10,000 fear eviction |
Over 10,000 Hindus in one of the largest Hindu enclaves in the city at Chakuli, in Mirpur-12 are living in gnawing fear of losing their ancestral homesteads and an age-old temple as the Cantonment Board authorities put a claim on the land.
Officials with bulldozers yesterday reached the place to demolish the village but called off the operation due to rain, locals said. Residents there said they could produce all documents to prove that they have inherited the land from their ancestors.
"We have lived here for generations, if there is a proper land acquisition by the government we shall definitely respect that decision, but what is happening here today [Tuesday] does not have any legal basis whatsoever," said Narayan Sarkar, a carpenter by profession, living on a small piece of land he said he inherited from his forefathers.
The crowd of worried men and women grew to over 150 as this correspondent talked to them. "When our parents learnt about the first acquisition back in the sixties, they went to the court and won the case against the government," said a visibly shaken Sudhir Chandra Sarkar, president of the Durga temple committee and a community leader, showing copies of relevant documents.
The entire process of acquiring the area for extending Dhaka Cantonment was started again in 1973 under "confidentiality", residents said. The community of Chakuli was kept completely in the dark as the Ministry of Land allocated twenty acres of land to the Ministry of Defence in 1992. The Deputy Commissioner's (DC) Office in Dhaka, based on the 1992 allocation, prepared a handover note and handed over the land to the cantonment board.
"There was no notice, no communication whatsoever from the DC office, we only learnt about the handover years later in 2000 when cantonment personnel put a claim on our homes," said Sarkar.
"At present, there is an injunction from the High Court and a status quo order on our village, but the army does not want to look at anything," said a local resident.
The Ministry of Land and the DC office's handling of the matter, as it shows on paper, has been so amateurish that the local people termed it "a story of gross corruption". None of the gazettes by the ministry specifically points out any plot number or size of the acquisition of the land, according to documents obtained by The Daily Star.
"Our suffering and feeling of uncertainty today [Tuesday] is the result of gross corruption at the Ministry of Land and the DC office, we want to know where the money for the land acquisition went," said Narayan Sarkar.