In a span of five years’ time, since 2014, they lost their 32 decimals of ancestral land to an influential local -- not once, not twice, but a staggering five times!
They are the men and women of Robidas community, a depressed and backward Hindu caste in Lalmonirhat Sadar upazila.
Every time the Robidas families, totalling only seven, fought back and were able to reclaim procession of their land in Kalmati village under Khuniyagachh union.
Exhausted, the remaining 38 members of the community are now on the verge of collapse as the same aggressor has resurfaced this year.
On March 29, the man, Alam Miah alias Kosai Alam, and his accomplices demanded that the Robidas community pay Tk 50 thousand extortion money for access rights to their own land that they inherited from their ancestors.
Alam and his thugs returned the next day and barred the community members from conducting agricultural work on the land.
The Robidas community had been living peacefully on the land by the Teesta river since it was purchased in 1973, said Bachcharam Robidas, a senior citizen of the community.
But in the past few years, their piece of mind has been replaced with fear -- fear of being driven out of their own land, he lamented.
Dhaneshwar Chandra Robidas, another member of the community, said the first time the organised criminals encroached on their land was by building a makeshift structure on it.
The land was returned to the Robidas community after its members raised the issue in a village arbitration.
But the criminals made similar attempts four times more and the community, with the help of others in the village, foiled the attempts each time, Dhaneshwar said. “It happened five times in the last five years. Why do we have to suffer this inhumane torture?”
He said on March 31, he filed a case with Lalmonirhat Sadar Police Station, accusing Alam Miah and four others for issuing threats on the Robidas community.
Confirming that the Robidas community is the genuine owner of the piece of the land, Sultan Ahmed, an elderly resident of the village, said a group of people have been causing trouble unnecessary by producing false documents of ownership.
Although the issue was settled in village arbitration several times, the group has been trying to take its possession again, he added.
In the last session of arbitration, held at Lalmonirhat Sadar Police Station on July 27, 2017, the Robidas community was returned the rights to the land. Aside from law enforcers, the arbitration session was attended by villagers, village leaders, local politicians, journalists and lawyers.
Refuting the accusations made against him, Alam Miah claimed that the Robidas community is illegally occupying the piece of land that belongs to him and several others.
He however did not make any comment about previous decisions made at village arbitrations, favouring the Robidas community.
Sub-Inspector Selim Reza of Lalmonirhat Police Station said they would take necessary action against the accused following due investigation.