Thursday, January 29, 2009

Land-grabbing by criminals in Chittagong, Bangladesh

Criminals: The powerful land-grabbing syndicate in the Chittagong metropolitan area include: (1) Jaker Hosain Chowdhury (son of late Kala Miah) of 187 Manu Mianji Lane, Chandanpura, Ctg.; (2) Jashimuddin, s/o Abdul Mannan of Mannan Villa, 1697 K.B. Aman Ali Road, P.S. Bakolia, Ctg., (3) Ekramul Haque Kaderi, s/o Ahmadul Haque of Village Chapra, P.S. Patiya, Ctg., (4) Md. Momtazuddin Manjur, s/o Moktar Ahmed of village Barunchar, P.S. Anwara, Ctg., (5) Md. Mahbubul Ahsan, s/o Md. Nazimuddin Bhuiyan of 155/2 West Kafrul, Dhaka, (6) Md. Wahed Molla alias Md. Zaher alias Md. Jahed, (7) Md. Moinuddin, s/o (late) Md. Azizul of village Farhabad Musabia, P.S. Hathazari, Ctg., (8) Nurul Amin Sanobi, s/o Syed Ullah of village Sonua, P.S. Bashkhali, Ctg., (9) Md. Shahjahan Chowdhury, s/o Raja Mia of village Sreepur Kharandip, P.S. Boalkhali, Ctg. (10) Champaiya alias Abu Hanif (right hand man of the most feared politician Godfather in Chittagong); (11) Md. Abdul Mabud (a notorious money-launderer); (12) Ratan Kumar Bhowmik; (13) Mahtabuddin Chowdhury; (14) Md. Nasiruddin; (5) Fayyaz (a goon who works for the most feared politician Godfather in Chittagong); and (16) Abdur Rahim (a cadre leader who lives near the mazaar of Gharibullah Shah) amongst many others – mostly from Bakolia/Boalkhali area.
They work in collusion with greedy and corrupt politicians [e.g., a BNP-MP and his notorious son during the BNP rule (2001-2006)] to grab people's land.

Land-grabbing is a Mafia like operation involving Crores of Taka with connections in the Land Deeds & Records Department, Chittagong city and Sitakund Thana plus a corrupt judiciary system (where sometimes verdicts can be bought in favor of the criminal syndicate) and an equally corrupt police force (who sometimes show serious dereliction of duty and betray public trust to seal the immoral land-grab).

Facts: This land-grabbing syndicate of Jaker Hosain Chowdhury has victimized and continues to threaten many genuine land-owners by falsifying deeds and buying influence from immoral and corrupt government officers. Their criminal scheme follows a typical pattern:

(1) Buy the so-called 'power of attorney', often through illegal money-laundering, from family members of a dead zamindar (who had moved to India after Partition of Pakistan) now living in India. [Note: During the British Raj, while most Muslims were peasants in the aftermath of the Permanent Settlement Act, most of the new zamindars were Hindus in the East Bengal. After partition of India, a large majority of them settled in India];
(2) In that so-called Deed of Power-of-Attorney, deliberately falsify information by showing the “raiyat” (peasant) properties -- tenanted (projabili) lands of land-owners -- as part of the zamindari property so as to target such properties for potential land-grab [Note: the zamindars under the British Raj were responsible for collection of revenues only from the prajabili lands (tenanted); such properties never belonged to the zamindar as ‘khas-dakhali’ lands. With the passage of the East Bengal Estate Acquisition and Tenancy Act of 1950, the entire Zamindari system itself was dissolved, all the raiyats were made owners and asked to pay their revenue directly to the Government, while former zamindars were paid adequate compensation by the government for loss of their income];
(3) If the previous two methods could not be employed, falsify land deeds in collaboration with the corrupt officers in the Land Deeds & Records Department, Chittagong City and Sitakund Thana to show that the property was bought by or sold to the land-grabbing criminal [Note: the Sitakund office was set on fire deliberately by some criminals in the mid/late-1970s to further complicate the issue on land ownership record. It is well known that an official falsified record could be obtained from these vital offices with a payment of approx. 1% of the actual property value];
(4) File 'Partition Suits' on behalf of the dead zamindar family member (who had become Indian citizens) without the knowledge of the real owners and get a verdict in their favor so as to prepare the groundwork for future land-grab with support of government agencies (Note: in these cases, the real owner is not made aware that his/her land is being contested by these attorneys, and as such, are often ill prepared to put up an injunction on time to stop such a court-decreed possession or land-grab by the criminal syndicate);
(5) Grab the property of the legal owner of the (erstwhile) ‘raiyat’ property by evicting him/her and/or his/her tenants with tens/hundreds of criminal cadre behind. In this scheme of things: the local thana is already managed by the land-grabbing syndicate, and the corrupt politician is engaged for his/her support so that the entire criminal project will move smoothly with no actions expected to come from the law enforcing agencies; no court order is even served to the affected family who did not know that there was an old case, resurrected from the early Pakistan days, on its property and that the court, without an independent, unbiased inquiry, had already issued an execution case for possession of his/her legally owned and possessed land by the land-grabbing syndicate that had wielded its power of attorney;
(6) In the meantime, sell the property to tens of greedy buyers willing to buy land at prices significantly lower than actual market value, making them all a party to the criminal loot;
(7) Before the actual land-grab, sometimes the legal owner is threatened to pay extortion money (which may run into several crorers of Taka), failing which he/she is threatened about the dire consequences of losing his/her entire property on which he/she had been living and paying taxes, revenues, bills, etc. for all these years;
(8) Upon illegal land-grab, quickly change the face of the property by demolishing old structures/buildings and repopulate the properties with new buyers;
(9) Use connection with powerful, corrupt and greedy politicians, government officers, police and magistrates, etc. to control police and administrative actions against them. (Note: many a times all such people colluding with and aiding the criminal syndicate are promised and delivered a piece of the looted land/apartment/properties.)
(10) It is not possible for a single person to fight against this powerful land-grabbing syndicate. They have money and the muscle, a huge cadre of criminals to do their dirty work.
(11) A concerted effort from the Ministry of Law and Ministry of Home Affairs is necessary to go after these criminals of the land-grabbing syndicate.

Evidences: Victims include: Mr. and Mrs. N. I. Siddiqui and Dr. Oliullah of Zakir Hossain Road, Khulshi, Chittagong.

In April-June of 2005, Jaker Chowdhury and his land-grabbing gang evicted 16 tenant families, demolished nine homes, and cut down hundreds of valuable old (teak, mahogany, etc.) trees from the Siddiqui properties in Khulshi. Dr. Oliullah and his family, residing in 24 Zakir Hossain Road, were taken as hostages within their own homes, and ultimately settled with Jaker for several million Taka to escape terrorism. (See e.g., the Bhorer Kagoz, April 10, 2005; Janakantha, April 10 and June 18, 2005; Sangbad, April 10, 2005; Jugantar, April 10, 2005; Suprabhat Bangladesh, April 10 and June 17, 2005; Daily Azadi, April 10-11, 2005; Prothom Alo, April 10-11, and June 17, 2005; Daily Purbokone, April 10-11, and June 17, 2005; Weekly Holiday, April 29, 2005; Samakal June 17, 2005)

The Detective Branch S.P. Abdullahel Baki (then DC, North Ctg.) and DB Police Commissioner Md. Abdul Majed (then Police Commissioner, Chittagong Metropolitan Police), both stationed now in Dhaka have first hand info on how they were asked by the feared politician Godfather (and his APS - Abu Bakr Sidddique) not to meddle in land-grab of 2005 by his front-man Jaker and his gang of land-grabbing syndicate.
An unbiased police inquiry report, Memo # 192, dt. 26 May 2005, from DC (North) Chittagong, identified Jaker as a land-grabber, and recommended police action against him and his goons to restore the Siddiqui properties in June of 2005, which was subsequently carried out by the CMP in mid-June of 2005, roughly 10 weeks after the properties were intruded by the criminal syndicate.

Mr. Salman Ispahani (with properties next to the Siddiqui’s) of the M.M. Ispahani Ltd. was approached by the notorious son of the BNP-MP (then an Advisor to Prime Minsiter), in early April of 2005 seeking permission to allow Jaker’s goons to intrude into the Siddiqui compound from the Ispahani’s side, which he declined to grant. See Bangladeshi newspapers reports (between April 10 – June 30, 2005) cited above, esp. "Chattagrame 100 koti takar jami dakhal", Saptahik 2000, May 25, 2005 for details; the GDs filed in Khulshi Thana against some members of the Syndicate; the civil and criminal cases filed against the criminal syndicate; court verdicts against the syndicate leader and some members (April 2005-to date); Letters from the expatriate community to the U.S. Embassy, Dhaka, Ambassador Shamsher M. Chowdhury (USA) and Bangladesh Govt. seeking intervention and justice against land-grabbing syndicate.]

Soon after coming into power of the military-backed Caretaker Govt., Jaker and two of his miscreant associates were captured by the Police in early January of 2007 and put behind the jail. However, after serving some 35 days of prison time, he was released.

Jaker and some of his associates, aided by dozens of goons, intruded the Siddiqui properties again in January 31, 2008. They beat the security guards in “Aranika”, partly damaged the northern wall and demolished the security guard’s house. Despite all the calls to the local police station (Khulshi), initially the O.C. did not respond to the call. Only when he received calls from the HQ did he come to the crime scene for investigation, but by that time the goons had left. Reportedly, he was bribed by Jaker. A GD was filed by the Siddiqui family against Jaker and some his accomplices late that night. The thana O.C.’s problematic behavior was brought to the attention of the IG, Police; he was transferred. Arrest warrants were issued for Jaker’s arrest. Again, after serving only a day in the prison, he managed to get free on bail.

Jaker and eight of his major accomplices were found guilty in the Chittagong Court on May 26, 2008 in Case 47/06 filed by the Siddiqui family. They were sentenced to a total of 6.5 year Rigorous Imprisonment. However, with tacit approval of some corrupt Police officers, 6 members of the land-grabbing syndicate managed to escape from the court precinct while 3 others including Jaker was nabbed by the Police. After staying behind the bar for nearly five weeks, he and all the eight convicted gang members managed to get a temporary bail of six months, which already had expired on Dec. 18, 2008. He and his gang members remain free to intimidate the Siddiqui family while buying influence from police and judicial officers to further victimize law-abiding genuine land-owners.

Some police officers in the Detective Branch of Police, Chittagong are known to show serious dereliction of duty by aiding and supporting the land-grabbing syndicate. They are also reported to have taken massive bribes from the criminal gang so as to help their land-grabbing criminal activities. When arrest warrants are issued against the criminals, these officers are known to overlook such orders. They fail to conduct unbiased inquiry on criminal activities, including money-laundering, of the syndicate. They harass the innocent land-owners and demand bribe, which the legal owners always refuse to pay.

These police officers, tainted in corruption, are: Assistant Commissioner Wahidul Haque Chowdhury, sub-Inspectors Mizanur Rahman and Abul Hosain. The AC-DB is from the same locality as that of the criminal gang, and is known to show undue regional favoritism to the criminal syndicate. He has failed to discharge his duties by not only failing to conduct an unbiased investigation against court-mandated inquiries on land-grabbing and money-laundering but uses his official influence to harass and abuse the real owners of the land, while he lets Jaker and his criminal gang go free. It is widely reported that he and his colleagues have been promised lucrative apartment deals should they be able to help Jaker and his gang take possession of the Siddiqui properties. Some unnamed army officer (calling himself a Colonel)on deputation and a magistrate in Chittagong are also reported to have been induced by Jaker and his gang for promises of lucrative flats.

The gang openly used to mention that an ex-Judge, Chittagong Judge's Court - by the name of Shaha was in their pocket so that no case of the plaintiffs against the syndicate would have a chance to succeed. That was the level of their audacity! Some of the judges are reportedly bribed by the land-grabbing syndicate for favorable court verdicts.

The syndicate has also learned to harass its victims by filing false police charges and court cases against the legal owners.


What the new Awami League government ought to do?
In a land-scarce country like Bangladesh, land has become the best asset anyone can have. As such, there are quite a few land-grabbing syndicates that have emerged in various parts of the country to target innocent, vulnerable land-owners. Of these, the group led by an ex-Madrasa daptari named Jaker Hossain Chowdhury (who calls himself Jaker master) is the most dangerous one. He is a highly immoral, ruthless, liar, deceiver, forger, fraud and terrorist who knows how to commit his crimes well. He dresses up as long-kurta clad, cap-wearing, bearded old man with a tasbih in his his hand. All these simply to disguise his Satanic inner self. With forged stamps and seals, he knows how to doctor government records and deeds. He then approaches greedy politicians, corrupt government officers, promising everyone a share in the loot. His criminal action has devastated many families' resources, esp. given the fact that sometimes the same government mechanisms that are supposed to come to the aid of the victims are used by Jaker and his syndicate to victimize them.

The government of Bangladesh must punish all the criminals and culprits that victimize lawful owners of land. If the government fails to put the convicted criminals behind the bar, their inaction will be interpreted as a green signal by the criminal land-grabbing syndicate for further victimization of the innocent. It also creates a poisonous, painful atmosphere of vicious cycle where every greedy, corrupt and criminal person from corrupt politicians, police, magistrates and government officers to the land-grabbing goons -- associated with such a land-grab -- become filthy rich, while the victims are exhausted - physically, financially and mentally.

The Bangladesh Government ought to make land-grabbing a serious crime punishable to long term Rigorous Imprisonment terms. It must arrest the above named criminals to restore citizen's confidence in it. It must also arrest their partners in crime within the various government agencies plus the greedy, corrupt politician so that an example is set that shows that no one is above the law.

The government must stop all harassment of the legal owners by the criminal syndicate and its paid agents in various government agencies. In a crime and corruption-prone country like Bangladesh where almost anything can be bought for the right price and connection, government's firm action is needed to wipe out this curse from the society. Anyone benefiting from land-grabbing must be punished harshly.

2 comments:

  1. O god, you truly said the real picture about Lands in BD, we too have a land, we're facing the same land grabbers problem. Same jamindar bought the land and then they bought to another and thats how our seller lost his possession. Bogus. BD is busted. There is no hope for this country. This is a living hell. Educated people are being bribed and they are all corrupt.

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  2. I have also had problems of illegal land grabbing. Here is a link to some of this things that I did to resolve my situation: http://banglabazar.co.uk/

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