Hoping against hope | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 30, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 30, 2020

International day of the victims of enforced disappearances

Hoping against hope

Mothers, children long for return of loved ones

Sumi Rani Das never forgets to wear her sakha (bangles) and sindoor (vermillion).

Whenever anyone sees her, they think her husband is still alive. At times, they also ask about him.

But Sumi, wife of a victim of enforced disappearance, fails to answer their queries every time as she does not know whether her husband Tapan Das is still alive or not.

Tapan, a tailor by profession, was picked up by plainclothes men who identified themselves as law enforcers, from city's Sutrapur area in 2011.

He has remained missing since then.

"I always hope my husband is still alive and will return home…," Sumi told The Daily Star.

Sumi said she knows that a Hindu woman stops using sakha and sindoor if her husband remains missing for 12 years. "It has been nine years… I don't want to stop using sakha and sindoor…," she said in a choked voice.

Sumi, along with her 10-year-old son Kartik Das, was participating in a human chain yesterday, attended by at least 40 other families of victims of enforced disappearance, with a demand to bring back their near ones.

Mayer Dak, an organisation of such families, arranged the programme in front of National Museum in the capital, seeking the prime minister's intervention in this regard.

On numerous occasions, family members held programmes and appealed to the authorities to bring back the victims. The calls, however, have fallen on deaf ears, they said.

Many families allege law enforcers are behind the disappearance, which the government denies.

According to Ain o Salish Kendra, at least 600 people have fallen victim to enforced disappearance from January 2007 to August 25 2020.

Yesterday, children also joined the human chain, braving coronavirus and wearing mask -- inscribed with demand for the return of their fathers.

Lamia Akter Mim, 10-year-old daughter of victim Kawser Hossain, participated in the programme wearing a mask, which said: "I want my father back."

"I haven't seen my father since my early childhood… I want my father to take me to school, tell me stories… but it's not possible… he is not here," she said as tears rolled down her cheeks. "Whenever I see children walking on the street holding their father's hand, it hurts… please bring my father back," she said.

The voice of Saleha Begum (65) was cracking repeatedly as she sought the whereabouts of her son Moazzem Hossain Topu.

"I'm growing old. I'm getting sick… please help me, I want to see my son for one last time… before I die," Saleha said.

"I want help from all quarters. If you help me, I will possibly be able to see him," she added.

A former BCL leader, Topu was allegedly picked up by plainclothes men from the capital's Bashundhara area in 2016. He was 28.

Yesterday, Jesmin Begum brought her three-month-old daughter Jerin to protest the culture of enforced disappearance, and with the demand of getting her father back.

"My father was picked up in front of my eyes by law enforcers in Bagerhat in 2011. I know the officers also… I filed a case but there is no progress in the investigation," she said. "Our tears have dried up… We are losing faith in getting justice," she said.

Addressing the programme, Abrar Ilias, son of missing BNP leader M Ilias Ai, alleged that BNP leaders have been targeted in this regard.

"I haven't seen my father in last eight years… They could not return him," he said, demanding a stop to politics and culture of enforced disappearance.

Gonoshasthaya Kendra founder and trustee Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury; Dhaka University Professor Asif Nazrul; Nagorik Oikya Convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna; Ducsu vice president Nurul Haque Nur and rights activist Nur Khan Liton, among others, spoke at the programme.

Speakers demanded an end to this culture of enforced disappearances and punishment for those behind the incidents. 

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