The family of a former zamindar, who was killed by Razakars after the country’s liberation, claims it received death threats from land grabbers in Barishal’s Shyampur village.
“We are passing days in anxiety. Some influential land grabbers with political clout are threatening to kill us over a piece of land,” said Chhaya Rani Chowdhury, wife of the ex-Zamindar Kumud Bandhu Roy Chowdhury Natubabu.
Kumud was a zamindar before the zamindar system was abolished in that region in the 1940s. He was killed by the anti-liberation forces in 1973 as he tried to testify against some war criminals, said locals, including freedom fighters.
Seventy-five-year old Chhaya, who has a son and two daughters, has about seven acres of land. Alongside agricultural land, there is a pond and three palaces in the area. Two of the palaces are on the verge of collapse.
“We opted to put up a boundary wall but a group of people obstructed the work. They are claiming ownership of the land and giving us constant threats in person,” said Chhaya.
She claimed two locals, including one Nizamul Kabir, were the main perpetrators.
Contacted over phone, Nizamul rejected the allegation and claimed he had no idea about the matter.
Chhaya also claimed that a few months ago, someone cut down trees and looted fruits from their garden.
“This group has already grabbed some portions of our land. My son Biplob Banhi Roy Chowdhury came from London and filed a general diary with Bakerganj Police Station on March 3 over the matter,” she said, adding, “Since the brutal killing of my husband, I have been living alone here but now I am really scared.”
Talking to The Daily Star, Khan Altaf Hossain Bhulu, a local leader of pro-Awami League Krishak Sramik Janata League, said the family sheltered some 300 to 400 freedom fighters during 1971 Liberation War.
On November 16, 1971, the Pakistani occupation forces, in collaboration with their local collaborators, destroyed the area, killed a number of innocent people. Natubabu and his family members, including five-month-old son, managed to flee.
After the end of the war, they returned but only to find damaged properties and since then had been a target of land grabbers and anti-liberation forces, said Khan Altaf, also a freedom fighter.
Masuduzzaman, officer-in-charge of Bakerganj Police Station, said, “We have already received complaints from the Zamindar family. Action will be taken if anyone tries to harm them. They have been assured of that.”
Natubabu’s son Biplob Banhi Roy Chowdhury said Zamindar Prasanna Kumar Roy Chowdhury was the first to become a landowner from the family in the 16th century.
He said, “We’ve donated our properties for construction of educational institutions, bazaar and roads. Now we only have some seven acres of land left. As most of our family members are living abroad, we want to donate these as well by creating a trust.”
SM Azair Rahman, deputy commissioner of Barishal, said he had recently visited the area.
“If the family wants to donate its properties under a trustee deed, the administration will help them in this regard. Action will be taken if any local tries to harass them.”