She once again stood at the Jatiya Press Club with the wish that her father would come back and embrace her.
With fingers gently wrapped around the photo of her father, nine-year-old Adi-ba Islam Hridi could hardly speak before tears started rolling down her cheeks.
“It’s been so many days since I had seen my father. I want to touch him. I want to celebrate Eid with him. Please give my father back,” Hridi said with an emotion-choked voice. Her father Parvez Hossain has been missing since 2013.
Hridi and her mother Farzana Akhter had been attending programmes at the Jatiya Press Club and other places over the last few years demanding safe return of Parvez.
Parvez, a Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal leader from Bangshal of the capital, was picked up at Shahbagh by members of a law enforcement agency on December 2, 2013, claimed family and friends of Parvez who were present when he was taken.
Farzana was pregnant with Hridi’s brother, Araf Hossain, who is now four-and-a-half years old.
Farzana said Hridi had been asking about her father for the last five years.
Hridi was not the only child there. Lamia Akhter Mim, 7, was standing there demanding her father Kawsar Hossain is returned home.
The professional driver has also been missing since 2013.
With photos of their loved ones, members of some 20 families of enforced dis-appearance victims gathered in front of the press club under the platform “Mayer Daak”, demanding their safe return so that they could celebrate Eid to-gether for once in years. They formed a human chain there too.
Most of the victims had been missing since 2013, the family members said.
Yesterday, they were joined by rights activists, civil society members, university professors, and politicians.
They demanded that the government form a judicial probe body led by a justice to investigate each incident of enforced disappearances.
Between January 2009, when the Awami League government assumed office, and 2018, at least 507 people have become victims of enforced disappearances, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.
Of them, 62 people were later found dead while 286 returned alive. The where-abouts of 159 is still unknown, the Paris-based rights body said.
Speaking at the programme, members of most families alleged that their rela-tives were picked up by law enforcers, who have claimed that they had nothing to do with the matter.
All the while, the tormented families’ search for their loved ones continued with no success.
For Rehana Banu Munni visiting morgues and other places has become a rou-tine. She checks unidentified bodies to see if any of those is of her younger brother.
Her brother Selim Reza Pintu, a leader of Sutrapur Chhatra Dal, was picked up allegedly by law enforcers in plainclothes from one of his relative’s house in Pal-labi on the night of December 11, 2013.
“We are dead inside ... We die every day. Make us disappear too or give them back,” Munni said.
Shuvadra Chakma, elder sister of United Peoples Democratic Front (UPDF) leader Mikel Changma, who went missing on his way to Dhaka from Narayan-ganj on April 9 this year, fainted right fter the programme ended yesterday.
Later, she said her family members were too waiting for her brother’s safe re-turn.
Marufa Islam, sister of BNP leader Sajedul Islam Sumon, allegedly picked up by law enforcers in 2013, said these people, who meet on such occasions, are well aware of each other’s torments and have developed a bond.
“They all are waiting for their loved ones. They want to celebrate Eid with them,” she said.
Speaking at the programme, Dhaka University Prof Asif Nazrul said it is the state’s responsibility to find the missing people, bring them back, and punish those involved in the crime.
“But what are we seeing? The state is not taking up the responsibility. Police don’t want to have such cases filed and even if they record them, they don’t in-vestigate them or submit any reports,” he said.
He said there are reasons to believe that the state is involved in such enforced disappearances.
Noted human rights activist Nur Khan Liton said a dreadful situation has been created with enforced disappearances being used as a tool for torture.
“A few of the victims have returned, but they refrained from uttering a word out of fear … .” Nur said.
He said all these people are citizens of Bangladesh. “The government should find them disregarding which party they belonged to.”
Gonoshasthaya Kendra founder Zafrullah Chowdhury said these families have been appealing for years.
“But the cries didn’t melt their heart. When there is no democracy in a country such a situation arises. It’s not good for a nation,” Zafrullah added.