He spent more than half his life, nearly 22 years, being chained to a tree next to a mud hut that belongs to his family.
Ataur Rahman is the name of the mentally ill man, now 40. But to the villagers of Piprul in Natore’s Naldanga upazila, he is known as pagla (crazy).
When this correspondent came across the man in chains at the backyard of the house recently, his mother Jamena Begum said they could not provide proper medical treatment to Ataur due to severe financial hardship.
The mother, in her sixties, said she did not know how else she could ensure safety for her son, considering extreme poverty of her family.
“How would I explain the pain that I bear when I put my son in chains by the house? I’m worried sick thinking about who would look after him when I’m gone,” she said.
If let loose, Ataur cannot find his way back home. Moreover, if found roaming in the village, children taunt him and throw stones at him.
The situation gets ugly if agitated Ataur throws back a stone or two at his tormentors, the elderly woman explained.
Sometimes people even physically assault him if he tries getting close to them, said his younger brother Firoz Ahmed, 37. “So, we keep my brother chained up at home.”
Ataur’s mental disorder resulted from injuries he sustained during birth, his mother said, adding that ever since, they could only afford to treat him by kobiraj (practitioners of an ancient form of alternative medicine).
Faruk Hossain, 34, Ataur’s youngest brother, said, “We don’t have anything but the house. My brother turned forty, but we still couldn’t get him proper medical care.”
But, if someone comes forward and helps him get necessary treatment, he might get well, Faruk hoped.
Their neighbour Hafizul Islam said, “It’s so sad that a young man is having to be chained up in his house. But otherwise he becomes restless and goes out of control.”
He also said the departments concerned should ensure proper treatment for Ataur.
Contacted, Deputy Commissioner of Natore Mohammad Shahriaz said he was not aware of Ataur’s being chained up for his illness and that he would ask Natore civil surgeon’s office to ensure proper treatment for the man.