Bangladesh: Confiscation of Indigenous Hindu Minority Home, Land, Business, even Centuries-Old Land of Hindu Mandirs (Temple) and Cremation Areas Continue
Why, In Spite of Opposition from Secular Muslims and Minority Hindus?
Sachi G. Dastidar
In one more example of asset confiscation by the majority Muslims of the centuries-old land belonging to Hindu deities or mandirs (temples) in Bangladesh, this time by a leader of the ruling Awami League Party, otherwise known as the pro-secular party of Bangladesh. Confiscator this time is the mayor of the famous Narayanganj City, Dr. Selina Hayat Ivy, a Muslim. She is the first female mayor of any large city in Bangladesh. This type of illegal confiscation and ethnic cleansing for India has been going on since partition of India.
Since the partition of India in 1947 and independence of India and Pakistan, new Pakistan enacted a law called “Enemy Property Act” which allowed the state to declare any Hindu assets, even pre-Islam Hindu minority property – home, paddy field, pond, shop, business, farm, shrine, factory, ashram – as “Enemy Property” by declaring indigenous Hindus as “enemy of state.” Is this law that different from how Jewish homes and assets were taken over in Europe in pre-WWII era? Why hasn’t world’s press written about this oppression? Hindu lives don’t matter? To this list one should add continued confiscation of smasan lands or cremation areas. This writer witnessed such confiscation in several districts during 1990 and 1992 pogroms. (See "Pogroms and Riots in Bangladesh and West Bengal, 1992-93," South Asia Forum Quarterly, Spring, 2-3, and Fall 1993; and Partition Center Journal 2020, pp 27-34.) Keeping with this trend very recently one more smasan (cremation area) was confiscated by powerful Muslims in eastern Brahmanbaria District of Bangladesh. This smasan was recovered after lots of struggle. (See daily Bhorer Kagoj, September 7, 2020. https://www.bhorerkagoj.com/2020/09/07/%e0%a6%aa%e0%a7%8d%e0%a6%b0%e0%a6%ad%e0%a6%be%e0%a6%ac%e0%a6%b6%e0%a6%be%e0%a6%b2%e0%a7%80%e0%a6%a6%e0%a7%87%e0%a6%b0-%e0%a6%95%e0%a6%ac%e0%a6%b2-%e0%a6%a5%e0%a7%87%e0%a6%95%e0%a7%87-%e0%a6%b6/ )
Smasan (Cremation Area) Liberated from Muslim Occupiers (Source: Bhorer Kagoj)
Pakistan, and its eastern wing East Pakistan continued to confiscate minority Hindu property without notice and compensation. East Pakistan became Bangladesh after 1971 Liberation War. Independent Bangladesh kept the same law with a new name, Vested Property Act. Yet, no one has ever heard any Hindu minority “vesting” their property to the state for confiscation. This law is so bigoted that Bangladesh couldn’t confiscate properties of killers of Bangladesh’s Founding Father Mujibur Rahman and 26 members of his family, as the killers were Muslim. (Killers were sheltered in Europe, North America and Muslim-majority nations.)
(It is worth mentioning here that once Pakistan was created by the Colonial Britain through its divide-and-rule policy, Pakistan declared herself as an Islamic Nation with official discrimination against her pre-Islam indigenous Hindu, Jain, Buddhist natives, as well as against her Sikh minority. The nation’s Constitution prohibits any Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, Sikh and Christian from holding many top offices. Yet, no democratic, communist, Islamic or Christian nation, secular, religious progressive or conservative organization said a word against such bigotry.)
Many books have been written by secular Muslims and victimized minority Hindus at their own peril, even under pro-secular rule. Among them are Mridul Kanti Rakshit (See Sree Mridul Kanti Rakshit, Law of Vested (Enemy) Properties in Bangladesh, Vol. I, M. K. Publishers, Chittagong, 1985; and Mridul Kanti Rakshit, Law of Vested (Enemy) Properties, Vol. II, Chittagong, 1991; and Barkat, Abul, Shafique uz Zaman, Azizur Rahman and Avijit Poddar, Impact of Vested Property Acton Rural Bangladesh: An Exploratory Study, Prepared for Association for Land Reform and Development, Bangladesh; March 1996; Barkat, Abul, Shafique uz Zaman, Azizur Rahman, Avijit Poddar and Subhas SenGupta, An Inquiry into Causes and Consequences of Deprivation of Hindu Minorities in Bangladesh through the Vested Property Act, PRIP Trust, Dhaka, 2000; and Abul Barkat, “Economics of Fundamentalism in Bangladesh: Roots, Strengths, and Limits to Growth,” South Asia Conference on Social and Religious Fragmentation and Economic Development, Cornell University, New York; October 15-16, 2005 and Barakat, Abul, Shafik uz Jaman, Mohammad Shahnawaz Khan, Avijit Poddar, Saiful Haq and M. Taher Uddin, Bangladeshey Shangkhyaloghy Hindu Sampradayer Banchana: Orpito Sampattir Sanghey Basabash (Discrimination of Minority Hindu Community of Bangladesh: Living with Vested Property), Pathak Samabesh, Dhaka, Bangladesh; 2009, and this writer’s Empire’s Last Casualty: Indian Subcontinent’s Vanishing Hindu and Other Minorities, Firma KLM, Kolkata, India, 2008.)
Dr. Barkat’s book discovered that by late 1990s the amount of Hindu land confiscated without notice and without compensation was about 88% of Bangladesh GDP. About two-thirds of the land was confiscated by the pro-secular party workers. The party was overwhelmingly supported by the oppressed Hindu minority. Contradiction and confusion? Of course. Another 30% was confiscated by the pro-Islamist party, and the rest by the vehemently racist, anti-independence Islamist party.
What has world’s free press, progressives and conservatives, and the Leftist rulers of Indian states of West Bengal and Tripura – almost all political leaders are Bangladeshi Hindu refugee in India – done? Nothing. Not even saying a word while calling for nationwide strikes in India for fake or real oppression in faraway land not known to the strikers.
It is worth mentioning that life for lawyer Rakshit, a Hindu, and professor Dr. Barkat, a Muslim, has not been easy. This is also true for other secular Muslims and Hindus who protest atrocities against their Hindu minority. Mr. Rakshit’s very talented son Srikant, a topper in school and college, was beheaded by a politician as the family didn’t give up their ancestral land of hundreds of years and their home of many centuries in Chittagong. (In early 2000s this writer pushed the pro-Islamist Prime Minister who then tried some of the killers giving tough sentences, though not the politician. Srikanta never came back! See this writer’s Living among the Believers: Stories from the Holy Land down the Ganges, Firma KLM Publishers, Kolkata, 2006, for the story called “Srikanta.”)
In late 1980s this writer met with the Bangladesh Land Minister, and the Minister of Religion in the capital city of Dhaka during the military rule of President General Ershad, an Indian-Bangladeshi. The land minister mentioned that over 1.5 million acres were confiscated recently from Hindus, and that the General was trying to disband the Enemy Property Act. It didn’t happen during his rule. (See "Bangladesh and West Bengal: Glimpses of Government Policies: Third in a Series", in South Asia Forum Quarterly, Spring 1990; 7-8.)
is the story of temple land confiscation that major papers of Bangladesh, West
Bengal, India and the U.S. censored.
Location of Narayanganj
Mayor Ivy ‘Grabs’ Debottar Property
Hindus stage hunger strike
3 December, 2020 12:00 AM
Hindus Stage Hunger Strike nar on Wednesday in protest against grabbing of their land by some local influential people. —sun photo
Several thousand people from the Hindu community staged a token hunger strike in Narayanganj city on Wednesday in protest against the alleged grabbing of their ‘debottar’ property by Mayor Selina Hayat Ivy and her family members.
Under the banner of the District and Metropolitan Puja Celebration Parishad, the Hindu, Buddhist and Christian Unity Parishad and Civil Society, the protesters thronged Shaheed Minar at Chashara in the city.
Later, they went on a hunger strike at 2:00pm and ended it at 5pm.
Earlier on November 11, the protesters gave a memorandum to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina after holding a protest progarmme.
Meanwhile, representatives from local professional bodies expressed solidarity with the hunger strike, showing a unique example of non-communalism.
Expressing solidarity with the protest programme, about one and half a dozen councillors of Narayanganj City Corporation, leaders of four business organisations, freedom fighters of the District Muktijoddha Sangsad, leaders of the District Lawyers’ Association, Narayanganj Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Swadhinata Chikitsak Parishad (Swachip), Bangladesh Teachers’ Association, six journalist organisations, district and city Awami League, district and city Jatiya Party, district and city JASAD, Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee and various professional organisations joined the programme.
Speaking on the occasion, Abu Hasnat Shahid Badal, general secretary of the Narayanganj District Awami League, said Mayor Ivy wearing Awami League uniform tarnished the image of the party by trying to grab Hindu property.
He also said Ivy has forgotten that Awami League is for the people and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is the last shelter of the people. Ivy must stand trial in the court of justice. It is painful for us to come down to the field against the ‘grabbing’ of a temple’s property.
Advocate Khokon Saha, general secretary of the Narayanganj City Awami League, said, “I have never had to face communalism in my political and professional responsibilities.”
Expressing solidarity with the strike, Advocate Mohsin Mia, president of Narayanganj District Lawyers' Association, said the British pamphlet mentions this property as Debottar. Debottar property is not eligible for sale or transfer even under customary law or Hindu law.
“We’ve decided at a meeting of the District Bar Association that if they ask for our help, we will stand by them and provide legal aid,” he added.
Convener of the City Jatiya Party and Bandar Upazila Vice-Chairman Sanaullah Sanu said, “Mayor Ivy did not allow the heroic children (freedom fighters) of the nation to perform at the Shaheed Minar on the pretext of getting permission.”
“Today, he is accused of grabbing temple property. We strongly condemn it and we will resist it,” he added.
Chandan Shil, the district president of Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee, said, “Those who grab properties of temples and a mosque-madrasas are not fit to live in this Narayanganj. They will be thrown in a trash soon.”
Deepak Kumar Saha, president of the District Puja Celebration Committee, said, “The family of Mayor Selina Hayat Ivy wants to grab Zeus pond, the own property of Laxminarayan Ji Vigraha Mandir.”
“Mayor Ivy's mother, two brothers, uncle, aunt and relatives are among those who are trying to grab the property through fake documents.”
During the vote, Ivy went to the temple to show herself as a person close to the Hindu community. Now, her family members are trying to grab the temple's property, they said.
Earlier, Mayor Ivy’s father, late Ali Ahmed Chunkao, became the leader of the Awami League and used to bring Delwar Hossain Sayedee to the meeting during the tenure of Ziaur Rahman. War criminal Ali Ahsan Mujahid was the principal of Adarsha School and Chunkao grabbed and sold the school’s land to Jamaat leaders.
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