Actual owners of 4.75 acres of cropland in the Char Lane Road area near Payra port in Tiakhlali union of Kolapara upazila, Patuakhali, recovering the land now occupied by Haji Salim. 14 November 2020
Actual owners of 4.75 acres of cropland in the Char Lane Road area near Payra port in Tiakhlali union of Kolapara upazila, Patuakhali, recovering the land now occupied by Haji Salim. 14 November 2020Prothom Alo

The actual owners of 4.75 acres of cropland worth Tk 50 million (Tk 5 million) in the Char Lane Road area near Payra port in Tiakhlali union of Kolapara upazila, Patuakhali, are trying to recover the land now occupied by Haji Salim, member of parliament from a Dhaka seat. On Saturday, 13 farmers from whom this land had been forcibly relinquished, took initiative to recover their land.

It is alleged that in May 2016, people of Haji Salim's Madina Group took over this land worth at least Tk 50 million (Tk 5 crore).

So far, with this land in Patukhali, Haji Salim has been accused to forcibly grabbing 11 different plots of land, both government and privately owned.

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The property grabbed by Haji Salim includes eight katha in Chhoto Katra of Old Dhaka, a heritage house Jahajbari in Chawkbazar, one acre of land belonging to Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) in Jhowchar of Kamrangirchar, a house in Sabujbagh, eight katha of land of a WAPDA bungalow on Green Road, Tibet Hall of Jagannath University, land belonging to a school for the hearing impaired, Agrani Bank land in Moulvibazar, 15 bighas of land in Sonargaon of Narayanganj, and eight bighas of land in the neighbouring village.

These land grabbing misdeeds of Haji Salim only began coming out into the open after his house in Old Dhaka was raided and his son Irfan Salim arrested for recently assaulting a naval officer.

According to the actual owners of the occupied land in Kolapara, the actual owners of the 4.75 acres of land are Rojopara village's farmer Anwar Mina, Abul Kalam, Fulbanu, Abdul Mannan, Syed Ahsan Uddin, Ismail Gazi, Firoza Begum, Mozammel Howladar, Kamrul Islam and Yusuf Mina. For many years they had been cultivating and living off this land in khatian no. SA 90, 112, 113, 115, 122 of Rojopara mouza in Tiakhali union.

Suddenly in May 2016, people of Madina Group with the help of local miscreants, forcibly took over the 4.75 acres of land. Then they put up an embankment all around the land to fill it with sand. The owners of the land repeatedly appealed to the administration to retrieve their land, but to no avail. The hapless farmers had to step back due to the hired goons and influence of Madina Group.

A visit to the area on Saturday revealed that work was on to retrieve their lost land. The embankment put up by Madina Group was being removed and the occupied land being recovered.

A member of one of the victim families, Ahsan Pavel, said Haji Salim's people had grabbed 1 acre 43 decimals of their land. He had approached Haji Salim's people but to no avail. The owners of other plots of land also had been endeavouring to recover their land. The local administration did nothing to help.

Responding to such allegations, Madina Group deputy general manager (land) Md Nurul Hamid said, "The plot was bought from an owner of the land. Also, signboards were erected before the land was brought. No one had raised any objection then. The 4 acre 74 decimals of land was bought at market price. Later, there had been some conflict over land ownership and the matter was sorted out with the land claimants. We are having to purchase the same land twice. We are the victims here and we will take legal action."

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The local people said after the land was occupied, the owners who were victims of the land grabbing staged protests and demonstrations in May 2016. They submitted written complaints to the police station. They held a press conference at the Kolapara press club too. The matter had been covered by the media at the time.