Big thugs of a small town
Long before their alleged involvement in the killing of Rifat Sharif, brothers Rifat Farazi and Rishan Farazi were already known as two terrorising figures in the small town of Barguna.
Their involvement in narcotics trade, extortion and hooliganism were all public knowledge and in police records, but the two brothers roamed the locality with almost total impunity, police and locals said.
Even the family of a police officer and an elected councillor faced their wrath when they tried to stand against their “criminal activities,” they added.
Since 2015, the two brothers, aged 26 and 20, were named in at least six cases over attempted murders, extortion, illegal gathering and causing injuries. They were detained on several occasions over these charges, but every time they walked out of the police station within a couple of days or even hours.
This is for the first time they have been behind bars this long since their arrests over the murder of Rifat, 25.
Rifat, himself an accused in several cases, was hacked to death in broad daylight on June 26 in Barguna town. A video footage of the incident shows Aysha Siddika Minni trying in vain to save her husband from the attackers. Police are now treating Minni as a suspect.
In that footage, Rifat Farazi was seen making the first strike with a machete with Rishan holding the vic-tim from behind. Police said the two brothers admitted their involvement in the killing.
Over the last few days, The Daily Star has spoken to at least 15 people who have seen them transform from students into drug abusers and then some sort of gangsters. These people include police officers, journalists, lawyers, political party leaders, townspeople, victims and witnesses of their criminal activities.
Rifat Farazi, elder of the two brothers, completed his SSC from Barguna Zila School and got admitted to Infra Polytechnic Institute in Barishal in 2014. Rishan, who passed SSC from the same school, is a sec-ond-year student at Barguna Govt College.
During his time at the Polytechnic, Rifat started taking drugs resulting in his poor show in exams.
“Rifat Farazi was not regular in class and he used to flunk in exams,” said Amir Hossain, a director at the institute.
His association with Sabbir Hossain Nayan, also known as Nayan Bond, the prime suspect in Rifat Sharif murder, began in 2015, according to his accomplices. (Nayan was killed in a so-called gunfight.)
Rifat Farazi left the institute in 2016 without completing his course after his uncle Delwar Hossain became chairman of the district council.
The Farazi brothers looked after a part of the drug supply network run by Nayan, according to the sources.
They were also involved in mugging and extortion, snatching people’s phone and laptops, according to a local Chhatra League leader. Other sources echoed his claim.
“Rifat snatched at least two dozen phone sets in the last six months from the students living in the hostel of Barguna Government College,” said the Chhatra League leader.
“They returned the phones only after getting money from the students,” he added.
“REIGN OF TERROR”
Except for a police officer, now posted in a different district, and a local ward councillor, none of the 15 plus people The Daily Star spoke to would go on record, an indication how they fear reprisal. They said the patrons of the two brothers were politically influential, but would not give any name.
In October last year, just two months before the national elections, a local man found himself in trouble after he lodged a complaint against Rifat Farazi for “demanding extortion money”.
“Police had detained him after I informed them about the matter. But he managed to get out within hours and then started threatening me. I could not come out of my home for a few days,” he said.
“I doubt the brothers will face punishment in the Rifat killing case. If they come out on bail, they would be more ferocious,” he said.
About three years ago, Rifat Farazi attacked the house of Delwar Hossain, a sub-inspector of Barguna Police Station at the time, on DKP Road in the town.
“Once my family members asked Rifat and his followers not to loiter around my house as they would take drugs openly,” said Delwar, now posted in Jhalakathi.
“Rifat attacked my house with a machete and damaged the door. Police had arrested him, but he was freed soon on bail,” he said.
A businessman in the College Street area said, “The two brothers, along with Nayan Bond, created a reign of terror in the town. Everyone is afraid of them. We don’t feel safe even after their arrest as we know they will get bail. They have some influential leaders to have their back.”
Faruk Sikder, a councillor of Ward-8 of Barguna municipality, shares this view.
“An influential leader has been patronising them for their criminal activities,” he said, but declined to name the leader.
Locals and police sources said they used to get backing from their uncle Delwar, also former Awami League MP from Barguna-1.
Multiple police officials said Delwar would intervene every time police detained the two brothers.
Two days before the killing, Rifat Sharif had a heated exchange with Rifat Farazi about returning a cell-phone that Rifat Sharif had snatched from a man. At one stage of the altercation, Rifat Sharif used of-fensive language referring to Rifat Farazi’s parents, a top police official said, citing Rifat Farazi’s state-ment during interrogation.
“For this reason, Rifat Farazi was demanding an answer from Rifat Sharif during the attack,” said the of-ficial, asking not to be named.
Delwar said he never requested police to free them from custody.
He said they were only in touch with Rishan, younger of the two brothers, for the last couple of years.
“I even asked Rifat not to visit my home for his criminal activities,” he said.
Barguna Police Superintendent Maruf Hossain said he was new to the post and could not say why police failed to take stronger actions against them all these years.
CASES AGAINST THEM
Rifat Farazi faced his first attempted murder charges in 2015, but subsequent investigation did not find his link to the murder and was cleared of the charges, according to police records.
Of the four other cases filed against him between 2017 and 2018, police pressed charges against him in one. But police never arrested him in that case.
Family members and locals said Rifat brought his younger brother Rishan into “his world”.
In 2017, Rishan was charged with an attempted murder, and police named him as an accused in the charge sheet. He too was never arrested in this case, records show.