A 98-year-old retired schoolteacher has allegedly been driven out of his ancestral house by land grabbers in Anwara upazila of Chattogram.
Niranjan Chakraborty was also forced to sign documents announcing transfer of the land ownership to the grabbers, said family members.
After the eviction, the grabbers hung a signboard at the mud house bearing the names of the “new owners”, said locals. The signboard was, however, removed later.
During a visit on Wednesday, the house was found under lock and key.
According to a case filed with Anwara Police Station by Niranjan’s son Pranab Ranjan Chakroborty on April 18, some 13 people led by local resident Kamrul Islam Helal forcibly took the fingerprint of Niranjan at gunpoint on April 10.
Helal and his cohorts also took signatures of the complainant and his sister on the stamp in front of a land official, says the case statement. Seven people including Helal were made accused by name and six to seven others were unnamed.
Asked why they delayed in filing the case, Pranab said, “We were shocked and in fear. We didn’t know what to do. After we talked to the chairman and the lawmaker, they gave us assurance and we started the process.”
The local minority families said they were feeling insecure after the incident.
According to the case statement, the total amount of land is 1,658 decimals (16.58 acres), and Tk 1.6 crore was cited as the price.
Mukuli Bhattacharjee, a neighbour, said, “It was almost evening on April 10.... We saw some 12 to 13 people led by Kamrul Islam Helal enter the house of the teacher, introducing himself as a Juba League man.
“They shut the door and windows of the house and threatened us not to come close to the house,” she said. “They threatened to burn our houses if we let anyone know.”
After the news spread, the residents of Joy Kali Bazar area where the house is located started protesting including on social media. “As we started the protest, the grabbers threatened to kill us and burn our houses with gunpowder,” said Jony Dey, a local farmer. “We have to keep watch at night fearing attacks.”
Papia Chakraborty, daughter of Pranab Chakraborty, said they live in the city. Her grandfather and aunt Ratna used to live in the house in Anwara. “Helal and his cohorts forcibly took my father to Anwara from the city at gunpoint,” she said.
“When my grandfather refused to sign, they forced him to put his fingerprint,” she said. “My grandfather and aunt left the house in the face of threats.”
The upazila sub-registrar, Md Salahuddin, who was present during the April 10 incident, said he went to the house to conduct the land ownership transfer procedure.
When a person is physically unable to come to the sub-registry office, he can make a request, and upon that, the sub-registrar himself or an official nominated by him would go to his house to transfer land ownership, said Salahuddin.
“As Niranjan is an elderly person and an application was filed on behalf of him, I went to his house and completed the procedure legally,” he added. “I didn’t see anyone force Niranajn and his family.”
Pranab, however, said his father gave him and another person the power of attorney (a legal document giving a person the power to act for another person) over the land property. As the other person died recently, he had requested the sub-registrar to come over to the house and revoke the power of attorney. At that time, the grabbers forced them to sign the deed transferring the land ownership.
The Daily Star called Helal by phone several times but his phone was switched off.
Asim Kumar Deb, chairman of Union No. 7 of Anwara, said, “We informed the matter to our lawmaker, who is also the land minister. He instructed police to take action against the grabbers.”
Mahbub Milki, inspector (investigation) of Anwara Police Station, said they were trying to arrest the accused. “We will investigate whether the stamp was singed forcibly.”
Contacted, Land Minister Saifujjaman Chowdhury Javed said he was aware of this matter. “I can assure you that the perpetrators would not be spared,” he said.
“I’ve asked the leaders of the Hindu community and local public representatives to work on it, and they would give me a feedback soon.”
He denied that Helal was involved in Juba League.