Panic grips two villages in Faridpur upazila of the district as nine people hailing from there went missing in less than five weeks after being picked up by people claiming to be law enforcers.
Villagers alleged that the incidents of enforced disappearances occurred over the killing of local Jubo Dal leader Saiful Islam Liton on February 3.
The issue of enforced disappearance came into the public eye on May 11 when five people, including three brothers, were picked up from Khagarbaria and Savar villages, around 50 kilometres off Pabna town.
The five are: Siblings Tikkah Sardar, 35, Ershad Miah, 30, and Saddam Hossain, 25, and Rony Pramanik of Khagarbaria village and Dulal Pramanik, of Savar village. Rony and Dulal are aged between 25 and 35.
Dulal was picked up from Ullapara upazila in Sirajganj around 1:30am while the others from their village homes around 4:00am on the day.
“Introducing themselves as Rab men, a group of armed people picked up my three sons from our house. Some 10 to 12 men from Khagarbaria and Savar accompanied the armed people,” Abdul Karim, father of the three brothers, told The Daily Star.
When the family members went to Pabna Rab camp the following day, Rab officials denied picking up the brothers.
The five are supporters of the ruling Awami League, claimed Khalilur Rahman, president of Faridpur upazila AL.
Earlier, three people hailing from the upazila went missing in Dhaka on April 21, added Khalilur, also Faridpur upazila chairman.
They are Dulal Hossain, Suruj Hossain, and Liton Hossain of Savar village. Dulal was picked up from the capital's Hazaribagh while the two others from Kamrangirchar.
Besides, one Ramjan Ali of Savar village was picked up from Rangunia in Chittagong on May 22, said the AL leader.
People of Faridpur are worried about the fate of the nine. Their family members don't know whether they are alive or not, he stated.
Of the nine, Suruj Hossain, Dulal Pramanik and Ramjan Ali are accused in Liton murder case, said Habibur Rahman, officer-in-charge of Faridpur Police Station.
Secretary general of Faridpur upazila Jubo Dal, 42-year-old Liton was hacked to death by criminals at Savar village on February 3. A murder case was filed with the police station the following day, accusing 14 people, according to the OC.
Six of the accused are now behind bars. The case has been recently shifted to Criminal Investigation Department, said Habibur.
Police suspected that Liton was killed in a feud over establishing supremacy at Savar village.
About the forced disappearance of nine people, the OC said they have reports about five people going missing.
“Abdul Karim filed the case accusing 14 people of picking up his three sons. Faridpur upazila BNP President Johurul Islam Bokul is the key accused in the case,” the OC added.
Rony's wife lodged a general diary with the police station on May 22 about the enforced disappearance of her husband.
Meanwhile, some family members of the enforced disappearance victims at a press conference at Pabna Press Club yesterday demanded the government trace the victims immediately.
Pakhi Khatun, wife of Saddam Hossain, said: “If my husband is a criminal, he must be tried with proper legal procedures. Since being picked up from our house, my husband and his two brothers have been missing for the last two weeks. We don't know what happened to them.”
People of Faridpur are afraid of being forced to disappear, said Akramul Alam, a relative of the victims.
Johurul Islam Bokul might be behind the incidents of enforced disappearances out of revenge for the murder of Liton, he suspected.
This correspondent could not reach the BNP leader over the phone for his comment as it was found switched off.