Dhaka: Bangladesh’s cabinet has approved a draft law for development of Hindu religious properties and to protect them from encroachment and land grab, a move welcomed by the country’s minority community. The cabinet yesterday gave final approval to the draft and officials said the government would make a list of the Hindu charitable endowments or ‘Devottar’ property, and constitute a management board once the law is passed by the parliament expectedly during the current budget session.
“Since the British period, a law is in place for management and protection of Muslim Wakf sites while Hindus are yet to have any such law for their ‘Devottar’ property, so we appreciate the move,” Hindu law expert Advocate Rana Dashgupta said.
He said thousands of pieces of land offered to temples were encroached or grabbed over the decades while the law could now allow authorities to take steps for recovery as well as protection of such property. Hindu activist Kajal Debnath said, the move was the outcome of Hindu community’s growing demands against the backdrop of increased incidents of encroachment or grabbing of ‘Devottar’ property. “We (Hindu leaders) were consulted while the law ministry was preparing the draft but we are yet to know if our recommendations were incorporated appropriately, so we primarily welcome the cabinet decision,” Dashgupta said.
The draft prescribes provisions to ensure proper development and management of the ‘Devottar’ property and make completely illegal the transfer of property that has been donated to Hindu temples, monasteries and Ashrams.
Cabinet Secretary Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said a central board would be constituted to regulate management of the properties.
The proposed law also provides for punishment for irregularities in managing the properties, including heavy fines or jail for misleading the board with wrong information about such properties.