A local teachers' association is building a multi-storey shopping centre on a Debottor (endowed) property of a century-old Hindu temple in Modhupur defying a court order.
Modhupur Prathamik Shikhhak Samity, the association, with the backing of a local ruling party leader, is going ahead with the construction work on the temple -- Madan Gopal Deb -- at Mondirat Modhupur Bazar on the Tangail-Mymensingh highway, said locals and officials.
“Apart from occupying the temple's property, the teachers' association is building the structure illegally without a building approval,” said Modhupur municipality Mayor Md Masud Parvez.
“We want the Debottor property to be protected in the interest of the temple and we will extend all-out cooperation if the administration takes an initiative to free it of unauthorised occupation,” he said.
Last October, the mayor had officially asked the association executives to stop the construction which began in August.
In January this year, the court of Tangail additional district magistrate imposed a status quo on the land and asked the police to maintain peace until a case pending with the court was disposed-off. The association, however, ignored the court's order.
The court had also asked the relevant assistant commissioner for land to report on the status and possession of the land.
The upazila land officer (AC Land) in his report in late January, said that according to the State Acquisition (SA) and Tenancy records, the land was documented in the name of the votaries (Shebayet) of the temple and that various Hindu religious festivals and rituals had taken place there for a long time.
The temple and Debottor estate management committee pays the land tax for the property in question, it said. The report cites a court verdict from the early sixties that declared the land as permanently Debottor property belonging to Madan Gopal temple.
Furthermore, records show that the then East Pakistan government had also attempted to acquire the property but they lost the legal battle that ensued.
Contacted, Additional District Magistrate Md Mosharaf Hossain Khan said that it was the duty of the officer-in-charge (OC) of local police to enforce the court order and take action.
However, further order may be issued involving the superintendent of police if the incident of violation of the order and inaction of local police was brought to the court's knowledge.
When queried about what action the police could take for the violation of a court injunction, Officer-in-Charge of Modhupur Police Station, Md Shariful Islam said, “How long can we stop a teachers' association?”
Pointed out that the court injunction was still in effect and the case was pending, he said, “As you raised it, we will check it.”
Ramendra Nath Biswas, upazila nirbahi officer, also the in-charge of AC Land, said the association did not own the land where they were building the commercial structure and according to official documents, the 205 decimal of the land in question belonged to the temple.
There are 114 illegal occupations of different kinds, including by the teachers' association and mostly makeshift vendors on the temple's property, he said, adding that they have sent a proposal to the district headquarters for eviction of all those.
“I have informed police several times of the violation of court order but to no avail,” he said.
Meanwhile, Modhupur Upazila Parishad Chairman Sarwar Alam Khan Abu, who is an adviser of the association, said, “The teacher's association owns the land there and they are constructing the commercial building on an understanding with the temple management committee.
“There are others who have occupied the temple property too.”
Md Mofiz Uddin, general secretary of the teachers' association, said, “We are building the structure on 6.31 decimal of land that we own and we have building approval too.”
Asked time and again for evidence in support of his claim, Mofiz finally said he was not “sure whether the association would agree to share the documents”.
A member of the temple and Debottor estate management committee, requesting anonymity, said, “We have no right to make an understanding with anybody over possession of deity property.”
Jibon Kumar Chowdhury, member-secretary of the committee, said, “We can leave the country and go to India if we wish but we cannot severe our age-old bond with our ancestral homesteads here.”
He declined to make any further comments.