New Age | Bannya’s music school on the canal remains untouched

New Age | Bannya’s music school on the canal remains untouched

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Singer Rezwana Chowdhury Bannya’s music school, Surer Dhara, is reportedly located on the land of Ramchandrapur Canal in Mohammadpur in the capital. The photo was taken on Tuesday. | Md Saurav

The Dhaka North City Corporation recently took action against illegal constructions along the Ramchandrapur Canal in Mohammadpur, while sparing singer Rezwana Chowdhury Bannya’s music school, which is reportedly built on the canal land.

Regarding the evacuation, the DNCC indicated that it did not have complete measurements of the canal to confirm whether the school was built on it.

Renowned artist Rabindra Sangeet alleged that the government had leased the land to her school, Shurer Dhara.

Mutakabbir Ahmed, executive officer and executive magistrate of DNCC Zone-5, who led the three-day eviction campaign that began on June 27, said: “The DNCC does not have complete measurements of the canal to confirm whether the school was built on it.”

Moreover, ‘There was an order to vacate Sadeeq Agro dairy farms and illegal structures around the canal and road in Mohammadpur Beribandh area. The name of Shurer Dhara was not mentioned in the order,’ he said.

On June 27, when asked if the school was built on the canal, Mohammad Mahay Alam, the municipality’s estate manager, told New Age: “The school is not built on the canal as the canal curves west just behind the school.”

However, several local residents claimed on Monday that the school was built on land that was once part of the canal and has been gradually filled in by influential people over the years.

An elderly woman, who claims to have lived along the canal near Shatmasjid Housing for over 20 years, said she used to catch fish in the canal and sail boats across it.

“The school was built on the former middle section of the canal,” the older man said.

During a visit to the Shatmasjid Housing area on Monday, a demarcation pillar was observed on the western side of the school, a white, single-storey building with a corrugated iron roof. Several signs of the Dhaka district administration and DNCC were also spotted prohibiting trespassers on the land reclaimed by the driveways of grabbers, including the tenant of Sadeeq Agro Farm and a rickshaw garage.

The Dhaka district administration notification stated that the 1.09-acre land was agricultural land (nal jami). The DNCC boards stated that the area had been allotted for a playground and park.

However, a list of illegal encroachers on the Ramchandrapur Canal, prepared by the National River Conservation Commission, identified 1.43 hectares of land in the same area as the canal land.

Dhaka district additional deputy commissioner (revenue) Md Shibli Sadique said that 51.20 decimals of land was leased to Shurer Dhara school. He also said that this land was categorized as agricultural land and wasteland.

According to sources at the Land Registry, 34.20 of this 51.20 decimal land has been designated as canal land by the River Protection Commission.

The sources also reported that the lease agreement for Rezwana Chowdhury Bannya as chairman and director of Shurer Dhara was approved on July 17, 2022.

When contacted on July 7, singer Rezwana said, “I am not a politician or a businessman who would grab land. I am an artiste with ethics, and the government has leased the land to me.”

Md Billal, who called himself the caretaker of the school, said a 12-storey building will be constructed on the site.

During the three-day eviction campaign, which ended on June 29, city government authorities claimed in separate press releases that they had demolished 70 illegal structures, including slums, an office of the ruling Awami League, supermarkets and the controversial Sadeeq Agro cattle farms, and recovered 20 bigha of land.