There are allegations of irregularities regarding allocation of flats built for wounded freedom fighters.
Out of 84 flats, 33 flats have been allocated. And 13 persons have illegally grabbed 26 flats out of these 33.
Although 51 flats are not still allocated, a section of people occupied these and are staying there illegally. Ten of these people own government houses, flats and land.
It is also alleged many of these people are neither wounded freedom fighters nor freedom fighters at all.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, liberation affairs minister AKM Mozammel Huq said, “We have investigated the matter. A section of people started to live without any permission. Some people grabbed flats. It is unfortunate that those who are not freedom fighters have occupied flats. We have asked them to leave the tower. If they do not leave willingly, we will evict them.”
The Muktijoddha Tower was built on Gaznabi Road of Mohammadpur in Dhaka for wounded freedom fighters as residences and for commercial purposes.
According to a report of Bangladesh Freedom Fighter Welfare Trust, after the construction of the tower, 33 flats were allocated for the wounded freedom fighters.
Some 19 persons among whom flats were allocated are not wounded freedom fighters. A group of 13 persons grabbed 26 flats. A thorough investigation has been launched against them. Those non-freedom fighters have also got allocation of 33 shops.
A total of 51 flats have been kept for commercial purposes to generate income for the welfare of the freedom fighters. But without allocation and permission, 51 persons grabbed 39 flats of the tower.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, officials at the Bangladesh Freedom Fighter Welfare and genuine freedom fighters said Muktijoddha Tower was supposed to have been used as a rest house. Later, 33 flats were allocated for the rehabilitation of freedom fighters.
But due to mismanagement of Freedom Fighter Welfare Trust, a vested quarter grabbed the flats of the tower.
Managing director at the Freedom Fighter Welfare Trust Azharul Hoque said only nine people are legally staying in the building. The rest are staying there illegally.
A committee is looking into who is responsible for this, he added.
While visiting the tower on 19 December, this correspondent found two floors have been used as a yaba den. Outsiders are gambling in the club of the building.
Genuine freedom fighters alleged such a situation has been created due to mismanagement and negligence of the Freedom Fighter Welfare Trust.
According to the ministry report, Keyam Uddin Mollah of Pabna is under investigation as to whether he was an injured freedom fighter or not.
Asked about the investigation, Keyam Uddin Mollah told Prothom Alo, ”I have been living here since 1971. Even police won’t be able to evict us.”
However, he admitted that he and many others live in the tower by taking over two flats.
Keyam Uddin Mollah is also the president of the tower’s Injured Freedom Fighters’ Rehabilitation Multipurpose Association.
When asked about yaba trade inside the tower, he said, ”We informed police about this, but they have not taken any action.”
Both insiders of the building and outsiders are involved in the yaba trade, he added.
Abu Shaheed Billah of Bogra, whose freedom fighter identity is being probed, forcefully occupies two flats.
”I’m a freedom fighter. But many people, who are not freedom fighters, live in the tower,” said Abu Shaheed Billah.
Instead of an allotted one, Chand Miah of Sirajganj grabbed another flat of the tower. He is also under investigation.
Golam Mostafa Bir Bikram of Dhaka’s Dohar who lives in the tower as a freedom fighter told Prothom Alo, ”It’s correct that many people who are not freedom fighters, live in the tower.”
”We want to know why action is not being taken against the non-freedom fighters. We want support of the government to close the yaba den and gambling in the tower,” he also said.
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam and Imam Hossain.