Enemy/Vested Property Act
By Sachin Karmaker

In 1947, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was created specifically for the Muslims (not Hindus) of India; and when that happened the rights of the Hindus who made up 30 percent East Bengal’s population were ignored. Neither the Congress nor Muslim League kept any safety bulb for the Hindus of Bengal as they did in Punjab. It may be recalled that almost 100 percent of the majority Muslims of East Bengal voted for Pakistan, out numbering the votes in Punjab and Sindh. The reason for such huge Muslim support is largely economic.

Pre partition, 90 percent of the agricultural land and 70 percent of urban properties in Bengal were in the possession of Hindu Landlords. The landless peasants were Muslims. The Muslim League convinced Muslims to vote in favor of Pakistan, saying that if they prevail, they will win those Hindu properties after creation of Pakistan. Muslim League kept their promises by taking over those lands from the Hindu owners under so-called Proja Shatya Ain.

Abul Kashim Mohammad Fazlul Haque initiated this land lake over bill (Proja Shatya Ain) and became Sher-E-Bamgla, “The Tiger of Bengal,” over night. Some land remained with the Hindus allowing them to live well, but a later Pakistani military dictator, General Ayub Khan, thought this was contrary to the basic principles on which Pakistan was founded, especially after India’s rout of Pakistan in the recent India-Pakistan War; also known as the Second Kashmir War. He then promulgated the Enemy Property Act, which gave the final blow to Hindus.

The same Enemy Property Act was been renamed the Vested Property Act in newly independent Bangladesh in 1972, but the motive behind it remained the same. Until and unless the mindset of our people changes there can be no real progress on the Vested Property issue. Neither major political party nor their leaders have been willing to risk their popularity for principles of human rights. It looks like this problem will evaporate naturally one day with complete minority population migrating from Bangladesh or, left with no choice, converting to Islam.

After a brief war with Pakistan in 1971, Bangladesh was created at the cost of Hindu and Indian blood and support. It may be recalled that, 70 to 80 percent of the victims of 1971 war, 95 percent of the rape victims, and 80 percent of the refuges from that war were Hindus. Because of the mind set of Bangladesh’s leaders that considered India a hostile country Hindus a threat to their sovereignty, all governments since independence have unanimously pursued the same anti-minority policies. Only after two years of independence in 1974, Bangladesh established contact with Pakistan and joined the OIC (Organization of Islamic Conferences) summit at Lahore. Bangladesh received 30 battle tanks from President Anwar Sadat of Egypt earmarked to strengthen its defense against India. Ironically, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, America, and China supported Pakistan in 1971, calling Bangladesh freedom fighters miscreants and enemies of Islam. In 1975, these same OIC battle tanks were used to assassinate Sheikh Mujibur Rahaman. On 15 August, 3 November, and 7 November 1975, 30 May 1981, 29 June 1996, and 25 February 2009; the Bangladeshi people as observed the might of these battle tanks and other OIC weaponry used against them.

In 1972, Sheikh Mujibur Rahaman’s Bangladesh revoked all martial law decrees of Generals Ayub Khan, Yahia Khan, and Tikka Khan except the Enemy/Vested Property Act. For the last 40 years, every political party and every government in Bangladesh has been part of grabbing minority properties and denying minorities their rights. Minorities will never get their property back until or unless that mind set changes. Did our political leadership ever try to change it? So what can we expect from them? The situation recalls the advice of Mao Test Tung that "when rape is imminent, relax and take it easy." This is what your own my predecessors have done in the past; and there is no doubt we will do the same in the future, If we do not go along with it, friends and foes will call us ‘anti state elements.

May God bless us with courage and wisdom?