Chattogram Port Authority (CPA) has decided to evict around 14,000 people from Laldiarchar of Potenga in the port city in line with a High Court order that asked it to free the area of illegal occupiers within a few weeks.
CPA published a circular on a local newspaper on February 17, asking dwellers of Laldiarchar to leave the area, sparking anger and apprehension of becoming homeless among the people living there. They said they were rehabilitated in the area in 1972 when the then government decided to build an Air Force base in Patenga.
Power and gas services have been snapped in the area since Thursday.
The High Court last year in December asked CPA in cooperation with Chattogram district administration, Chattogram Development authority, Police Commissioner of Chattogram Metropolitan Police to free Laldiarchar of people who made their way into the illegal occupiers list in 2015.
The islanders staged a human chain programme, urging the government not to knock down their homestead without rehabilitation.
Alamgir Hossen, convener of Eviction Resistance Committee at Laldiarchar, told The Daily Star that the land was given to them by Bangabandu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as part of a rehabilitation initiative after the then government decided to expand Johurul Haque Air Force base in Chattogram.
"Now they call us illegal occupiers. If we are illegal why did the government set up primary school and embankment project to protect the island?" he questioned.
Alamgir said CPA took 20 acres of land, evicting hundreds of families of Laldiarchar in 2019. The then port chairman assured them that no more eviction will take place at that time. But CPA is not keeping their promise.
"There are around 14,000 people from 2,300 families at Laldiarchar. Laladiachar is 124 acres in size, and we are living only in 57 acres, while the rest were acquired by CPA at various times," he said, adding that now CPA wants the whole island.
Alamgir also said they have no problem leaving the island, if the government takes steps to rehabilitate them.
Md Zafar Alam, member (admin) at Chattogram Port Authority, told The Daily Star that they will start eviction drive from March 25 as per the High Court order, which asked them to submit a compliance report within March 9. They are only complying with the court order.
"Most of the dwellers living there are tenants, and they are leaving after notice. Basically seven to eight people control Laldiarchar," he said.
CPA wants to build a container terminal at Laldiarchar.
Regarding a school, Zafar said they would give it a serious thought on how to relocate the students as well as the school. If needed, they will build the school somewhere else to ensure uninterrupted lessons.
CPA sources said they have to comply with the HC order within the deadline, and rehabilitation is the government's matter.
Moriam Begum (40), a dweller of Laldiarchar, told The Daily Star that her five-year-old daughter studies in the school. They have been living there for over a decade.
"Where will I go with my three-member family? If they knock down our home without rehabilitation, we will have to live on the street. My daughter would have no education and our livelihood will be destroyed," she lamented.