Who makes people disappear: 2017’s unresolved mystery
As much as 75 people - from researcher to businessman, from diplomat to poet, from banker to physician, from politician to journalist and from service holder to motor mechanic - were made to disappear in 11 months of 2017.
Many such incidents, if not all, grabbed headlines throughout the year at home and abroad, making it a year of disappearance.
Almost all the victims and their family members have identically alleged that people identifying themselves as law enforcers in plainclothes picked them up.
However, the government has all along denied all allegations. Although the pattern of picking up people is almost the same, the law enforcers could neither track down the perpetrators nor bring the incidents of disappearance, what many call a crime against humanity, to a halt.
Furthermore, in April a Swedish national radio report on abduction and extrajudicial killings by Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) had caused quite a stir.
Based on a sensitive conversation between a high-ranking RAB official and someone else, the RAB officer, not knowing that he was being recorded, the report exposed details of violent methods of enforced disappearance and killing.
Even the government as well as the law enforcement was apparently indifferent to the allegations and did nothing to disprove the allegations against them.
Indiscriminate enforced disappearances generated a strong wave of panic among the people throughout the year.
But the question as to who picked them up remained shrouded in mystery still when the country enters a new year of 2018.
About allegations raised against the law enforcing agencies, home minister Asaduzzaman Khan, in an interview with Prothom Alo, said if anybody raises specific allegations, actions are taken. The incidents of missing people are considered as abduction, but later missing people come back, the minister said.
The people who were abducted and later came back do not usually want to talk about what happens to each of them.
When the home minister's statement was sought on the matter, Asaduzzaman did not, however, give any direct reply.
"Talk to them if they identify the abductors, we will punish them," the home minister said. At a discussion at Dhaka Reporters' Unity (DRU) on 12 August, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) chief Syeda Rizwana Hasan said, "The victims and their families would have been vocal, should an incident of abduction be the only one in the country."
Rizwana said such abduction was allegedly carried out, not only by the law enforcement agencies, but also at the directive of such a high level that the subordinates could not deny. Unidentified persons abducted and later freed Rizwana Hasan's husband Abu Bakar Siddique in 2014. A general diary was then filed with the police but the investigation said nothing about who were behind the abduction.
One Jesmin Nahar, hailing from Satkhira, narrated the story of disappearance of her husband, at an event in Dhaka. She said there are proofs that her husband was kept in jail for three days but the police denied that he was detained.
On 23 August, a group of nine people identifying themselves as members of law enforcing agencies forced a banker to get into a microbus in front of Khana Basmati Restaurant at Paltan in the capital, according to CCTV of the restaurant just opposite Baitul Mukarram National Mosque.
On 22 August, a number of plainclothesmen halted a car under Banani flyover on the airport road. They forced the car's passenger BNP leader and also ABN Group managing director Syed Sadat Ahmed to get into a microbus.
According to the family members, he was preparing to contest the national elections from Raozan in Chittagong.
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chairperson Khaleda Zia in a twitter recently alleged at least 750 pro-democracy activists had vanished in last 10 years.
National Human Rights Commission chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque told Prothom Alo on Friday that abductions are heinous crimes and it is a serious violation of human rights.
"The government should not take the matter lightly. It is the responsibility of the government to find out those who are involved in the abduction," the NHRC chairman added.
Reazul Hoque said those who are returning should cooperate for carrying out the investigation. "We have also talked to a number of victims but they evade our queries."
Ain o Salish Kendra, a rights organisation, reported abduction of over 50 people in the year. The victims include even ruling party Awami League men, opposition BNP activists,
businessmen, service holders, teacher, students, mason, motor mechanic, bicycle mechanic, easy bike driver, a union parishad member, publisher and unidentified persons.