The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Boycott over land row

Hazaribagh, Oct. 20: It was a 'fatwa' with a difference, issued by so-called community leaders, which has made lives of six Muslim women here miserable.

They have been forbidden from drawing water in the locality. They cannot buy provisions either from the neighbourhood shops. Neighbours have been directed to snap all connection with the families and, finally, they have been directed against using the roads in the locality.

All this because the women have steadfastly refused to sell their land at throwaway prices.

According to their complaint sent to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), four members of the Anjuman Committee at Matwari, a residential area within the town, had manipulated a resolution which directed them to allow the committee to broker the sale of their land.

When the women refused to heed the fatwa, they were first asked to cough up a fine and when the women refused to buckle under pressure, the social boycott was imposed.

Among the six women, Ruhi Sultana is easily the most prosperous. Her husband is a doctor in the state health service and has been posted out. She lives with her children here because of their schooling.

Sultana is tired of walking a kilometre everyday to fetch water.

Zahida Khatoon's husband, a retired teacher who offers lessons at home, has stopped venturing out because of the threats and intimidation. Their only son works outside the state. The remaining women are financially worse off but appear to be sitting over a goldmine.

A local NGO, Prerna Niketan, has taken up the case. Monica Rai, the director of the NGO, said Jaitoon Nisha has an acre of land near Canary Hill. With the market price of land in that area hovering around Rs 1 lakh per cottah, the price of the plot would be more than Rs 60 lakh.

The four members of the Anjuman committee ' property brokers ' named by the women in their complaint, refused to speak. But the NHRC took cognisance of the complaint and wrote to the Hazaribagh superintendent of police in June this year, directing him to take appropriate action.

Superintendent of police Ashish Batra today professed ignorance and denied having received any directive from the rights panel either.

The women, however, have a copy of the letter, which was forwarded to them by the NHRC.

In any case, pointed out Rai, she had accompanied the women to the SP's office on October 12. But Batra did not show up and they submitted and obtained a receipt as well.

If the SP claims to be in the dark, she added sarcastically, it once again proves how powerful the members of the Anjuman Committee are.

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