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Vested Property Act

Bangladesh, before partition of 47, the Hindu minority was very powerful both politically and economically in the
whole Bengal. After the creation of Pakistan, they became an easy target of the Muslim rulers of Pakistan.
After losing political and social power upper caste Hindus started leaving East Bengal. They had to sell their
properties sometimes for minimum prices and sometimes for no price at all. After 1950's communal riot many big
Hindu landlords and businessmen left East Bengal hurriedly to save their lives leaving behind them vast
properties. Local Muslims occupied those properties sometimes paying little price and sometimes no price at all.
This created a tendency among a section of local Muslims who were associated with the ruling Muslim League to
grab
minority
land
and
property
sometimes
legally
and
sometimes
illegally.
The situation worsened in 1965 when there was open war between India and Pakistan. The military government of
Pakistan declared Defence of Pakistan Ordinance under which those Hindu minorities who left the country for
India leaving behind their properties lost their right to citizenship and their properties were declared enemy
properties.
The ordinance of 65 did not consider whether all the Hindus migrated to India willingly or in the face of threat. By
simply going to another country for their safety no one can lose their citizenship right. Thousands of people who
left Pakistan and the-then Pakistan and settled in European and Middle-eastern countries did not lose their home
and property. During our liberation war those Muslim collaborators of Pakistani invaders like Ghulam Azam fled
from the country and took shelter in Pakistan (the-then enemy of Bangladesh), but they did not lose their
citizenship or their rights to property. But the Hindu minorities who left the country facing threat from land
grabbing people of the majority communities were deprived from all their civil rights and properties.
When Bangladesh became independent and a secular country there were demands from the minorities that the
enemy property act of 65 should be annulled and conditions should be created so that Hindu minorities could get
back their rights to their lawful properties. A huge number of minority people wanted to come back to their
motherland, but Sheikh Mujib's government took a cautious step. Those Hindu minority people who left before 65
and settled to India permanently were barred from coming back to Bangladesh but those who migrated to India for
fear of life and lack of security could come back to the country. A large number of minority people started to
return to their homeland. This created alarm in the people of the majority communities who illegally grabbed
minority
properties.
But it was a pledge of Awami League even before the independence of Bangladesh that they will repeal this
Enemy Property Act whenever they come to power. But before they could take any action Mujib government was
overthrown. After a long time when Sheikh Hasina came to power in 1996, she took steps to repeal the act and to
provide the minority communities equal rights. But in 2001 BNP and Jamaat came to power and foiled the attempt
of
previous
Hasina
government.
In 2009 Sheikh Hasina again came to power and replaced Enemy Property Act of 65 as Return of Vested Property
Act which was passed in 2001. Though Enemy Property Act exists no more but the new Return of Vested Property
Act of 2001, could not restore Hindu minority communities' right on their properties and they are still being
discriminated as citizens. The main problem is that the minority land and properties are not only grabbed by BNP
people but also by a large section of Awami League leaders and their supporters.
Now government is eager to give back the rights and properties to their lawful owners, but it is being delayed by
bureaucratic red-tapism and the conspiracies of some people who are very powerful inside the ruling party.
Bangladesh can claim to be a real secular and democratic country when all its citizens despite their differences in
cast, creed and religion can enjoy equal rights and get back their rightful ownerships on their own land and
properties.