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Families in dark for 3 yrs if abducted loved ones still alive
Thursday, 08 December 2016

Araf Hossain is two and a half years old. Three years ago, when he was still in his mother’s womb, his father Chhatra Dal leader Parvez Hossain, was picked up by a group of people claiming to be from a law enforcement agency. He has not been heard of since. Little Araf, his five-year-old sister Adiba and their mother Farzana Akhter are suffering. On one hand there is the uncertainty whether Parvez is still alive or dead, on the other is the matter of survival. Farzana lives in her father’s house now with her children and no income of her own. Parvez’s father Shafiuddin died in November, not knowing the fate of his son.

There are other families of abducted persons living in such uncertainty. Twenty such families gathered at the National Press Club yesterday, Sunday, to hold a press conference, demanding that the missing persons be returned. A bond had grown among these families over the past three years, in their efforts to find their loved ones.

They have repeatedly approached the police, RAB and the police’s the detective branch. They have held conferences and demonstrations at the press club and other places. Most of the missing persons were involved in BNP or Chhatra Dal politics.

Tears flowed unrestrained at yesterday’s press conference. Some were too choked with emotion to speak. Four children of the missing persons, ranging from five to 11 years of age, spoke at the press conference, too.

At a previous conference, missing MA Adnan Chowdhury’s father Ruhul Amin had been ill. This year his condition has deteriorated. He has difficulty in walking and his eyesight is failing. He stood and spoke, tears streaming down his face. He said, “It was a cold December night when they came and took my son away, saying they’d bring him back. But he never returned. I do not know where he is, whether he is dead or alive.” Appealing to the prime minister, he said, “Please tell us where our sons are.”

Brother of the missing Mazharul Islam, Mashiur Rahman said, “We have not just lost our brother. Our family has lost all its peace and happiness forever. Our parents have lost their son. Our mother stands at the front door till late at night, waiting for her son to return. When it rains she gets worried if he is getting wet. My parents are suffering from anxiety for their son.”

The brother of Sabujbagh Chhatra Dal president Mahbub Hasan, Zahid Khan, said, “No one will be able to perceive the sufferings of the families of these abducted persons. We dare not think of the worst, yet we dare not hope either. Every day is filled with pain. The families of the missing persons are devastated and even relatives move away.” He said, “We pay taxes to run the law enforcement agencies that abduct our brothers. Where will we seek justice? What sort of democracy is this?”

Zahid said that Mahbub’s wife is struggling for survival with her two children. Mahbub may have gone missing, but the political cases against him remain. The police come to their home at least once in two months, creating a sense of panic. They even threatened to take away everything from the house, but then left because none of the possessions belonged to Mahbub.

Speaking at the press conference, director of the human rights organisation Odhikar Nasiruddin said, over 300 persons have disappeared in the last few years. Those involved in the abductions have impunity, but they should realise one day justice will be carried out.

Sister of ward 38 BNP’s missing general secretary Sajedul Islam alias Suman, Marufa Islam Ferdousi, read out a statement at the press conference. It was said that the missing persons and their families were deprived of all kinds of rights. They didn’t even have legal protection, or financial and social assistance.

At the end of the press conference, members of the various families embraced each other in empathy and commiseration. Mazharul’s brother Mashiur Rahman wept as he grasped the hand of Chanchal’s mother Bibi Hajera. Parvez Hossain’s wife Farzana asked Adnan Chowdhury’s father Ruhul Amin how he was doing and whether he went to the doctor regularly. They all left the venue together, sharing transport and helping each other back to their respective homes.

Meanwhile, home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said, “There is no such thing as disappearance. We know of no such thing. Those who are said to have disappeared are actually hiding for various reasons. We have seen in the past, many such persons have returned.” He was speaking to the media after inaugurating a photography exhibition in the city.

Last year the National Human Rights Commission received complaints of 15 disappearances. Chairman of the commission Kazi Reazul Huq on 29 August told Prothom Alo that he could not say how many of these cases had been resolved.

According to the human rights organisation Ail O Salish Kendra, in the nine months from January to September this year, there have been media reports of 75 persons being picked up by persons identifying themselves as members of the law enforcement agencies. Of these, the dead bodies of eight were recovered, three have been shown as arrested, 18 have been released and there is no trace of the rest. In 2015, a total of 55 persons disappeared. Later seven were shown arrested, five returned and the dead bodies of eight were recovered. In 2914, a total of 88 disappeared. Of them, the bodies of 23 were recovered, 12 were released and one was arrested.

Acting executive director of Ain O Salish Kendra Nur Khan told the media, the incidence of disappearances increased abnormally over the last five or six years. From the statements of the families and eyewitnesses, there is all reason to believe that the law enforcement agencies are behind these disappearances. The Narayanganj seven-murder incident is proof of the active part the law enforcement plays in these abductions. The state cannot evade responsibility.