In 2003, Ashor Khalashi bought a piece of land in Khulna city with all the savings he had.
The 5.82-decimal privately-owned land at Kazipara in Mujgunni Dokkhin Para used to be a low-lying wetland. Ashor, a mill worker, filled it up with earth, constructed two tin-shed houses and started living there with his six-member family. It was not much, but for them it was home.
Back then, the area did not see much urbanisation and only a handful of families used to live in the neighbourhood.
There was also talk of constructing an eight-foot wide road opposite a graveyard in the area, which would attract more people and facilitate residents.
Within a few years, some did purchase land and started moving in beside Ashor's home. But things took a turn for the worse as no promised road was built and neighbours erected boundary walls around his home, restricting the family's movement.
Almost 15 years have passed and the situation did not improve. In addition to the almost confined life, the family was struck by tragedy last year. On December 16, Ashor passed away after suffering from cancer.
This correspondent visited the area yesterday. To enter Ashor's house, surrounded by six-foot boundary walls, one has to climb over those. The family has placed some sacks and bricks on both sides of a wall for movement.
“We were unable to lift my father's body over the wall,” said Robiul Islam, Ashor's eldest son. “We had to beg one of the neighbours to demolish a portion of the wall to carry the body outside for burial. We had to rebuild it afterwards,” said the 25-year-old, who works part-time.
“My mother is also ill. It's hard for her to go outside this way,” he said. “We are trapped in our own home.”
Anzira Begum, Ashor's widow, said, “It was very difficult to take my husband to doctors… at times he could not bear the pain or stress.” The 50-year-old said many times they got hurt while climbing and jumping over the wall.
“I could not even marry off my daughter due to this confinement. The groom's family did not want to come to the house this way. Who would?” she said.
She also alleged that there was supposed to be a road near their house, part of which was grabbed by an influential local. She alleged that some of their neighbours also told them to move from the area. “They are eyeing my property.”
Robiul said when the neighbours first moved in they said they would leave space for the family to move around. “Numerous times, we have prayed to the influential locals and the ward-9 councillor for a solution,” he said.
When asked, Khoka Mollick and Rano Kazi, who live on the western and southern sides of the house, said they are the rightful owners of their land and have built walls within their property.
A landowner who lives on the east side, said, “They [Ashor's family] regularly climb over our walls and move around freely. We do not obstruct them.”
Contacted, Ward Councillor Mahfuzur Rahman Liton said many attempts had been made to settle the issue, but to no avail. “I know the family is suffering but many in the area are influential and do not pay heed to our instructions.”
When asked about construction of the road, he said, “If the family could show any document in this regard, we will take steps right away.”
He said no law allows blocking off an entry or exit point to people's home. “I urge higher authorities to look into the matter. This has become a common problem in the city; many built houses without leaving space for roads,” he said.
Contacted, Khulna City Corporation Mayor Talukder Abdul Khaleque said he was not aware of the incident. “If someone had erected walls blocking a KCC road in the area, we will take steps to remove it.”
This newspaper could not get in touch with the Khulna deputy commissioner or the local lawmaker, despite repeated attempts over phone and through text messages.