"Why was my son killed? If he had broken any law, they could have shot him in the leg or injured him or made him surrender or taken him to the police station for interrogation. But why was he murdered?"
Nasima Akhter, mother of Maj (retd) Sinha Md Rashed Khan, demanded to know as she spoke to The Daily Star yesterday morning.
She made the demand also when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina talked to her over the phone around 10:15am. The PM assured her of a fair investigation and justice.
It is indeed a justified demand. But more importantly, beyond the question of whether Sinha was shot unprovoked by a trigger-happy cop or whether he was shot by the police in self-defence, a mother has lost her son.
Speaking to this correspondent at her four-storey home, built lovingly by Sinha for his mother and sisters in the capital's Uttara Sector 14, Nasima said, "We will file a case and seek justice."
She remembered the details of the day her son was killed and how she found out what happened. "I spoke to him around eleven every night. On the night he was killed, I called him several times, but he did not receive the phone. Then after midnight, I received a phone call from a number.
"The voice asked me about Sinha's identity and where he works. I answered and then asked who I was speaking to. The caller identified himself as the officer-in-charge of Teknaf Police Station."
"When I asked the officer to hand the phone to Sinha, he said my son was a little far away and cut the call. I was feeling uneasy so I kept calling the number, but nobody picked up my calls."
Nasima then informed a friend of the deceased army official and asked him to look into it. "I thought Sinha might have been under arrest or something, so I asked him to find out."
The next day was Eid. Nasima kept calling both her son and his friend, but nobody responded. "Around 11:00am, policemen from Uttara (west) police station came to my house. I greeted them, invited them to eat and told them that I am worried about my son. I thought he was under arrest in Teknaf and if I tell them how good my son is, they will release him."
Later in the day, Sinha's friend called back. "He made an excuse for not picking up my calls and asked for the mobile number of my daughter. When I asked why, he said he wanted to exchange Eid greetings with her. By that time, he already knew what had happened and he did not want me to know it first."
"Around 7:30 in the evening, his colleague's sister came to visit. She started saying she understands the pain of losing a child. That is when I realised Sinha is no longer alive," narrated the mother in excruciating detail.
Sinha, 36, was killed in police firing at a check-post in Teknaf on Friday night. He was returning after shooting for a travel documentary. The home ministry has formed a high-powered committee to investigate the incident.
The retired army official was born on July 26, 1984. He served at the Special Security Force (SSF) as the prime minister's bodyguard between 2009 and 2012.
"Following that he worked in many other cantonments, including in Cox's Bazaar's Ramu which was his favourite," Nasima said. He also went to a UN mission in Ivory Coast. In 2018, while he was posted in Rangpur cantonment, he decided to take voluntary retirement.
"He wanted to travel the world and an army position left him rooted to one spot. He wanted to explore the Everest base camp and cycle around China. He wanted to begin his world tour this year, but the pandemic stood in his way," she said.
The family reminisced how he had prepared for the tour by buying a trekking backpack and putting up a whiteboard to map out his plans.
"He was different. He had gone to some villages on a tour and brought home two praying mantis insects. He named them Nontey and Fontey. They used to live in a plant in the balcony as his pets," remembered Sinha's sister Sharmen Shahria Ferdush.
His mother added, "Just the other day I was telling him that I can no longer see Fontey in the tree, but that Nontey is waiting for him to come back from Cox's."
But pet insects, dreams of travel, a house to grow old in and broken hearts are all that's left now.