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Bangladesh- Vested Property Act or Enemy Property Act

Bangladesh- Vested Property Act or Enemy Property Act

I am Prodip Saha from Human Rights Congress for Bangladesh Minorities. I want to highlight “Enemy Property Law” of Bangladesh by which Hindus, in there, are legally identified as the Enemy of the State.

Have you seen such a discriminatory law in any country other than in Bangladesh where-  if a Hindu minority member migrates or dies in India his/her property becomes “Enemy Property” (now called Vested Property) and if the same member migrates other countries (such as United States) his/her property does not becomes “Enemy Property”?

The existence of 'enemies' is implicit in the very title of the "Enemy Properties Act" passed by the then Government of Pakistan and the Enemy Property (continuance of Emergency Provisions) Act, 1974 of the Government of Bangladesh. After Bangladesh won independence from Pakistan, the President of Bangladesh, in his Order No. 29 of 1972, changed the nomenclature to Vested Property Act, without altering the content of the law.

The definition of "enemy" as provided under the efence of Pakistan Rules is still applicable. Under Section 3(b)(i) of the "Enemy Property” Act 1974 adopted by the Government of Bangladesh, "enemy property" and "enemy firms" are defined as follows:
"Enemy property" and "enemy firms" shall have the same meaning as are respectively assigned to them in the Defence of Pakistan Rules continued in force by the said Ordinance. Clearly, "legally identified enemies" do exist in Bangladesh.

The Government of Bangladesh states: "No property of any bonafide Bangladeshi Hindu National has been enlisted as vested property since independence of Bangladesh till date." This assertion of the Government of Bangladesh is untrue.

The Ain O Salish Kendra (Law and Arbitration Centre), a Bangladeshi NGO, in its report, 'Power, Safety and the Minorities: A Brief Report,' in May 2000 stated:
"In 1999, about 29 cases of forceful occupation of land and property of the Hindu community have been reported in different newspapers. These include their homesteads, farmlands and religious places. Influential political forces and their goons have also occupied many of the properties listed as vested property. In 1999 in the Sunamgonj district out of 21,000 acres of vested property land 16,000 acres have been illegally occupied (Bhorer Kagoj, May 17, 1999); likewise in the Mymensingh district out of 29,722 acres of vested property land, 28,000 acres of land and 300 houses (vested property) have been occupied by one influential person (Bhorer Kagoj, May 12,1999). Statistics as cited in the ASK Human Rights Report (p.193-194) show that in 1995, 72 per cent of all vested property was acquired by members of Bangladesh National Party (BNP); and in 1998, 44 per cent was acquired by the Awami League and 32 per cent by the BNP." (Daily Star, May 26, 2000).

On 9 April 2001, the Parliament of Bangladesh passed the Vested Properties Return Act, 2001. However, this law has NEVER been implemented nor there is a sign of returning the properties to bonafied owner (mostly Hindu minorities). The Vested Properties Return Act, 2001 is not only tokenism. It may well be the beginning of legalizing the omissions and commissions committed under a patently discriminatory law.

Getting the facts is not easy but the calculation is that the total number of Hindu households affected by EPA/VPA (Enemy Property Act & Vested Property Act) is 1,048,390.

Why the Government of Bangladesh still treats Hindus as the “Enemy”? Why is there institutionalized discrimination against Hindus in Bangladesh?

Holding elections is not the only yardstick of measuring democracy or health of a society. If gross violation of the economic rights of the Hindu minority is a yardstick, oppression of the majority rules resting in Bangladesh. Any society, which claims itself to be civil and democratic, should have no place for such a discriminatory Act.

Source: South Asia Human Rights Documentation Center, Fifty-eighth session Item 10 of the provisional agenda, 15 January 2002. Web Links- http://www.hrdc.net/sahrdc/hrfquarterly/Jan_march_2002/vested_interest.htm
http://www.hrdc.net/sahrdc/hrfeatures/HRF35.htm

Author: Prodip K Saha
Web: www.hrcbmdfw.org

Published Saturday, December 31, 2005 3:13 PM by Administrator

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