Date of the Incident : 19-20 February 2019
Place of the incident : Slum Areas in Dhamalkoat, Shoukhin Road, Lalasorai, Kajolertek, Neerob Road and Sobhan Road, Bhashantek, Dhaka
Date of fact finding : 24 February 2019
Fact finding Team : Anirban Saha, Hasibur Rahman
According to the ASK’s investigation, on 19 and 20 February 2019, the National Housing Authority conducted an eviction drive in the slum areas in Dhamalkoat, Shoukhin Road, Lalasorai, Kajolertek and Neerob Road, in Bhashantek, Mirpur without giving any notice. The slum dwellers have claimed that in this drive, an approximate of 2500 slum dwellings and 200 shops were destroyed. The National Housing Authority (under the Ministry of Housing and Public Works) and the Bhashantek Police Station authorities have hanged a signboard (with pictures) in the eviction area declaring it as their own property. Although the residents of the Lalasora Mouja have complained that few of their personal lands/properties were taken over by Bhashantek Police forcefully. The case is already pending before the court over the disputed property.
According to the fact findings done by the ASK representatives, when they reached the place of incident, all the temporary shops and slums that were situated from Road No.3 to the entrance to the Dhamalkoat area, were demolished and subsequently evicted. The ASK representatives interviewed few of the slum dwellers who had their small business and shops in the area. According to the evicted victims’ statements, they suffered immense financial loss due to the demolition by the National Housing Authority (Ministry of Housing and Public Works); Nilufa Begum, who runs her husband’s shop situated at the head of the Bhashantek Road No.3, suffered a loss of about 3 lacs Taka; Jabedul Islam, who runs an apparel/clothing ware shop right opposite to Nilufa’s husband’s shop, suffered a loss of about 2.5 lacs Taka. It was further shared by the victims that they were not provided with any prior notice regarding the eviction. Their pleas on not demolition their property was ignored by the Magistrate who was present there during the demolition.
Another evicted victim of the Lalasorai Mouja slum, Abdur Rashid, told ASK’s representative that on the morning of the eviction, when the eviction drive was taking place in the front of their home on the Shoukhin Road, on asking the Magistrate whether will be evicted or not, the Magistrate replied that he did not receive any notice regarding Lalasorai. He further assured them that their homes will not be demolished. However, within 10 minutes from his departure, the Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Bhashantek Police Station, arrived, and under his authority, their homes were demolished. When they were asked as to why their homes were being demolished without any notice, the OC said that he was taking it on behalf of the Police Station, and that the Bhashantek Police Station will be built there.
According to Abdur Rashid, they have been the owner of the 3.5 Bigha land in Lalasorai Mouja area since his father-grandfather’s time, and they have the land property deeds with them. This land is still being disputed in the Court. He questioned how it is possible for the property to belong to Bhashantek Police when it is their personal property. Being evicted from their own place, they have no places to live and are currently staying in the balconies and fields of the schools.
Asma Begum, Community Mobiliser, Duhstho Shashtho Kendra (DSK), stated that according to a survey conducted by them, in the year 2018, a total of 1965 Houses/families lived in the Shoukhin Road Slum area, Dhamalkoat, all of which were demolished, including the recently built bathrooms by the DSK.
It shall be noted that in this slum area, there is a government primary school, a private high school, as well as few pre-schools named “Ashar Alo” that is funded by the Department of Primary Mass Education and operated by the private organisation, Dhaka Ahsaniya Mission. DESCO’s electricity and WASA’s water line are also available.
Md. Azizur Rahman, President, Community Based Organisation (CBO), Dhamalkoat area and the leaders of the slum dweller informed ASK’s representatives that in 1961, 100.26 acres of the Dhamalkoat area was acquired by the then government of Pakistan for the rehabilitation of the Bihari. However, later on as the landowners were not sufficiently compensated for these lands by the government nor given the plot land that they were promised to be given, their descendents subsequently built houses in that area, and have been living there since then. They have also been giving rent to the low-income earners. He similarly shared that the slum dwellers were not given any written notice nor any announcement was done to alert them.
However, he mentioned that on the eve of the eviction day, he received a call from the Commercial Manager, WASA asking him about the current situation of the Dhamalkoat area. WASA shared that they received a notice regarding the demolition and eviction of the slum area to be conducted on 19 February 2019. However, Md. Azizur Rahman did not believe him. Unfortunately, the next day on 19 February, the eviction drive did take place, evicting and demolishing the houses and shops in the slum areas throughout Dhamalkoat Bazaar, Shoukhin Road, Lalasorai, Kajolertek. He further shared that as all the houses were not completely destroyed the first day, the eviction drive continued to the next day as well.
ASK representative has observed that during their fact finding opposite to Abdur Rashid’s house, a signboard was hanged with the text “Property of Bhashantek Police Station – Bhashantek Police Station, Dhaka Metropolitan Police, Dhaka” written. A signboard with the text “Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh – Personal property of National Housing Authority under the Ministry of Housing and Public Works. Trespassing is a Criminal Offence” was hanged on the entry of the Slum area in Shoukhin Road.