The Kalabagan Thana police are rigid in their decision to establish their ownership on the 20-katha playground at Tetultala in the capital's Kalabagan, aiming to construct a building despite continuous protest and criticism.
The conflict between the locals and the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) centring the playground has become visible nowadays.
Locals alleged that the high price of the land is the main reason why the police are not willing to compromise with the public demand.
Earlier, at least three encroachers tried to grab the space but their efforts were ultimately foiled in the face of protests by the locals.
The land grabbers even produced forged documents to take control of the land.
But this time, no one concerned is saying a word in favour of the public movement under the banner of "Tetultala Math Amader Praner Dabi" as the police have got the legal right on the land. No one from the relevant authorities is talking about the issue.
The Tetultala playground, under ward 17 of Dhaka South City Corporation, has long been used as the playground for children and other social activities like a funeral prayer by the locals.
But the Kalabagan Thana police mounted a signboard in 2020 mentioning the spot was fixed for the thana. The residents immediately protested the action, removed the signboard and continued using the space as before.
But the police demarcated the space with barbed-wire fencing on 31 January this year. Some members of the Kalabagan Thana police were also seen guarding the space routinely.
The price of the total land has been estimated at Tk100 crore, at least, as per katha of land in that area costs Tk5 lakh.
However, a DMP source told The Business Standard that they have bought the land at a cost of TK28 crore to construct their thana building through the relevant authorities. Now the official procedure to construct the building is under process.
"The Kalabagan Thana complex will be constructed soon. There is no scope to return the land compromising with the demand of local people," a DMP official said.
During a visit to the Tetultala playground on Wednesday, it was found that some children and teenagers were entering the playground by crossing the barbed-wire fence and avoiding the patrolling police members.
Faisal Ahmed, a student of Nazneen School and College who entered the field, told TBS that they regularly go there to play. But they heard they would not be able to play after the construction of the thana complex although they have no alternative space to play.
Mosharraf Hossain, a resident of the area, said they have been using the space for a long time. Although efforts were made by vested groups to encroach the land several times, they were defeated.
But the police have now taken over the land. Still, the locals will request the police to choose some other spot to construct the thana complex., he added.
The DMP (Ramna zone) Deputy Commissioner Sajjadur Rahman said the relevant authorities have handed over the land to the DMP.
"We are aware that the local people are opposing the decision and trying to take control over the land. But we are working as per the instructions to us as this place has been fixed for the Kalabagan Thana building," he said.
Architect Iqbal Habib told TBS that the step to use the open space for a different purpose is a clear violation of the law. The police, which is a state force run with public money, are trying to violate the rights of the children by snatching their playground.
He mentioned the police is violating article 5.4.2 of the Dhaka Metropolitan Development Plan (DMDP), para 5.15 of National Urbanisation Policy, article 24.3 of the Local Government (City Corporation) Act 2009, section 6.6 of the National Child Policy 2011, article 15 of the Constitution, National Youth Policy, Detailed Area Plan (2016-35), and rulings of the High Court in 2003 and 2014.
He also noted that if the law enforcers become successful in constructing a building by grabbing a playground, then there will be no scope to restrict others from doing so.
Iqbal Habib, also joint secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) and a participant of the movement, demanded immediate gazette notification by declaring Tetultala an open space that is accessible to all.
The movement coordinator Syeda Ratna said that the Tetultala playground is the only place where children and teenagers can play, mini football tournaments and other events are arranged and various social activities are performed there. Local people do not want to lose the field.