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Eminent speakers, experts, HR activists, lawmakers, advocates and minority leaders of Bangladesh at a roundtable gathered for a bannered discussion – “Vested Property Return (amendment) Act: Need to End Historic Injustice”, have termed the Vested Property Act (VPA) a shame for the country’s democracy and said the act must be annulled without delay to brighten the country’s image as a secular and peaceful abode.
Seven organisations— “Association for Land Reform and Development”, “Ain O Shalishi Kendra”, “Bangladesh Hindu Buddha Christian Oikya Parishad”, “Movement for Resistance of the Vested Property Act”, “Sammilita Samajik Andolan”, “Nijera Kori” and “HDRC” arranged the roundtable at CIRDAP auditorium Saturday afternoon (26.022011).
The eminent global economist of Bangladesh and the Chairman of Economics Department of Dhaka University and a strong voice for persecuted minorities of Bangladesh, Prof. Dr. Abul Barkat categorically opined that the enactment of the impugned VPA will lead a 0% Hindu minority in Bangladesh in near future from the 9.2% of present Hindus as per current census report of BD.
‘As far as the issue of human right is concerned, the law should go without further delay to give the minorities freedom from fear,’ chairman of Bangladesh Human Rights Commission Mizanur Rahman said.
Branding the Enemy (vested) Property Act 1965 as a discriminatory law he said the act could not be acceptable in a society upholding value of human rights.
Chaired by Justice Golam Rabbani, the function was addressed, among others, by adviser to the former caretaker government Sultana Kamal, Hasanul Haq Inu, MP, Amirul Islam, professor Mezbah Kamal, professor Abul Barakat. Noted lawyer Subrata Chowdhury acted as moderator.
General secretary of Bangladesh Hindu Buddha Christian Oikya Parishad Rana Dasgupta presented a keynote paper titled ‘Vested Property Return (amendment) Act: Need to End Historic Injustice.’
Elderly politician Ajoy Roy, CR Dutta, Sara Hossain, human rights activist Aroma Dutta, additional attorney general MK Rahman, and general secretary of Adhibasi Forum Sanjib Drang also took part in the discussion.
Terming the Vested Property Act a big huddle to country’s progress and prosperity, noted economist and researcher professor Abul Barakat said the act must go to build a secular, democratic and progressive state before completion of the silver jubilee of the country’s independence as enshrined in the Vision 2021 of the present government.
From the presentation of Dr. Barkat, it is revealed that out of 2.7 million (27 lakhs) Hindu households in total in BD, 1.2 million (44%) are directly affected by the VPA. And Hindus are forced to lose their lands over 26 lakh acres out of which 81% stands for harvest land, 11% domicile land, 2% orchard, 2% water land, 1% abandoned and others. These lands under VAP over 26 lakh acres cost a total amount of Taka 3,10,644 crores as per valuation of the year 2007, which equals 67% of the then GDP of BD. As per the report, the total loss of minority Hindus in BD under VAP touched Taka 3,50,412 crores which figured 75% o the GDP of BD in 2007. The report prepared by Dr Barkat created a big commotion in the BD Govt. but found ineffective to make any good to the minority Hindus in Bangladesh under a tremendous fundamental pressure, persecution and politics by various Islamic groups.
It is now confirmed that the Islamists in Bangladesh has waged a Taliban styled war against the Hindus through forceful conversion, abduction of minor Hindu girls, gang-rape of Hindu women, looting of Hindu temples, killing of protesting Hindus and so on.
Earlier Dr. Barkat surfaced the reality of forceful land grabbing from the Hindu minorities by the Bangladeshi Islamists cut across all party lines. His survey showed that the land grabbing through the act of various political affiliation made direct beneficiaries of appropriated property in this way. Bangladesh Awami League 44.2%, Bangaldesh Nationalist Party (BNP) 31.7%, Jatiya Party 5.8%, Jamaat-e-Islami 4.8% and others 13.5%.
Chairman of Bangladesh Human Rights Commission Mizanur Rahman said, ‘So far the vested property act will exist, the citizens of country will be divided as ‘enemy’ and ‘friend’.
Mr. Mizanur Rahman observed that a complete anarchic situation and mismanagement was prevailing centring the vested property which was also affecting the members of majority Muslim community.
He said the commission while placing its annual report to the president in March next would recommend for scraping the law immediately and return the vested property to their owners or successors through a tribunal.
Justice Golam Rabbani blamed the bureaucracy and their greed for the sufferings of the people caused due to the Vested Property Act. ‘We should keep in mind that Bangladesh is not a state based on any religion or nationalism’, he said.
Sultana Kamal said people expected that the present government would take lesson from the past. ‘The government, if it desires, can repeal the vested property act through a gazette notification,’ she said.
President of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal Hasanul Haq Inu, MP, said the vested property act had been enacted out of vengeance to the Hindu, Buddha, Christian minorities. The Vested Property Return Act 2001 and the country’s constitution should be the guideline for repealing the act, he said.
Amirul Islam said the enemy or vested property act had no legal base in the eyes of national and international laws including Tashkent Declaration of 1966, promulgation of the country’s constitution and passing law in the parliament in 1974.
‘Now the government can execute the legislation through a notification’, he said adding the vested property act is contrary to all national and international laws and damaging to country’s image.
Describing the Vested Property Act as a ‘Legacy of Past’, president of Mahila Parishad Ayesha Khanam said, ‘the act symbolises our colonial, communal, backdated and inhumane political mindset’.
Describing the present VAP as a black phase for the human rights of the BD minority Hindus Rana Dasgupta, Gen Secy, BHBCUC demanded 7 amendments in the present Act, including exclusion of illegal listing of Hindu occupations under VAP after 23rd March, 1978, one time Gazette publication of the list under VAP as per the census on 23rd March, 1978, provision of accessible Tribunals in every districts for settlement of vested property of the minorities and some other relevant points not to cheat and throw out Bangladesh through an unjustified Govt. machinery ignoring the direction of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh.
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