Rupganj males on the run
No male other than very elderly and children in Rupganj and Kayetpara unions of Narayanganj are staying home at night fearing arrest, as police and Rapid Action Battalion filed separate cases accusing 3,000 to 4,000 local residents following Saturday's clashes between the law enforcers and villagers.
The men in hiding number in several thousand. Even some women of the villages went into the nearby swamps on Sunday night to hide from the law enforcers.
Visiting the unions yesterday, The Daily Star correspondents found most shops and other business establishments in the villages shut, while a small number of villagers were hanging around on roads.
In addition to a case filed by police, Rab filed a case on Sunday night accusing 3,000 to 4,000 unknown people on charge of attacking the elite force members during the clashes.
Sub-inspector Yasin Miah, of Adamji Camp of Rab-11, filed the case with Rupganj Police Station, said Forkan Sikder, officer-in-charge (OC) of the station.
More than 50 villagers and law enforcers were injured during the clashes sparked by a mass protest against forced purchase of land by army officers for their private housing scheme in 24 mouzas of Rupganj and Kayetpara unions.
Family members of three missing villagers were still searching for their loved ones, who had gone missing since they had joined the protest.
However, there was no arrest yet in the two cases. Additional police including Armed Police Battalion were deployed in the area.
Police were also deployed near the four army camps which had been vacated by the force's personnel during Saturday's clashes.
Narayanganj Superintendent of Police (SP) Biswas Afzal Hossain told reporters at Rupganj Police Station yesterday that they are investigating the incident, and will not arrest anybody without specific charge.
Panic was intense among the villagers as the area was rife with rumours of fresh deaths of wounded villagers being treated in different hospitals in the capital, possible imposition of section 144 in the area, and police raids.
Mizanur Rahman, a micro finance programme officer of Brac, said he visited 90 houses in Tanmoushuri, Namamoushuri, Pitolganj, and Bhoktobari under Rupganj union yesterday to collect loan repayment instalments, but could not collect anything as no male was present in the houses.
"Women of the houses informed me that the males had left on Sunday night," he said.
A number of villagers also said most of the males did not stay in their homes Sunday night.
They left their houses before sunset, and took shelters in relatives' homes in nearby unions. Some of them spent the night on boats in nearby swamps.
"How can we be sure enough that we will not be arrested, as cases have been filed against more than three thousand unidentified people," said Arifur Rahman, 35, of Moushuri village.
"Peace in the area and relief among the villagers will not be restored unless the government comes up with a solution to the existing crisis," he added.
Rina Begum, 60, of Horinanodir Par village under Kayetpara union said her four sons left home around 8:00pm on Sunday, and passed the whole night on a boat in a nearby swamp.
"I could not sleep the whole night, thinking what would happen to my sons," she added.
Motaleb Hossain, 60, of South Nobogram under Rupganj union, said, "Though I suffer from asthma, I left my house and stayed with my relatives across the river."
Mazeda, 50, a house-wife in Horinanodir Par village, said she and around 15 of her women neighbours spent two hours in a swamp next to their neighbourhood, submerged in chest-deep water from 10:00pm, when police were patrolling the area.
Numerous men said they do not know when they will be able to start staying at homes at night again.
Family members of two missing young men, Saidul Islam and Masudur Rahman, of Bariasoni village under Rupganj union, are still waiting to know about the fate of their loved ones. They claimed Rab personnel picked up the two after they had been shot.
Shahar Ali, father of Masud said, "I saw Rab men firing at my son and then taking him away with them, I just want my son back."
Masud's wife did not eat anything since her husband had gone missing. She had to be administered intravenous medical treatment yesterday as she became sick, while their nine-year old daughter Mrittika was running around the house holding her father's photograph to the chest, Sahar Ali added.
Some other villagers near Moushuri Army Camp however expressed resentments about initial media reports that said Rab and police had opened fire on the protesters on Saturday. They claimed army personnel opened fire on the protesters.
The Inter-services Public Relations, in a media statement on Saturday night, said an unruly group of people stormed into the Army Housing Scheme project office, ransacked it, attacked army members and tried to snatch away their arms. All of a sudden, some bullets went off incidentally and left one civilian injured.
"We identified four to five of the accused in the case filed by police in connection with the incident," the OC of Rupganj Police Station said. He however did not disclose the names.
SP Afzal said a general diary was filed with Rupganj police in connection with the death of wounded villager Mostafa Jamal Haider, and they are thinking about filing a case in connection with it, if nobody else files one.