Article published in New Age on 1 December 2014
This is the fifth in a series of articles published in New Age investigating the disappearances of 19 opposition activists that took place in or around Dhaka in a two week period in Nov/Dec 2013. To see the full series, go here
Two picked up, but promise to return not kept
David Bergman and Muktadir Rashid
On the night of December 4, 2013, Adnan Chowdhury, a member of Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s volunteer front Jatiyatabadi Swechchasebok Dal, heard that his senior political colleague, Sajedul Islam Sumon, had been picked up earlier that night by law enforcement authorities.
‘After work he went to Sumon’s family house and returned home at about 12.30 am. He freshened up and had some dinner,’ Adnan’s wife, Marjina Sultana Tonni, told New Age.
Adnan, 28, lived in Shahinbagh with his wife and parents, in a tin shed house about 5 minutes walk from Sumon’s.
His father, 65 year old retired teacher Ruhul Amin Chowdhury was woken up at around 2 am by a knock on the door. ‘I asked who was there,’ Chowdhury said. ‘And a man said that he was from the administration. I hesitated to open the door, but he said that I had to open it.’
A number of men came into the house. ‘They asked where was the bedroom of Adnan, my son. I showed them where it was, and then they told me to sit in my room,’ the father said.
When they entered the room, the men asked Adnan’s wife to leave. ‘I was sick at that time and could not walk. Adnan carried me to another room,’ his wife said. ‘I heard them say that Adnan should change his clothes. He was in a lungi. I also heard some of the men saying “let us talk to his wife, and show her some sympathy as she is sick”, but they did not do so,’ she said.
Both Adnan’s wife and father identified some of the men inside the house as coming from RAB. ‘Two to three men wore the black uniform of RAB and at least one of them wore a jacket, with the letters “RAB” written in yellow,’ his wife said. ‘Others wore civil dress.’
They searched each room of the small house, and then, according to both Adnan’s wife and father, they said, ‘We are taking Adnan away and we will return him next morning.’
‘They did not allow Adnan speak to me, but I was not that scared at the time as I knew he had done nothing wrong, and I trusted that he would be brought back,’ Adnan’s father said. Adnan did not ask the men anything nor did he say anything to his family.
The men were present in the house for about 30 minutes. ‘When they took Adnan out to the front of the house, I went out through another exit and I saw him being put into a vehicle, but it had nothing written on it,’ the father said.
The abduction of the Adnan was the forth of eight incidents which between 28 November and 13 December 2013 resulted in a total of 19 Dhaka based BNP activists allegedly being picked up by state agencies. It was a period of intense political protests with the BNP-Jamaat-e-Islami opposition alliance trying to force the government to install an election-time interim government, and the opposition was accused of responsibility for the deaths of over 12 members of the public killed in fire-bombing attacks on vehicles.
In the past few days, New Age has reported on the previous abductions, involving people taken from outside Dhaka Central Jail, at Shahbagh and inside Bushandara Residential Area. At the time that Adnan was being taken from his house, Md Kawser was sleeping in a room in a colony in Horkot Ali Road, a five minutes walk from Adnan’s and located just behind the prime minister’s office.
He was married but his wife was at that time staying in her village home. That night Kawser, 22, a driver, had come back from work after midnight. Along with Kawser there were two other friends spending the night in his room.
‘I suddenly heard someone beating very loudly at the door,’ one of the friends told New Age. When the door was opened, about eight to ten people entered the room and put on the light. ‘Some were wearing civil dress but two were wearing typical black RAB uniforms,’ he said.
‘I then heard them call Adnan to come inside, and he entered the room. I had heard about Adnan but had never met him before. They asked him to identify which one of us was Kawser, and Adnan pointed him out,’ the friend said. The men did a search of the room, and took the sim cards out of all of their phones.
Then Kawser and Adnan were ordered out of the room and the two remaining friends were told not to move. The men then locked the door from outside. ‘I could hear Adnan and Kaswer being beaten outside,’ he said. ‘The men seemed to be in a hurry and the whole episode lasted about ten minutes.’
Even though it was very early in the morning, there were a number of bystanders standing in the lane of the colony including a few women who lived there.
One spoke to New Age confirming the account of Kawser’s friend. ‘They brought Adnan here and asked him which one was Kawser’s room. Then Adnan showed them and then they took Kawser out and beat the two men both together.’
The women said that at the time she acted as if she had to go to the bathroom and so crossed the scene many times to see what was going on. She also told New Age that some of the men wore black uniforms.
When Adnan did not return in the morning, his father became anxious. He went to various different law enforcement offices in Dhaka including RAB, the detective branch and ordinary police stations. But no one could provide any information.
‘When no one could give me any information about my son, I became hopeless,’ Chowdhury said. ‘When I have seen my son taken, and other people in the area have seen what happened, how can RAB and others tell such lies. They promised to return my son, and now they have betrayed me.’
Kawser’s mother was at that time living in Farmgate and only heard about what had happened the following morning. ‘I went to Tejgaon police station, and waited the whole day there. On other days I went to different RAB offices but they all denied any involvement,’ Komla Akhter said.
RAB denies any involvement in these incidents. Commander Mufti Mahmud Khan, the Director of RAB’s Media and Legal wing, told New Age at an early state of inquiries that, ‘No. Rab is not involved at all. People may say they saw RAB vehicles, but that is not the case.’