A local influential man, Didar Hossain, has slowly managed to build an illegal dam around his 150 bigha fish enclosure in Mahmudpur Beel, which includes 55 bighas belonging to 53 Hindu families
A number of Hindu families in Kashiani upazila of Gopalganj have fallen victim to land grabbing. They have been deprived of farming their own lands for over four years now, placing them in dire poverty.
A local influential man, Didar Hossain, has slowly managed to build an illegal dam around his 150 bigha fish enclosure in Mahmudpur Beel, which includes 55 bighas belonging to 53 Hindu families.
Locals said that during the Eid-ul-Fitr holidays, in the absence of local authorities, Didar employed hundreds of workers and an excavator machine to build a dam over the cultivable lands of the Hindu families.
When locals came to protest the construction workers ignored them and dumped soil on a woman named Pinky Biswas. The locals rescued her and filed a complaint with the deputy commissioner of Gopalganj. Directed by the deputy commissioner, the Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) and the police put a stop to the construction work.
However, by then, Didar had completed another 300 yards of the dam and this is how over the past four years, he has almost completed the dam around his enclosure.
Taposh Biswas, one of the affected landowners, said: "Didar Hossain, of Parulia, a neighbouring village, bought 62 bighas of cultivable land in separate areas of Mahmudpur Beel. Near the end of 2015, Didar leased 2.37 acres of government land from the district Water Development Board (WDB) and built a fish enclosure, naming it 'Matbor Agro Fisheries.' Soon after, he started building dams illegally over our lands to expand his fish enclosure."
Since then, the affected landowners have repeatedly formed human chains and staged demonstrations in Gopalganj town to save their lands and their livelihood.
Based on their complaints, the WBD cancelled Didar's lease contract in 2016 for illegal code of conduct.
However the landowners are yet to be able to claim and start cultivating their lands, even after they submitted a memorandum to the deputy commissioner and police administration, seeking intervention.
Gopalganj Deputy Commissioner Md Mokhlesur Rahman Sarker told reporters it was a matter of regret that a single individual was building an illegal dam to acquire the lands of Hindu minority communities.
"As soon as I was made aware of the situation, I directed the UNO and the Kashiani police OC to remove the excavator and stop the dam construction project.
"Meanwhile, I have spoken with the UNO and upazila chairman in detail regarding the matter. They have assured me the matter will be resolved peacefully, shortly," he added.
Enclosure owner Didar Hossain refused to speak to this correspondent regarding the allegations against him.