Little Tasmin Mahira Tuba often wakes up in her sleep in the middle of the night and frantically starts looking for her mother, Taslima Begum Renu, who was beaten to death by a mob in July last year.
“Ammu”, she yells, and breaks down. While sobbing, the four-year-old asks, “Where is Ammu?”
Her aunt, Joynab Begum,tries to calm her down with false promises.
“Your mother has gone to America and will come back soon with a lot of beautiful dresses for you,” she tells Tuba.
“When will she come back?” asks Tuba.
“Soon,” is all Joynab can reply.
At times, Tuba gets impatient as these promises remain unfulfilled. Sometimes she calls her mother “pocha” (bad) and sometimes “bidesher Ammu” (foreign mother).
Six months have gone by since Taslima was brutally killed in a mob beating, but her daughter still doesn’t know that her mother is no more.
“We don’t know how long we will be able to do this. It is heart-rending,” Joynab told The Daily Star recently.
Since their mother’s death, Tuba and her 11-year-old brother Ta-seen al Mahir have been living with their aunt in Mohakhali.
Mahir, a class-V student at Banani Biddya Niketan, understands his mother won’t return.
“Sometimes he remains unusually quiet and looks worried. We understand he feels his mother’s absence at those times,” said Syed Nasiruddin Titu, Mahir’s cousin.
Their parents got separated -- some two years before Taslima’s death.
Their father Taslim Hossain, a small businessman in Badda, sometimes visits the children but not at their aunt’s house. He is an infrequent presence in their lives.
After the incident, he took away Mahir once, saying the boy would now be living with him. Taslima’s relatives brought him back.
Joynab has now enrolled Tuba into nursery at Shishu Mela, a nearby kindergarten school. Tuba started attending school on January 19.
On July 20 last year, Taslima went to Badda Uttar-Purba Primary School to inquire about the admission process in hopes of getting Tuba admitted there. The mob apparently suspected her of being a child kidnapper.
Videos taken on mobile phones and CCTV footage, which went viral, showed some young people kicking, striking, and trampling the 40-year old woman, amid a gathering of several hundred people, most of whom played the part of silent spectators.
The killing, which triggered huge outrage in the country, took place at a time when incidents of mob attacks on people labelling them “child kidnappers” suddenly saw a rise, following rumours about the Padma bridge authorities needing human sacrifices at the construction site.
At least eight people were killed while a couple of dozen others were injured in mob beatings at different places across the country in July last year.
According to rights body Ain o Salish Kendra, 65 people were killed in mob beatings last year -- with the highest number of victims, 25, reported in Chattogram division, followed by 22 in Dhaka division.
After Taslima’s death, Tito filed a case with Badda Police Station against 400 to 500 unknown people.
Tito said he has already left his job as he frequently has to appear in court and his absence may help the arrestees get bail.
But police are yet to complete the probe and submit a charge sheet. After the January 22 deadline passed, February 20 was set as the new deadline to submit the probe report.
Around a month and a half ago, the charge of investigation was handed over to the Detective Branch from Badda police who had earlier arrested 14 people in connection with the killing.
Contacted, DB Senior Assistant Commissioner Nazmul Hasan Firoz, the supervising officer of the case, said they have identified at least three others who took part in the mob beating. They are trying to collect their detailed particulars in order to arrest them, he said.
The DB officer also said since the case is a sensitive one and stirred huge outcry across the country, they were sincerely investigating it in order to submit a flawless probe report.
He further said they were investigating whether there were any other reasons behind the murder and if there was any negligence on the part of the school authorities.
“We hope we will be able to submit the charge sheet in the soonest possible time,” he told The Daily Star on January 23.
On August 18 last year, Taslima’s sister Nazmun Nahar Nazma and Tito also filed a writ petition with the High Court seeking its directive on authorities concerned of the government to give Tk 1 crore in compensation to the victim’s family.
The writ is pending for final hearing, Tito said.
“We demand quick completion of the investigation for the sake of justice,” he said.