JAN 28: A two-century-old Hnila Buddhist temple, of the Rakhaine community, at Teknaf upazila in Cox’s Bazar has allegedly been grabbed and damaged, along with the shrine and statutes of Lord Buddha, by an influential local leader of the ruling Awami League. During a visit to the place last week, this correspondent found that valuables had been looted from the ransacked temple.

The Hnila Buddhist Temple Protection Committee accused the Cox’s Bazar district Awami League’s vice-president, Prof. Mohammad Ali, and his sons, Mahbub Morshed and Rashed Mahmud Ali, of grabbing the temple’s land by force in 2010 and destroying 20 statues of Lord Buddha. The Buddhist temple at south Hnila was built more than two centuries ago on 11 acres.

Local residents told The Independent that the Buddhist community could not hold their religious ceremonies at the temple for more than two years as they faced strong resistance from Rashed Mahmud Ali and his supporters.  The Rakhaine people alleged that land grabbers had assaulted the monks of the temple. They also claimed that Mahbub Morshed and his supporters have been threatening them to leave the land.

This correspondent also found that the alleged land grabbers have started building houses on the cremation yard of the Rakhaines beside the temple. The Hnila Buddhist Temple Protection Committee told The Independent that Prof. Mohammad Ali had convinced the former head priest of the Buddhist temple, U Pancha Maha Thero, to sign an agreement in the name of lease for afforestation in the temple area on July 22, 2001, and secretly prepared an agreement through a Notary Public.  After preparing the agreement, supporters of Prof. Mohammad Ali started felling trees and occupying the property.  Later, U Pancha Mahathero cancelled the deed through the Notary Public. But Mahbub Morshed had planted trees and felled the large trees on the temple premises. The committee alleged that on December 29 last year, a gang of land grabbers had seized the temple’s land and attacked the Buddhist monks and other people in the temple. The goons also looted the statue of Lord Buddha and destroyed the place of worship. On May 11, 2011, the land grabbers had attacked two Rakhaine villagers, Mong Hla Rakhaine and Faa She Rakhaine, both residents of North Hnila Bazar Para (Maug Para).

However, Prof Mohammad Ali claimed that he had leased the land in 2001 for plantation on the temple land. “My son has already planted 32,000 saplings,” he noted.

Source: The Independent (http://www.theindependentbd.com/paper-edition/backpage/132-backpage/92231-al-leader-blamed-for-grabbing-buddhist-temple.html) – 29/01/2012

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