Bangladesh: Landless People Action through Occupation

On 22 December 2006 at night landless members of Bangladesh Krishok Federation (BKF) and Bangladesh Kishani Sabha (BKS) occupied 500 acres of agricultural Khasland ( government owned alluvial land emerged from the river bed and surrounded by water which look small island) . The Char is renamed Charkashem after occupation. Previously it was called Patarchar because of the character of its soil meaning a lot of reeds would grow there. It is situated in Boufal Upzila (Sub-district) under Patuakhali district of southern coastal belt. 226 families consisting of 6 members took the position in this land with their household materials and small agricultural inputs whatever they had. On 27 December 2006 another massive land occupation took place in Charshoula by around 236 families with an area of 550 acres of land in the same Upazila. On 6 January 2007 further occupation transpired in Charmohazem with an area of 650 acres in the same Upazila where 250 families took position to build their settlement. 
No major obstacles were faced by them so far. Only some officials tried to inquire what was happening around government owned land but they were chased by the occupant landless people, both men and women. Chased the officials later informed the higher officials of the Revenue Department about the occupation of the landless people. They did not express any reaction yet. These Khaslands were formerly enjoyed by the local influential big landowners (Petty landlords) over the years illegally. Because of the landless people occupation they are aggrieved and trying to lobby with local immediate past member of the parliament. The former parliament is in dilemma as he is going to take part in the next national election to be held on 22 January 2007. If he takes any side he will loose a huge number of votes. So he is trying to be so called neutral through his silence.

In very favorable circumstances the landless people caused to occupy the land. Local administration and so-called bourgeois people's representative are unable to take any drastic and repressive measures against poor landless occupants as there is a Caretaker Government in power since last 29 October 2006. This government is mandated to perform its routine work and compelled to hold the national parliamentary election. After this election it will hand over the power to the elected government. Therefore it is busy with the election affairs. No time to monitor such occupation affairs. However, the possibility of any attack can not be ruled out. The landless people are alert to cope with any possible onslaught. They have their hand made weapons with them to encounter primarily. There are also more 3 targeted Chars to be occupied one by one in the times to come.

Those who chose to live in the Charland have some kind of preparation to survive for a certain period but it will not meet the demand until the next harvest. That is why some sorts of precautionary measures should be taken on how they can sustain their occupation.

There is speculation that the big landowners who enjoyed the land illegally will evacuate the landless people forcefully after the national election. If they fail to do so in this way they will use legal system meaning constitution of false litigation against landless by spending huge amount of money so that the landless people are compelled to leave the land not to tolerate the harassment.

Considering these entire phenomenon, in the mean time landless people are figuring out different strategy to perpetuate their possession and underscore their inner consolidation, solidification and fortification of their unity. Thus they will stage a big demonstration as an exposure of their legitimacy on Khasland in Boufal very soon protesting the parley of the big landowners and demanding immediate settlement for the landless people who are already in possession and immediate distribution of the Khasland that remain still undistributed among the bona-fide landless people. They are also trying to get solidarity support from different corner at national and international level that will help them earn livelihood and food sovereignty.

Badrul Alam
President Bangladesh Krishok Federation     

P.S. The landless members of Bangladesh Krishok Federation and Bangladesh Kishani Sabha in neighboring districts, Barisal and Jhalokhati are also taking necessary preparation to take over the Khasland coming days soon.