Death relieves his pain
Monir, the 14-year-old boy set on fire by pickets during the opposition's hartal on Monday, has gone beyond all pains and sufferings.
He died an agonising death at Dhaka Medical College Hospital before daybreak yesterday.
For most of his stay in hospital, the fifth grader was conscious and groaning with pain.
The skin all over his body erupted in blisters, and every breath he took was with racking pain as his
respiratory tract was burned.
Doctors all along said it would be impossible to save the boy who had suffered severe burns over 95 percent of his body.
Monir's father Ramjan Ali had brought him to Dhaka on his repeated pleas to be allowed to see the city he had never been to.
Pro-hartal rowdies torched Ramjan's covered van with the boy inside at Gazipur Chowrasta on the first day of the BNP-led 18-party alliance's 60-hour shutdown.
Ramjan kept a constant vigil by his son's bed at the burn unit of the DMCH.
He said, "Just the night before his death, Monir kept begging me to take him home.
"He slept only for a few hours and woke up around 3:50am. As I was making some juice for him, he suddenly started twitching and jerking, his face contorted in pain. He tried to pull his tubes out, wanted to jump out of the bed and kept crying. I calmed him down, and he laid his head against my chest.
“Moments later, his body went limp. I knew he was gone."
Ramjan had previously lost two children, one in a road accident and the other in infancy.
Monir's mother Minuara had just a glimpse of her son at the DMCH on Tuesday night. She fainted as soon as she saw him and was not allowed near Monir anymore.
Back home in Gazipur, family members and loved ones were fuming with anger when the boy was brought dead yesterday afternoon, our correspondent reported.
Thousands of people attended Monir's namaz-e-janaza. Sunk in gloom, many were heard asking, "What do we do with the politics that takes away our children?"
The mother kept fainting, unable to bear the pain.
Whenever she came to her senses, she wailed, "I wanted my son to be an engineer one day … Who will bring my child back to me? Those who burnt my son alive must be hanged.”
The day Monir was fatally burned, The Daily Star asked BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir why the opposition was indulging in violence in the streets.
He replied they enforce hartal not out of joy, but to ensure people's voting rights. "We don't have any alternative."
Contacted again after Monir's death, he said the case filed in this connection was false.
He added, "None affiliated with the party [BNP] has done this. I know that government agents are responsible for Monir's death."
Shawkat Hossain Babu, leader of Gazipur Jubo Dal, a pro-BNP youth organisation, and 83 others are accused in the case, filed with Joydevpur Police Station in Gazipur on Tuesday.
Police arrested 12, but prime accused Shawkat was yet to be caught.
Ruling Awami League stalwart Tofail Ahmed, who spoke about Monir in parliament on Tuesday, told The Daily Star yesterday, "The way he died is heartrending. I have no words to condemn this. It's difficult to fathom how the mother must be feeling now … who can console her?"
He went on, "Khaleda Zia is a mother too. Does she not feel anything when these happen? Is this politics? Hartal supporters have killed him, but the opposition is now refusing to take responsibility. They must shoulder the responsibility for such violent hartals. Hartal is a political programme … it's not a licence to kill."
Monir is among the 76 children affected in hartals so far this year. Of them, two others have died, while many have been blinded or crippled for life.
Nadia Sultana, a nine-year-old of Gazipur, was crushed to death by a bus while running away from picketers chasing her during a Jamaat-enforced hartal in July.
During Jamaat's hartal in March, a class-eight student named Junaidul Islam was standing in the balcony of his home in Kamalapur when a stray bullet fired by police upon rioting picketers killed him.
In another incident, 60 children in Lalmonirhat were beaten up by pro-hartal activists during a BNP hartal on March 25 this year. The reason was they had dared to come to school during a hartal that did not concern them in any way. Their school was vandalised, and three of their teachers were beaten up as well.
AS Mahmood, director-in-charge of Bangladesh Shishu Odhikar Forum, told The Daily Star that all political parties must pledge in their election manifestos that they would shun hartal violence and keep children out of political programmes.