Some were at home and some were on their way to work when they were abducted by unidentified persons who introduced themselves as law enforcers. Some of them later were found dead, some returned alive, while most remain missing.
According to the Hong Kong based AHRC (Asian Human rights Comission) and the Bangladeshi human rights organization Odhikar, from January 2009 to September 2017, about 395 persons have disappeared in the country.
The dead bodies of 52 person among them were found, while 195 returned, and 148 still traceless.
The families of the disappeared persons allege the law enforcers are the abductors. There are instances of murder and abduction for money, like the seven murders at Narayanganj. Sheepa Hafiza, executive director of ASK (Ain o Salish Kendra), says, “The increasing number of abduction indicates that the state is no longer law abiding. Life is insecure. Anyone anywhere at any time - can be abducted.”
The government continues to deny the allegations. The home minister claimed, “There is no such thing as abduction. These people are in hiding to avoid arrest while their families term these as abductions.”
The National Human Rights Commission website mentions that 52 abductions took place from January to June of 2017.
Sheepa Hafiza said that the law enforcers claim that the people are disappearing on their own. She demanded an independent commission to provide details of these ‘mysterious abductions’. Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan told Prothom Alo that he did not receive any formal requests for investigations into these incidents. He says he will give the issue due consideration.
Concerning the allegations against the police, the home minister said, “If the law enforcers arrested anyone, they would present them before the court within 24 hours. Moreover, such allegations are always investigated.”
Who are the abducted? Statistics show that the highest number of abducted persons are political activists or alleged militants.
Rickshaw pullers, truck drivers, as well as political leaders’ car drivers are on the list. Also on the list are labour union leaders, entrepreneurs, businessmen, bank officials, physicians, lawyers, technicians, NGO officials, law enforcers, university teachers, publishers, journalists and other professionals.
Very recently 12 persons, including university teacher Mubashar Hasan, journalist Utpal Das, assistant vice president of a bank Shamim Ahmed, and seven-time CIP Belarus honorary consul Aniruddha Roy, had disappeared.
Among the abducted, Shamim and Aniruddha returned, while two BJP (Bangladesh Janata Party) leaders were later declared ‘arrested’.
Mizanur Rahman, former chairman of NHRCB (National Human Rights Commission in Bangladesh), told News agencies, “Giving the disappearances impunity has proven to be a curse for the state. If a state fails to provide secuirty to its citizens, public mistrust grows. The consequences are grim.”
At least six politically elected persons went missing from 2009 to 2017. A BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) member and ward councillor of Dhaka went missing in 2010. The other three are from Awami League including Benapole mayor Tariqul, Siddhirganj mayor Nazrul Islam and Jamalpur’s Sarishabari municipality mayor Mohammad Rokonuzzaman Rukon. Dead bodies of the seven persons abducted along with Nazrul were found in a river. Rukon was rescued from Srimangal while the others did not return.
About four persons associated with sensational murder cases were missing. Zamal Ahmed, witness to the murder ofAhsan Ullah Master in 2011, disappeared.
Tanvir Ahmed, administrative officer of Scholastica School went missing in 2012. A few days later he was shown as ‘arrested’ in the Sagar-Runi murder case.
Another accused of Sohagi Jahan Tonu murder case, Mizanur Rahman, was forcefully picked up from his residence in 2016. Two weeks later blindfolded Mizanur was rescued from the Dhaka-Chittagong highway.
In the same year, Kamrul Sikder Musa, prime suspect of SP (police super) Babul’s wife Mahmuda’s murder, went missing. His wife claimed that he was abducted.
Mostly political activists
On 11 July BNP published the names of 25 of its activist who were abducted in Dhaka. Jamaat-e-Islami’s student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir claimed 29 of its members were missing.
The abduction of BNP leader Ilias Ali and Salahuddin Ahmed created a sensation. Prior to that, Chhatra Dal leaders Iftekhar Ahmed Dinar and Junaid Ahmed had disappeared too. Dinar’s sister Tamanna termed the Dinar-Junaid abduction as a rehearsal for a series of abductions and commented it made Ilias Ali’s abduction easy.
From the end of 2013 to the national election in 2014, about 50 BNP activists were abducted. RAB-11 (Rapid Action Batallion) allegedly abducted Laksham upazilla BNP leaders Saiful Islam, Humayun Kabir and Jasim Uddin from an ambulance in 2013. Though Jasim was handed over to Laksham police, Saiful and Humayun were not.
Humayun Kabir’s wife Shahnaz Akhter told Prothom Alo, “I don’t know whether my husband will return or not. My father-in-law filed a case, but died before seeing justice done. I hope I receive justice in my lifetime.”
Tejgaon thana BNP leader Sajedul Islam was abducted on 4 December 2013 from Dhaka’s Bashundhara residential area while two more were abducted from Shaheenbagh.
At least six activists of Awami League and affilialted organisations along with former leader of Chhatra Union Shamim Ahmed are also missing.
Awami League leader Mahfuzur Rahman was abducted in 2012 while the abductors introduced themselves as DB (Detective Branch) police. After three months he was shown ‘arrested’ in a theft case at Dhaka New Market police station.
In 2014, Jubo League leader Rakibul Islam was picked up from his Munsef quarters in Comilla. His family witnessed the scene. Rakibul’s father Abdul Matin, former army officer, freedom fighter and bodyguard to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, told News agencies that his wife is on the verge of a mental breakdown.
Chhatra League leader Sheikh Moazzem Hossain was abducted from Bashundhara residential area in 2016. The abductors introduced themselves as law enforcers.
Law enforcers blamed
According to the Human Rights Commission statistics, RAB has been accused of involvement in 148 of the 395 abductions. The police allegedly abducted 46 while RAB and DB jointly 11, DB 106, industrial police 1, Ansar 1, and other law enforcing agencies 2.
Advocate Chandan Sarkar along with his driver were abducted as they witnessed mayor Nazrul’s abduction scene on 27 April 2014 at Narayanganj. On 27 April their floating corpses were found in the Sitalakhya River. The court sentenced 15 persons to death including the RAB Commander in connection with this horrific murder.
Dr Riyad Nasser Chowdhury was abducted from Mirpur in 2016. His family claimed he was abducted due to this relationship with the ex-wife of a former RAB official. CCTV footage of his abduction appeared in media. Riyad returned three weeks later and just like other returned persons he did not say anything about the abduction.
RAB's Legal and Media Wing Director Mufti Mahmud Khan told News agencies, “There are no allegations against RAB. We are nabbing fake DB and RAB members every day. Our patrol cars are monitored from the headquarters. There is no chance for RAB to be involved in this.”
Human rights activist Nur Khan says, “Several law enforcers are accused of abduction. We do not know whether there has been any investigation.”
The National Human Rights Commission said that the commission sent letters to the home ministry concerning 35 occurrences since 2012. The ministry did not acknowledge 22 and replied only to 13 without any reference to the measures taken.
Advocate Shahdeen Malik told News agencies, “The courts that indirectly help in abduction cannot mete out justice. So people lose faith in the state’s judiciary. This results in a rise in crime.”