added that Bangladeshis observe a number of festivals throughout the year and that her government is trying to create a peaceful environment to ensure proper atmosphere for their celebrations.

Hasina pointed out that this year, the main Hindu festival, Durga Puja, is being celebrated peacefully like the Eidul-Fitr. She thanked law enforcers for their efforts to maintain a peaceful atmosphere. “A harmonious environment has been created. We’ve people of all religions visiting the Puja pavilions and taking part in the festivities. This is Bangladesh,” Hasina added.

Violence mars Durga Puja festivities in Bangladesh

Source: IANS

Dhaka, Oct 17 (IANS) Attacks by drunken mobs and even policemen on Hindu devotees and Durga Puja marquees in many parts of Bangladesh marred the festivities of the country's minority community even as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina stressed on the virtues of secularism.

Reports of violence came from across the country as the biggest religious festival of the minority Hindu community ended Sunday.

The authorities withdrew policemen and closed down a police station after cops were found attacking Puja Mandaps, the makeshift bamboo-and-cloth marquees erected for the festival at some places,, a newspaper website reported.

In Narayanganj, just outside Dhaka, two people were arrested for vandalism, loot and attack on a Puja pavillion at Tanbazaar.

Witnesses said at least 10 people were injured when around 15 drunk men attacked Hindus devotees, who were dancing at a pavilion in Minabazar area of Tanbazar early Saturday.

They stabbed organising secretary of the Puja celebration committee of the area, Ankan Saha Rana, 35, and member Sumon Das, 24, when they attempted to stop the drunks.

In Sunamganj in northeastern Bangladesh, six policemen including a sub-inspector were withdrawn from a police station for attacking devotees at a temple in Tahirpur Upazila (sub-district).

A sub-inspector of Sherpur Sadar Police Station in central Bangladesh was withdrawn to the police lines for burning a festoon with the image of goddess Durga.

Acting Superintendent of Police (Sherpur) Mohammad Anisur Rahman said legal steps will be taken against Badruzzaman, the sub-inspector.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina stressed on virtues of secularism and said her country was 'non-communal' while speaking at a function hosted by Hindus in the national capital Saturday.

Hasina said that 27,000 Durga Puja mandaps or marquees were erected across the country this year, the highest ever. Similarly, 94,000 Muslims were proceeding on Haj to Saudi Arabia, which was also the highest, denoting freedom to practice different faiths.

'Secularism is one of the four pillars of the country's constitution and has no meaning if people cannot practice their religions,' she said during her visit to the Dhakeshwari Temple Saturday, which marked the Mahanabami, a high point of the Hindu festival.

But the New Age newspaper said: 'Even as the prime minister speaks of secularism and thanks her law enforcers for ensuring a peaceful environment, there are reports of attacks, even by cops, on puja mandaps across the country.'

Attacks on devotees in Bangladesh condemned

By TCN News,

New Delhi: South Asian Council for Minorities (SACM) has condemned the attacks on the devotees and vandalism during Durga Pooja festival in Bangladesh on Saturday 16th of October.

Reportedly Durga Pooja, the festival of Hindus, country’s minority community was marked by several attacks by drunken mobs and even policemen on Hindu devotees and the Pooja mandaps. Several members of the minority community were injured in these attacks.

Condemning the incident, Navaid Hamid, secretary, SACM, said that the “attacks on devotees need to be condemned by all those, including the civil society of Bangladesh, who believe in the sanity and peaceful co-existence of followers of different faiths in a democratic setup”

He expressed his concerns at the fact that even “some policemen and security personnel have attacked the members of the Hindu minority community… in different parts of Bangladesh which has left scores of people seriously injured, frightened and terrorized.”

Mr. Hamid hoped that Bangladesh would take strongest measures against the culprits in order to instill confidence in the minorities in the country.

South Asian Council for Minorities (SACM) is a platform of human rights activists working for the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities in South Asia