Saturday, June 22, 2024

Sajjad still waits for his father

Missing Since 2008
Sajjad still waits for his father
Every night Sajjad goes to sleep in the hope that his father will come the next morning. Morning comes a little more harshly — he finds that his hope has been misplaced. Yet he does not lose heart. He puts his father’s T-shirt on the pillow as he sleeps. That way, he feels the presence of his father — caring, loving, warm.
The T-shirt now hardly bears the familiar smell of the sweat of his father, who was abducted more than three years ago on July 22, 2008. And yet Sajjad Islam, a student of class IV, keeps his father’s garment on his pillow in a vain attempt to feel his father’s presence in his life.
Indifferent to his studies, Sajjad writes letters to his missing father whenever he is left alone, says Begum Lipi Islam, wife of Titu, 27, who was allegedly picked up by the Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) from Dhukuria Bera Bazar, near his village home in Belkuchi, Sirajganj at around 10:30am.
In one of his many letters Sajjad makes his complaints known: “Baba, why can’t you understand I will not survive without you? Do not keep me away from you any longer.. I cannot bear it…Tell me where you are and I will go there…”
“My elder son Sajjad, who was around seven at the time of his father’s abduction, used to go to sleep by putting his arms around his father. His father was his best playmate, storyteller and the one to whom he made all his complaints against others,” she said.
Lipi said, “Sajjad did not let me wash the T-shirt his father had taken off before being kidnapped over the last three years fearing that the smell of his father’s sweat will no more be there.”
“Now I am at a loss whether I will cope with hardship in my husband’s absence or give support to my mentally broken two children,” added an obviously tormented Lipi.
“I, with my children and husband, had been living in the capital’s Rampura. But after my husband’s abduction I could not bear living costs in the city and left for the home of my elderly parents, who no longer have an income, in Shariatpur.
Lipi, who now has a job in a kindergarten in Shariatpur, said plaintively, “It is all darkness before me. How will I manage around Tk 4000 in the first week of January (in 2012) to get Sajjad re-admitted to his new academic session?”
Lipi said that Rab had in broad daylight picked up her husband and taken him to the capital. Two locals had identified the men as Rab personnel, who used two bikes in the operation. But despite that the government had failed to detect the kidnappers.
She alleged the next day (July 23) another group of Rab men, four in all, led by DAD Mukhlesur Rahman brought back the two bikes and handed them over to the bike owners through a general diary (GD) with Belkuchi police station (GD-680, date-23.7.2008). In the GD, Rab clearly stated that its men had used the bikes to carry an arrestee to Dhaka.
As news reports began to appear following the abduction of Titu allegedly by Rab, the Home Ministry conducted an investigation into the incident, taking into account local testimony that the two motorbikes were used for carrying an arrestee by Rab on that day.
The Daily Star had access to the report prepared and submitted to the Home Secretary in November 2009 by a three-member committee headed by the then Deputy Secretary (defence) Nazimuddin Chowdhury of Home Ministry, who has now been promoted to joint secretary and posted in the same ministry.
A four-member team of Rab led by DAD Hanif went to Belkuchi on July 19, 2008 and returned to Dhaka on July 22, 2008 on the two motorbikes collected from two locals but the team did not carry any arrestee with them, said the report, quoting the versions of DAD Hanif and three others of his team.
The report termed Rab’s version as fabricated.
The report said it was clear in the statements of the two GDs recorded with Belkuchi police station, one by motorbike owner Mohammad Ashraf Ali and the other by DAD Mukhlesur Rahman, that Rab team had picked up a man and carried him to the capital using the two bikes.
Ashraf Ali of Shernagar village in Belkuchi in his GD-656 on July 22, 2008 stated that Rab personnel in plainclothes had taken away his bike and another bike belonging to Emdadul Haque from Mukundagati bazaar area at around 12:00noon on that day to carry fast an arrestee with the Rab men to Dhaka.
GD-680, dated July 23, 2008 and filed by DAD Mukhlesur Rahman with the same police station stated that the Rab men took the bikes to transport an arrestee fast to the capital on July 22.
However, the probe committee never tried to identify whom the Rab team had carried on the two motorbikes mentioned in the two GDs.
Not even the report suggest any punitive measures for the Rab men who had made incorrect statements before the probe body.
Joint Secretary Nazimuddin Chowdhury said, “I submitted the report to the Home Ministry and the authorities may consider what step will be taken in this connection or whether any re-investigation will be carried out.”
Following the filing of the report, the National Human Rights Commission rejected it, terming it an incomplete one.
On a visit to Mokbul Store in Dhukuria Bera Bazar on Wednesday, this reporter spoke to Mokbul, who told him that a team of four armed men had cordoned off Titu at around 10:30pm while he was buying bangles at his shop and handcuffed him before taking him away. They were brandishing pistols all the while.
Motorbike owner Ashraf Ali told the reporter that the Rab team had shown them their identity cards while taking the bikes.
Such disappearances across the country, allegedly through the action of Rab men, have been on the rise, causing public concern.

Read article on The Daily Star

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