A contractor has been accused of seizing land belonging to a Hindu family and constructing a temple on their lands, in Bandarban’s Balaghata area.

Local sources said that in 2005, a Nihar Kanti Barua purchased some 1.66 acres of hilly land in Balghata. Since then Nihar has been regularly paying the property tax according to the Bomang Circle Property Law. After Nihar passed away, the land was claimed by a locally influential contractor named Molin Kanti Das as part of another holding. Molin built a temple called Sarbojonin  Hari Mandir.

Molin was allegedly able to seize the land because Nihar’s son Tilok Barua has learning disabilities.

The late Nihar Barua’s daughter Rumi Barua said, “Our land was seized because my father has passed away and my brother has a learning disability, which they used to exploit him. They built a temple on the land to hold on to it.”

On February 15, the land grabber Molin Kanti Das created a commotion and filed a complaint at the sadar police station claiming that his temple was going to be attacked.

In light of the complaint, two separate groups, one under Additional Superintendent of Police Shampa Rani Saha and another comprising the Hindu community, investigated the case.  After investigation, the two groups concurred that the temple was built to legitimise the illegal land-grabbing and that far from being a Sarbojonin temple, it is in fact a private, family temple.

The district’s Central Temple committee’s Joint Secretary Municipal Councilor Ajit Das said, “The temple was clearly built to illegally occupy the land and no one else besides Molin’s family goes to pray there.”

Sources have confirmed that Molin had initially promised to give a portion of the land back when he formed a committee to build the temple. However, since he was not the legal owner of the land, he was unable to do so. As a result, the local Hindu community constructed another Sarbojonin Shiva Mandir in the area.

The president of Omkareshwar Sarbojonin Shiva Mandir, Modon Das, said, “Our temple is the genuine Sarbojonin temple; the Hari Mandir is used exclusively by Molin’s family, the local Hindu community have nothing to do with that temple.”

Regarding the issue, Molin commented, “If the Hari Mandir stays, it is my land; if the temple is torn down, I will not have any ties to the land any longer.”

Meanwhile, locals believe that the Molin has been filing case after case against them as an excuse to prolong his illegal occupation, and this has left the locals extremely agitated. Locals hope that the land is returned to its rightful owner, the family of the late Nihar Kanti Barua, after an objective investigation of the matter.

ASP Shampa said, “We have learned from our own investigation and from Hindu leaders that the temple was built as an excuse to illegally occupy the land. In that light, we will take appropriate measures to address this case.”