Bay engulfs Ali’s land left ignored in Cox’s BazarAbdullah Juberee and Muhammad Nurul Islam
None in the administration is aware of the one bigha of land given to boxing legend Muhammad Ali during his 1977 tour of Bangladesh in the beach town of Cox’s Bazar. The sea has eroded the piece of land in course of time.
Although the media had widely covered Muhammad Ali’s tour and his overwhelming reception by people and the government, including his being offered Bangladeshi nationality with a passport, a boxing stadium in Dhaka being named after him and the piece of land being given to him, there is no record of the piece of land with the district administration.
A New Age investigation has found that Aktar Newaz Rubel, then a leader of the Bangladesh Chhatra League, had presented Ali with the piece of land on the beach from the 3.50 acres of property of his father, who was a police officer.
Newaz told New Age that he had given one bigha of land to Ali as a gift when he visited the town in 1977 and Ali also gave him a letter of acceptance of the gift. ‘But neither the government nor the local administration was taking any responsibility for the land and the sea eroded the land at the Kalatali point,’ he said.
He also said that after had given the land to Ali, whom the BBC elected the best sports personality of the century, no mutation of ownership was executed in his favour and the local administration was negligent about it.
The Cox’s Bazar deputy commissioner, Md Ruhul Amin, told New Age, ‘I am hearing about Muhammad Ali’s land in Cox’s Bazar for the first time.’
Newaz told New Age that the sea had eroded the piece of land he had given to Ali along with 10 acres of land after the Cox’s Bazar–Teknaf Marine Drive was constructed in 1992–94.
Ali, now 71, who has suffering from Parkinson’s disease since 1984, could never return to the piece of land although in a documentary Reginald Massey made on his Bangladesh trip ‘Muhammad Ali Goes East: Bangladesh, I Love You,’ he had said, ‘If I get kicked out of America, I have another home.’
Ali, in the documentary, also spoke of returning to Bangladesh and building a house there. ‘If you want to go to heaven, come to Bangladesh.’
He came to Bangladesh on a weeklong trip at the invitation of the then president Ziaur Rahman and visited the scenic areas, including Sundarban, tea gardens in Sylhet, lakeside town of Rangamati and the Cox’s Bazar beach.
According to Massey’s documentary, Ali initially balked at the idea of traveling to the other side of the world, fearing people’s reaction to his defeat in the ring before the trip but nearly 20 lakh fans greeted him on his arrival at the Dhaka airport.
The most delightful part of Ali’s visit took place in the Dhaka Stadium where he was knocked out by a 12-year-old boy in a boxing match to cheers and laugh.
The last public appearance of the legend was at the inauguration of the London Olympic 2012.
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