Three fires in the last seven months; part of a conspiracy, say victims
A fire blazed through a Rupnagar slum in Mirpur on Wednesday for the third time in the last seven months.
It is one of the biggest living quarters of low income groups in Dhaka on 100 acres of land. Thousands of households are there in the area and the latest fire burned down as many as 2000 houses to the ground.
But, why so many fires in the slum? Many affected claimed that the fires started in the slum after the National Housing Authority (NHA) announced an apartment project inside the slum.
The authority installed a signboard displaying an apartment project for low and lower-middle income groups.
Fire victims said the signboard was installed in July last year and since then there have been fires that have burnt the slum thrice already. They said that they had never had fire accidents before the government plan, despite being one of the oldest slums in Dhaka.
Someone purposely lit the fire, claimed several slum dwellers after the incident, but could not pinpoint a vested group or individual.
“We demand to find out the source of the fire,” said Jarina Khatun, an old woman whose house burnt down.
“It is a planned conspiracy to strip us of property. [We] should identify the masterminds [behind the incident],” said another fire victim who was with Jarina at the time.
“We cannot remember when fire engulfed this slum except such repeated fires in the last one year,” said another victim.
As many as 2,000 houses were razed to the ground and around 10,000 residents were affected in the fire that broke out in the slum in Mirpur's Rupnagar area of Dhaka.
However, another group claimed that unsecure utility services, including gas and electricity, might be the cause of the fire. Illegal gas and electricity connections are rampant in these households.
Visiting the affected area, local lawmaker Elias Mollah said: “It will be clear after investigation as to how the slum caught fire.”
He said: “The fire service, RAB and police will investigate the incident.”
Responding to reporters' queries, the Dhaka 16 MP brushed off allegations that the fires were acts of sabotage, but said law enforcement agencies would look into the matter.
Earlier on January 24 and August 16 last year, the slum caught fire.
NHA denies allegations
The National Housing Authority has planned to implement a housing project for low and lower-middle income groups at Rupnagar, driving out the slum dwellers.
The authority has been implementing such a project at Mirpur section 11 also, and in many other districts.
Shahin Miya, executive engineer (Mirpur division) for National Housing Authority, said: “We have 30 acres of land but many people captured the land illegally.”
However, he denied all allegations that NHA officials were behind the fire, saying: “It is fake and untrue.”
“We always try shifting the people to other areas rather than driving them out,” he added.