Farmers harassed over anti-salinity campaign: Owners of shrimp enclosures trying to foil their initiative thru’ filing false cases

Farmers in Paikgachcha and Dakop upazilas in Khulna are facing different kinds of harassment, including filing of false cases against them, from shrimp farmers in the area because of their anti-saline water campaign.

The farmers allege that shrimp enclosure (gher) owners also hired goons to release saline water into their fields through sluice gates surrounding polders 20, 32 and 33 at night, causing huge damage to their Boro crop.

They also said that many gher owners have gradually grabbed the leased out land over the years.

“On March 9, 2009 at around 11:00pm,at least 25 to 30 hired goons of gher owners Mantu Sheikh, Shawakat Mollah, Jalal Sheikh, Majedul Biswas, Selim Sheikh, Kalyan Mistri, Bikash Mallik and Birupakkah released saline water through sluice gate no 9 at Madhukhali in Deluti union under Paikgachha upazila,” Madhukhali villager Provash Roy, 50, told The Daily Star.

“On hearing this, around 300 villagers from Deluti and Lata unions under the upazila rushed to the spot and chased them away,” Roy said.

Following this incident, one of the gher owners, Mantu Sheikh filed separate false cases against seven people with the local police station alleging different offensive activities.

Taibur Rahaman, one of the 22 victims of false cases filed by another gher owner Rais Uddin, said that Rais filed cases against them for protesting the intrusion of saline water in Saharabad, Kalinagar, Kamarkhola, under Dakop upazila. Taibur himself was not even present during the demonstrations on March 11.

Mamata Sarkar, wife of Anjan Sarkar from Radhanagar village under Paikgachcha upazila alleged that Mantu Sheikh filed brought rape charges against her husband Anjan, 32, and also her 80-year old father-in-law Amulya Sarkar.

Amulya Sarkar told The Daily Star, “I owned about 20 bighas of land back in the 80s and Mantu Sheikh has devoured most of it. He has been using them for shrimp farming.”

He said he was now being victimised again by the filing of such false cases against him.

Alhajj Nesar Ali Gazi of Hanirabad village under Lata union alleged that former Jatiya Party leader, late Wajed Ali took 15 bighas of his land for shrimp cultivation.

“At least 25 farmers leased 240 bighas to Wajed Ali in the nineties for five years. They have not yet got their land back though the contracts have all expired,” Nesar said.

Wajed Ali has passed away and his son Saiful Islam Doel runs his ‘father’s’ enclosures.

Talking to this correspondent, Bijon Kumar Sarkar of Dighulia village under Paikgachha upazila said the shrimp farmers and their goons, locally called the ‘saline water terrorists’ have spoiled Boro rice crops on two bighas of his land which he cultivated at a cost of Tk 4000.

He asked the government to take immediate measures against the forceful flooding of their land with briny water as they try to return to growing rice because of the environmental damage caused by shrimp cultivation.

Prof Pradip Moholder of Abu Hossain College at Soladannga under Paikgachha upazila, president of ‘Laban Jal Birodhi Krishi O Paribesh Sanrakkhan Committee (Anti Saline Water, Agriculture and Environment Protection Committee), said, “Though different political leaders pledged before the polls that they would take up the issue, no one other than lawmaker Noni Gopal had stood for them in parliament.

“We will continue our movement until shrimp cultivation is completely stopped in the upazila,” he said.

Another villager, Kamalakanta Roy from Kamarkhola village, said, “Another gher owner Rafiqul Haque hired goons who are now sending letters with threats to those demonstrating against use of saline water.”

Haque, however, denied the allegations.

The villagers complained about the indifference of the police in this connection, but the

Officer-in-charge (OC) of Dakop Thana Shamsul Haque told The Daily Star that the police have not yet received any directions from the government in this regard.

Source: The Daily Star, 14 April 2009


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