Mubashar back, mystery remains
Kept in a dark room for 44 days, released blindfolded on Airport Road
The captors of North South University teacher Mubashar Hasan were divided over whether to kill him or not, before finally freeing him early yesterday.
The kidnappers also demanded money for his release, said Mubashar, sharing his experience of the 44-day captivity with journalists as he repeatedly fought back tears.
The abductors dropped him off from a microbus near the airport in Dhaka around midnight. From there, he reached his Banasree house on a CNG-run auto-rickshaw around 12:45am.
His return came three days after journalist Utpal Das was found in Narayanganj, 71 days after his abduction from the capital's Dhanmondi.
Talking to the media in front of his house yesterday morning, Mubashar said he was kept in a dark room whose only window was sealed off. The food he was served was cold and possibly brought from restaurants.
"The captors used to argue with each other whether to kill me or free me,” said the NSU assistant professor, looking visibly shaken.
At some point, Mubashar, also known as Cesar, heard his captors say things that indicated they were scared of something. He also got an impression from their conversation that one of them had gone missing or something.
His father Motaher Hossain and sister Tamanna Tasnim were present during the briefing.
Yesterday was the first time he saw sunlight since his mysterious abduction on November 7 from the capital's Agargaon area, said Mubashar, who graduated from Dhaka University's mass communication and journalism department.
His disappearance triggered a firestorm of protest on social media. His teachers, colleagues, students and many common people formed human chains and other programmes, demanding his immediate return.
His father filed a general diary with Khilgaon Police Station the same day he went missing.
Since August 22, at least 12 people had gone missing from the capital alone. Five of them, including Mubashar, have since returned home while police later said to have arrested three others.
The fate of four others, including ex-ambassador Maroof Zaman, is not yet clear.
Meanwhile, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan told reporters yesterday that they were questioning those who returned from captivity to unearth the motive behind their abductions.
Investigations are on to find out those still missing, he said. “I would say the missing people have returned as the law enforcers were active.”
Recalling the day of his abduction, Mubashar, who has done researchers on political Islam, said he was heading towards his house on an Uber car after attending a UNDP programme at Agargaon.
Some plainclothes men stopped his car on Begum Rokeya Sarani and asked him to get down, saying the vehicle was a stolen one.
"Someone from behind rubbed some kind of ointment on my eyes as I was waiting for another vehicle. They then dragged me into a microbus. One of them held something on my face, and I fell unconscious.”
Perhaps the next day, Mubashar, who has a daughter aged six, found himself in a room with his hands tied from behind. There was an old dirty mattress where he used to sleep.
There was another room next to his where he heard four to five people chatting on the first day.
Asked if the abductors spoke with him, he said, “Yes they did.... It was for money. Perhaps they did not get my family profile right.”
At one stage, they demanded money, saying, “You work at many places.”
They also asked him if he had any rich friends and family members, and took away the Tk 27,000 he had with him. He did not have his credit card with him.
However, the kidnappers did not demand any particular amount or say when and how they wanted the money to be paid, in a striking similarity with the case of Utpal Das.
"Perhaps they talked to you [over the phone]," he said, pointing to his father, a retired government official.
"But I don't know what the discussion was… Everyone has some mystery in their life… But the problem is I could not see anything.
"If not a victim of kidnap, it's not possible for someone to realise how unreal the situation is,” he said, his voice cracking. “Please pray for me. We're a normal family. Something akin to a cyclone has swept over us."
Both Mubashar and his family thanked all, including the media and the law enforcers, for their support.
However, after the eight-minute unscheduled briefing, the family did not talk to journalists who gathered in front of their house.
Before setting him free, the abductors made Mubashar lie on someone's lap inside a microbus that travelled for one hour or one and a half hours. There was an altercation among the kidnappers over something inside the vehicle.
The faces of the abductors were covered with towels while he himself was blindfolded.
"Go now. We will kill you if you look back,” one abductor said.
On his way home in the CNG auto-rickshaw, he called his father from the driver's mobile phone, telling him that he was coming home.
Police yesterday spoke to him to take an account of his captivity.
In his reaction, his father said, “We think we have got a new life.... He is my only son.”
Jahangir Kabir Khan, inspector (investigation) of Khilgaon Police Station, said Mubashar could not say who abducted him and where he was kept. But the family can still file an abduction case.