At least 1,000 plot owners, including several famed artistes, have become helpless against illegal fish farming on their land by influential people in the capital’s Badda area.
The influential people have also grabbed parts of Sutibhola Canal in the area to raise fish.They continued their business illegally for the past seven years not giving a damn about the landowners, who are helpless against political and financial muscle of the grabbers.
Many houses and a government road, constructed before the illegal fish farming started, remain under water almost round the year, causing immense sufferings for those living in and around the area.
The sufferers have written to Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority and lodged complaints with Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), Dhaka district deputy commissioner, DMP Gulshan division and the Badda Police Station seeking help, but no action has yet been taken.
Hasan Uddin, father of one of the alleged grabbers -- Mohammad Alamgir, a murder accused now on the run – denied the grabbing allegations against his son. He said Alamgir has developed the fish farm on their own land.
Ekushey Padak winner singer Khurshid Alam bought five kathas of land in the area about 20 years ago to build his dream home, but now at 74, he is helpless as the illegal occupants bully them to keep shut.
“I’ve purchased the land at Arshinagar in East Badda with a dream of having a home in the capital and save the house rent. But I’ve been compelled to live in a rented house on Elephant Road,” he said.“When I bought the plot, crops used to be cultivated in dry season, but now the land remains under water in the rainy season and even in the dry season. We’ve tried our best to free the land from the clutches of the land grabbers, but in vain,” said the popular singer with anguish.
Another renowned singer Mina Barua purchased six kathas of land in the same area about 30 years ago. Her husband, singer Dharma Darshi Barua, alleged that a powerful group grabbed their land for fish farming.
Chowdhury Nurul Huda, son-in-law of poet and music composer Monsur Joarder, who has a piece of land there, told the daily sun that a group of writers and singers purchased around 500 bighas of land in the area and named it Arshinagar in the 1980s.
“Alamgirs are very powerful in the area and do not give a damn about our complaints,” Huda said.
Abdul Awal, a freedom fighter and a victim, said they had also approached former Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan and local MP AKM Rahmat Ullah, who in turn recommended that necessary steps be taken on an emergency basis.
As per their complaint letters, it is found that Mohammad Alamgir, son of locally influential man named Haji Hasan Uddin, his hired cadres Bipul, Hafiz, Rumi and others grabbed the land for fish farming. When contacted, Hasan Uddin denied the allegations.
Between 2016 and 2018, at least 25 general diaries (GD) were filed with Badda police station. More than six GDs were lodged this year.
Local people said after the rainy season water becomes stagnant as canal in which the water used to flow was blocked through the creation of barrages by the grabbers.
According to WASA, Sutibhola Canal is 3,680 metres long and 15 to 20 metres wide.
This correspondent found that fish farming was underway from Aftab Nagar to East Badda to Saturkul and onto Beraid area. The whole area is under deep water. Fishermen, many with walkie talkies, were seen catching fish.
A branch of the Sutibhola Canal from Hatirjheel-Rampura Canal meets Satarkul via Aftab Nagar, and finally connected with Balu River.
A dam made with bamboo and net was found in the canal near Aftab Nagar Iron Bridge, a pile of sand, just two metres north that stop the normal flow of the canal.
A mini road was constructed by the fish farmers from Aftab Nagar Balurmath to East Badda Graveyard Road blocking the drainage of water in that area. On the other hand, the fish farmers destroyed a part of the government road to expand their farm and facilitate movement of their fishing boats.
Another barrage has been made with bamboo and net in the canal, a few yards off the makeshift road they made. The fish farmers made another dam at Rupnagar and another barrier near Satarkul Bridge.
In rainy season, the mouths of the barriers are opened just keeping nets so that fish cannot move away. But in the dry season, the mouths of the dams are closed with sand bags. “In the rainy season, we pass the point by boats. But now the place is filled up with sand bags,” one local resident told the Daily Sun asking not to be named.
According to fishermen and security guards of the illegal fish farm, about 54 people work in the farm and earn upto five lack Taka daily.
The fish are sold at Merul Badda Fish Arath run by Hasan Uddin, they added. The fishes raised there include sole, koi, grass crap, silver carp, ruhi, pangas, tilapia and others.
Bangladesh Buddhist Federation’s executive president Ashok Barua said, “Alamgir, son of Hasan Uddin, is cultivating fish by making dams. Earlier, rice was grown in our land. But now for their fish cultivation, the land is under water. They are doing everything by force,” he said.
Purba Badda Arshi Nagar Bhumi Malik Somoby Samity, Gulshan Society and Purba Badda Dawkandi Samoby Samity have been formed to recover the land from the clutch of these fish cultivators.
Hafizur Rahman, a leader of Purba Badda Arshi Nagar Bhumi Malik Somoby Samity, said Alamgirs have one or two bigahs of land there, but they have set up signboards on other people’s property. “They are trying to grab the whole land with assistance of Dhaka Metropolitan North Unit of BNP’s President MA Kaium and a ruling party leader.” Hasan Uddin, father of Alamgir, is an acting adviser of Badda Thana Unit of BNP, he said.
Mamunur Rashid, vice-president of Ward-1 of Merul Badda unit of Awami Swechasebak League, and nephew of former state minister for water resources Mahbubur Rahman, was killed at Ananda Nagar in Badda in December 2011. Sumon, brother of the deceased, told media that Akamgir and his brother Jahangir were behind the killing of his brother.
On March 1, 2016, Hafizur Rahamn lodged a GD with Badda police station. In the GD, he said that he was opposed when he began to fill his land with sand.
On December 27 last year, Nurul Alam filed a GD with Badda police station stating when he was making a house on his land in the area, Nazrul, Manik and Aminul, associates of Alamgir, opposed making the house.
They tortured him and threatened him with ‘dire consequences’.
On the behalf of locals, Abdul Awal, AKM Syed Ahmed, Ashok Barua, Shafikul Islam, Advocate Mahmudul Karim Ratan, Akhter Hossain and Rfiqul Azam lodged a general diary with the police station on November 6 last year.
In the GD they said when they went to remove dams on their land and canal on November 1, 2018, Rumi, Bipul, Hafiz, Manik and many others physically tortured them and threatened them with ‘dire consequences’ if they try to remove the dams again.
Muhammad Belayet Hossain filed a GD with the same police station on December 26, 2018. According to the GD, Hasan Uddin and his cadres—Rumi, Bipul, Manik, Liton and Amirul and Nazrul vandalized his house under construction and some other houses in the area.
During the vandalism, he was also beaten up.
When contacted, Shahid Uddin, director of WASA, said, “The fish is being cultivated illegally. We did not permit them to raise fish and we will remove the dams.”