Things that make you to Think

Many Victims, One Story, One Demand

Mahmud Hossain Opu (8)

Like any other day, Kawsar Hossain (28), who was a private car driver, returned to his home at the capital’s Nakhalpara area from his workplace on December 4 in 2013.

After taking dinner, he along with his wife and a five-year-old daughter retired to sleep.

At midnight, some 7-10 Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) members in uniform suddenly knocked on their door.

When Kawsar opened the door, the RAB members asked for Kawsar. As Kawsar identified himself the RAB personnel started to beat him and then took him outside the house.

“We are taking him for interrogation. We will release him when the interrogation is over,” said Kawsar’s wife Minu Begum quoting the RAB members.

“The next morning, on December 5, I went to the RAB 1 office as I identified them by the sticker on the vehicle. But the RAB officials denied taking anyone by the name of Kawsar. The day I went to the RAB 1 office since then my husband has been missing,” she said.

She was speaking at the convention organised by Moulik Odhikar Shurokkha Committee (Committee to protect the Fundamental Rights) to mark the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances in the capital’s Press Club auditorium where hundreds of victims shared their experience of how their near and dear one had become the victims of enforced disappearance.

Minu also said: “I do not understand why my husband was taken by RAB personnel as he had never involved in any kind of crimes and there had been no case against him with any police station.”

Another victim’s father, Kazi Abdul Matin, a freedom fighter, retired army sergeant and who comes from Comilla, described his son’s disappearance on March 29 in 2014 at the programme where hundreds of victims’ families were present.

His son Rakibul Islam Shaon was a Comilla Juba League leader and former organising secretary of Bangladesh Chhatra League of Comilla Victoria Government College unit.

“On March 29, early in morning Shaon was taken from home by some 15-20 RAB members along with another team of plain-clothes police who traced my son’s whereabouts from one Anwar detained by RAB earlier. They entered the house forcefully and started assaulting my son and his wife with a hammer” Matin said.

“They took my son on a microbus along with two RAB vehicles towards Bishnupur. Afterwards, I went to the RAB-11 office at Shaktola and informed them about my son’s abduction. But they replied that they did not take anyone named Shaon,” he added.

Then Matin informed the matter to the Railway Minister Muzibul Haque but he also failed to trace my son’s whereabouts from RAB officials.

Since then his son has been missing while Matin.

“I fought for the liberation war of this country and also served as a bodyguard for Bangabandhu Sheikh Muzibur Rahman. Now I wonder why the hell did I fight for the country where there is no justice?” said Matin.

Later on March 31 this year, Shaon’s wife Farzana Akter filed a general diary with Kotowali police station in Comilla but they failed to file any case.

BNP leader Khaled Hasan Sohel, along with four others, went to meet some of their friends at the gate of Dhaka Central Jail on November 28 last year.

But he never came back home. Eleven days later, three of them came back but Sohel, who was the president of a local unit of BNP in Sutrapur area in Old Dhaka, was never found again.

ForcedDisappearance infographic 3C

Yesterday at the first ever convention of the Moulik Odhikar Shurokkha Committee, Sohel’s wife Shammi Sultana described how her husband Khaled Hasan Sohel had been picked up.

“My husband’s only fault was that he was involved with the BNP. He was the president of ward 79 unit of Sutrapur area. He went to the jail gate to meet a friend in jail. From there, he went missing with four others. After 11 days, three of them came back but I still do not know where my husband is. My son Sadman asks me every day about his father. I cannot take this any more,” Shammi said.

The event was held at the National Press Club auditorium in the capital where many victims and their family members shared their experiences about forced disappearances and killings by members of law enforcement agencies.

When many political activists of Lakshmipur district were injured in political clashes ahead of the January 5 election, Dr Foyez Ahmed took the responsibility on his shoulder to treat them at his chamber.

“May be that was my father’s fault. On December 13 last year, my father was shot dead by the members of RAB. The RAB personnel tied my father with rope and then threw him off the rooftop of our house. Then they shot my father to confirm his death,” said Uzma Kawsar, daughter of the physician.

Dr Foyez’s body was later handed over to his family. Members of the family still cannot visit their home district out of fear. The physician was the district unit nayeb-e-ameer of Jamaat-e-Islami.

Uzma shared her experience yesterday at the first-ever convention of Moulik Odhikar Shurokkha Committee (Committee for the Protection of Fundamental Rights) on the occasion of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, introduced in 2011.

Uzma told the programme: “My family is lucky that we got the body of my father. But there are many family members present here who have no idea about their missing relatives.”

According to rights body Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), at least 330 people, including activists of the ruling Awami League, BNP, job holders, farmers and businessmen, have disappeared since 2007.

There was something common to what every family member of the victims of enforced disappearances demanded: they wanted to get back their dear ones. At the convention, many of the victims’ families demanded the prime minister’s intervention.

Mahmud Hossain Opu (9)

Mashrufa Islam, daughter of BNP’s former Laksham lawmaker Saiful Islam, said: “Honourable prime minister, you also lost your family members. So you better understand how we feel after losing our family members. So please give my father back.”

Many rights activists were present at the convention which they said was not a platform of political victims but a common one for those who wanted to get back their family members.

Rights activist Nur Khan said: “If legal actions were taken against those responsible for the previous incidents of enforced disappearances, then such crimes would not have escalated this far.

“We have proof and facts that disappearances were carried out by members of law enforcement agencies. So, the government should think immediately about this heinous crime committed by the law enforcement agencies and form a commission to ensure punishment of the officials who were behind these incidents.”

Slamming the government, senior lawyer Dr Kamal Hossain said: “If the governance system, judiciary and law enforcement agencies were transparent in their activities, then there would be fair investigations into those incidents and such heinous activities would have ended.”

He spoke at the event on behalf of Khusi Kabir, coordinator of Nijera Kori; Sara Hossain of BLAST; CR Abrar and Asif Nazrul of Dhaka University; columnist Syed Abul Moksud; Mahmudur Rahman Manna, convener of Nagorik Oikko; and Nasir Uddin Elan, director of ODHIKAR.

Presiding over the event, lawyer Shahdin Malik said in a column in 2006 he had warned BNP chief Khaleda Zia mentioning that the way RAB was operating, it would become a matter of concern for her in the future. “Khaleda Zia can realise this after so many years. But the present government is doing the same mistake,” he said.

“We demand that the government bring every enforced disappearances under trial. Until then, we will not go back home. If the trials fail in this country, we will go to international courts to ensure justice,” he said.

Read Father’s quest for disappeared son

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