A life of dreams, despairs ends in tragedy
Sultana Jasmine, 41, who died in Rab custody on March 24, had suffered the trauma of domestic violence by her husband in her early life.
But refusing to give in, she chose to fight back for building a new life of dignity for herself and her only son.
While raising her son as a single mother, she also continued her study and acquired her master's degree a year ago.
The Daily Star learnt about Sultana's struggles and dreams during a two-day visit to Naogaon town talking to Sultana's maternal uncle Nazmul Haque Montu, her house owner Delwar Hossain Dulal and her colleagues.
"She [Sultana] was close to fulfilling all her life's plans," Montu said.
Her dreams were cut short when she died in the Rab custody in Rajshahi, two days after her detention on her way to work.
Her death triggered widespread criticisms from rights groups and the High Court questioning Rab's authority to detain her without a case against her.
Fifth among six sisters and a brother, Sultana was married off at the age of 13 in 1995. She was a ninth grader at Naogaon Government Girls High School.
After marriage, she managed to pass her SSC but had to skip a few years to attend her HSC exam because of the birth of her son.
When the boy was seven, the family of three started living in Rajshahi city as her husband, a sales representative of a pharmaceutical company, got transferred.
"It is in Rajshahi, their relations started to deteriorate," Montu said.
She would be often beaten up by her husband, who one day even attempted to suffocate her by pressing a pillow over her face, he claimed.
"Her son saved her life by calling in neighbours [to rescue her] and Sultana went back to her parents in Naogaon."
Three months later, she agreed to live with her husband again, but her son kept running away and crying out loud at the sight of his father, making it impossible for the relationship to continue.
Sultana had to end her 11 years of marriage in 2006.
She got a job as a teacher at Daffodils School in Naogaon town and started raising her son alone renting a house in Chalkdeb Jonokolyanpara area.
In 2008, she got a job of an office assistant at the DC's office.
Later, Sultana worked at different land offices in Sadar and Mohadebpur upazilas in the district before joining Naogaon municipality-Chandipur union land office in 2022.
"As she continued her job and raised her son, she also studied," her house owner Delwar Hossain Dulal said.
She completed her bachelor's degree before 2016 when her son passed SSC.
"She would never deviate from her daily routine," Dulal said.
Every day, she went out for office between 9:00am and 9:30am and return between 6:00pm and 6:30pm.
"I never found her absent at work since I joined eight months ago," said Kazi Rafiul Alam, her boss at the land office.
On holidays, she would study and stay with her son.
She completed her post-graduation in social science from the Open University last year and her son is now a third-year student of fine arts at Chittagong University.
"She used to tell us that her only wish was to see her son established," Dulal said. "Now nobody knows what will happen to him."
Montu said Sultana was to get an upgrade next year while her son was due to complete his university degrees in a few years. "The boy now talks to nobody. He will only give a blank stare if you ask him anything."
Sultana's rented house is locked while her son is staying with a relative.
The woman was also vocal about working women's rights and leader of several professional organisations.
She took charge as the women affair's secretary of Naogaon chapter of Bangladesh 4th Class Government Employees' Association only seven days before her death, said Zahangir Alam, general secretary of the unit.
She was also holding the same position at 11-20 Grade Government Employees' Allied Rights Forum and 17-20 Grade Employees' Association in the last three terms.