Khagrachhari mayor accused of grabbing Buddhist temple land

Dhaka Tribune, July 27, 2015

Khagrachhari, Bangladesh -- Allegations have surfaced against Khagrachhari municipality Mayor Mohammad Rafiqul Alam for trying to grab land of Tri Ratna Buddhist temple at Araimail area of the town.

Temple committee and locals on Thursday said the mayor had the ill motive to displace the temple that had been built 20-25 years ago beside the Agriculture Research Institute.

According to temple committee, Kongchairi Marma donated some of his land to build the temple. He, along with local people, had been looking after the temple before he moved to Pankhaiya Para area with his family.

At one point, the Roads and Highways Department built a shanty on a part of the land for the workers. Even after the works were done, two Santhal families continued to live there.

When Kongchairi Marma moved to other parts of the town, he sold the land, except for the portion of the temple, to mayor Rafiqul Islam. The mayor later planted trees on the land and proceeded to grab the rest but was resisted by the local people.

Finding no other alternative, Rafiqul Islam tried to convince the Santhal family to move away by giving them an insignificant compensation. He made a pact with Ruposhi, the only surviving member of the family, to give the land to him.

However, it has not been settled yet whether Ruposhi should get the compensation or the temple committee, since the land technically belongs to the temple.

It should be mentioned that the Araimail Tri Ratna Buddhist temple is registered by Bangladesh Buddhist Welfare Trust as an entity with the Ministry of Religious Affairs. The Santhal family was allowed to live there on humanitarian ground. So if the family moves, the land should belong to the temple.

Temple committee member Mongbuli Marma said: “Since the temple is registered, there is no chance for anyone to grab its land. It is our religious institution and we will protect it.”

When contacted, Mayor Rafiqul Alam said the allegation of grabbing the temple land against him was false. “I bought the land from its original owner and I am not trying to evict the temple. I just want what is rightfully mine,” he said.