The Urdu-speaking people of Kurmitola Bihari Camp have alleged that grabbing the land of the settlement was the prime motive of Saturday's attack that left 10 of their community members killed.
They also submitted to the state minister for home a list of people that allegedly had carried out the attack. The list includes local lawmaker Elias Uddin Mollah and Jewel Rana, general secretary of Pallabi Thana Jubo League.
“Since 1993, people have been trying to grab the land of the camp,” alleged Sadaqat Khan Fakku, president of Urdu-speaking Peoples Youth Rehabilitation Movement.
With no ownership deeds, the Bihari refugees are an easy target of land grabbers, observed Mohammd Shawkat Hossain, general secretary of Kurmitola Bihari Camp branch of Stranded Pakistanis' General Repatriation Committee (SPGRC).
“We just have lists mentioning which person lives in which block of the camp,” he added.
The land of the camp was given to them in 1972 as a temporary settlement for the stranded Pakistani refugees after the 1971 Liberation War.
Wedged in between Dhaka Cantonment and Pallabi and Kalshi of Mirpur, the large swath of land housing 1,734 families as per a 2008 census is a very lucrative real estate.
Good communication network also makes the camp attractive to the land grabbers, said the Biharis, as the community is known in Bangladesh.
It is connected to the Begum Rokeya Sarani by one main road, and adjacent to the Mirpur-Airport road flyover, the slope of which is close to the camp. A wide dual carriageway road runs right through the camp.
The SPGRC leaders alleged that a state minister in 2010 offered them 1.75 kathas of land each across Beribandh on the outskirts of Dhaka in exchange of their space in the camp.
“In 2009, our public relations secretary Mohammad Khurshid and I were called in by the commissioner of ward number 2. He tried to bribe us into giving him information about refugees who are very poor and can easily be persuaded to give up their land,” said Shawkat.
“On another occasion in 2009 when I called a public meeting to press home our demands, political goons came and tried to dissuade me from doing so, saying I should encourage people to leave instead,” he went on.
In 2008, a private real estate firm grabbed 27 plots of the camp, said Shawkat.
“Most of the people here are poor and illiterate. It is easy to threaten them and scare them into moving out,” he added.
Meanwhile, a team of the Biharis led by Sadaqat Khan met State Minister for Home Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal at the secretariat yesterday and handed over a list of around 60 people accusing them of carrying out the arson attack on the Kurmitola Bihari Camp that killed 10 people, including nine of a family, in the early hours of Saturday.
They alleged that Pallabi Thana Jubo League general secretary Jewel Rana had led the attack.
Emerging from the meeting, the junior minister told the press that there would be an impartial investigation into the incident and none would be spared if found guilty.
Rana could not be reached for his comments.
However, Jubo League president Omar Faruq Chowdhury told The Daily Star that they would take punitive measures against Rana if the allegation against him was found to be true.
Local MP Elias, who is yet to visit the camp following the attack, has already denied his involvement in the incident.
Earlier in the day, the Biharis formed a human chain in front of the Jatiya Press Club demanding arrest of "real culprits" of the attacks, withdrawal of cases against Bihari people, withdrawal of top police officials of Mirpur Zone and Pallabi Police Station, compensation for the affected families and proper treatment of the injured.
Leaders of different political and social organisations, including Nagorik Oikya Convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna, joined the programme to express solidarity with the demands.