A group of 20 Hindus held a press conference in the capital to appeal to the prime minister. Land grabbers seize land from minorities. If the victims protest, their lives are threatened and women are in danger of rape.
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – "I wonder how they pray in the mosque built on Hindu land they forcibly occupied,” said Sree Jotirmory Saha lives in Birgonj, Dinajpur District.
A Hindu, Saha spoke last Friday (8 April) at press conference held at the Dhaka Reporters Unity to denounce land grabs by influential Muslims at the expense of Hindus.
As part of group of 20 people, he travelled to the capital to call the authorities’ attention to the problem.
Protesting locally has not met with actions by local political leaders; on the contrary, complaints have led to more threats from the land grabbers.
At the press conference in Dhaka, the group appealed to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to save their land.
Sree Jotirmory Saha belongs to a Hindu community that has lived in Birgonj for hundreds of years. On his return from Russia, where he had gone for work, he found that his land had been seized. Where his house once stood, local Muslims built a mosque.
“We asked for help from political leaders and the police in Dinajpur, but they did nothing,” Saha said at the press conference. "We are persecuted because we are Hindus,” he added. “We lost our lands, where we had houses and properties. Everything we own was illegally seized. Now we are destitute."
The group noted that Hindus are not the only one victimised. “Even the land of some Muslims was grabbed,” they said.
In recent years, Bangladesh’s minorities, especially Hindus and Christians, have become the target of threats and attacks from land grabbers, mostly for economic rather than religious reasons.
Given the high cost of land, land grabbers have an incentive in finding ways to seize it rather than pay the full price.
Land grabs always come with threats of retaliation. "If we protest,” said Saha, “they [criminals] threaten our lives or rape our daughters and wives." This is what happened this week to the wife of a Protestant clergyman, who was raped because they wanted to steal the couple’s land.
“We live in extreme poverty and in constant fear,” Saha explained. “We organised various protests in Dinajpur, but we had no answer. We came to Dhaka with more hope of getting justice. "
Meanwhile, the Bangladeshi daily Prothom Alo, which has large readership, reported that the Hindu community (9.1 per cent of the population) is slowly disappearing, and one of the causes is precisely land seizures.
Over the past ten years, the community has lost about a million members to emigration as people seek greater security and economic opportunities abroad.