‘Give back our loved ones’
Six-year-old Siyam stood in front of the Jatiya Press Club with his mother yesterday, showing everyone a photo of his father and pleading, "Release my father."
His father Abul Kalam, 35, was arrested on November 17 from their Mirpur house as part of the police crackdown on opposition BNP.
Kalam is a former general secretary of Swechchhasebak Dal, a pro-BNP organisation, in the capital's Mirpur-6.
"I want to see my father," he said, and sobbed hard.
Siyam's mother Ruma Akter said she is clueless as to why police arrested her husband.
"I went to see him in jail three days ago. He said police tortured him in custody. He is sick," she said.
Like Siyam and his mother, more than 70 relatives, mostly women, of recently detained BNP leaders and activists joined the human chain. The event was organised under a newly formed platform named Rajbondider Swajan, meaning relatives of political prisoners.
Many family members held pictures of their loved ones at the demonstration from 10:30am-1:00pm.
Organisers said at least 17,010 BNP leaders and activists have been arrested in 435 cases across the country since October 24.
At least 88 of them are central and top-level leaders of different wings and district units of BNP, they said.
The arrestees include BNP leaders Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, Mirza Abbas, Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, Shahjahan Omar, Air Vice Marshal (retd) Altaf Hossain Chowdhury, Shamsuzzaman Dudu, Abdus Salam Pintu and Amanullah Aman.
Family members of the detained leaders shared their ordeals, and called for the unconditional release of their loved ones.
Ety Akter, a homemaker in her 30s, come from the capital's Kamrangirchar to join the programme.
"My 15-year-old daughter, a ninth grader, had an exam this morning. She cried a lot before going to the exam hall as she couldn't see her father," she told The Daily Star.
On October 15, police arrested her husband, Hasan Mia, from his shop. A BNP supporter, Hasan has been in Keraniganj jail since, she said.
BNP leader Moniruzzaman's wife Sayeela Jesmin alleged police broke open the door of their house and took away her husband.
"He is a freedom fighter... I don't know what is going on," she said, adding that they were not even allowed to meet him in prison.
Afroza Abbas, wife of detained BNP Standing Committee Member Mirza Abbas and also president of Jatiyatabadi Mohila Dal, chaired the programme.
She read out the list of the detained BNP leaders and demanded their release.
Leaders of some like-minded parties expressed solidarity with the family members at the programme amid huge police presence.
The demonstrators wanted to submit a memorandum to the chief justice seeking release of the arrested BNP leaders and activities, but they were barred by police.
Later, they sent the memorandum to the chief justice by a courier service.