Pulled out dead
The fire service called off its search, but a band of indomitable volunteers were not ready to give up yet. They pressed on with their efforts to rescue little Jihad trapped down an abandoned deep well.
It didn’t take them long to find the four-year-old boy. As they pulled him out, the sight of his motionless body led to heart-rending scenes in the capital’s Shahjahanpur.
Amid absolute bedlam, Jihad was rushed to Dhaka Medical College Hospital where doctors confirmed what had already been feared: he has gone beyond the neglect that pitted him against a pitch-dark death.
The news touched off violent outbursts among the hundreds gathered on the spot.
It all played out on live TV after the volunteers recovered the body from the well using a simple tool within 15 minutes of the fire service boss calling off the search around 2:45pm yesterday.
While millions waited with bated breath, the authorities claimed several times since early morning that none was inside the well.
Proving them wrong, the volunteers recovered the body using a “catcher”, a cage made of iron rods, around 3:00pm, nearly 23 hours after the little boy fell into the abandoned well.
"We tied the catcher to a rope. A camera was also fitted to the cage. When the cage touched the bottom of the shaft, the child’s body got stuck in it. We then slowly pulled the rope," Anwar Hossain, one of the volunteers, told The Daily Star.
The volunteers claimed the body was pulled from a depth of more than 250 feet. It, however, couldn’t be verified from any other sources.
With injury marks on his body, Jihad was taken to the DMCH around 3:40pm. The doctors said the child had died before he was brought there.
The body was identified by victim's father Nasir Fakir, a guard at a local school.
Jihad fell into the 17-inch diameter shaft, around 40 yards from his house, while playing with other children around 4:00pm on Friday.
Fire service personnel employed various techniques, one after another, to pull him out, but failed.
Talking to The Daily Star, Jihad's mother Khadija Begum alleged that the rescuers didn’t carry out the operation wholeheartedly, thinking that her son’s falling into the well was just a rumour.
"My son could have been rescued alive if they [rescuers] had worked sincerely," she said.
Victim’s father Nasir Fakir, who was held in police custody for 12 hours since 3:00am yesterday, said, "Police asked me several times where I had hid my son and what my motive was. They didn’t believe that Jihad really fell into the well."
Fifteen minutes before Jihad was pulled out, Fire Service Director General Brig Gen Ali Ahmed Khan told reporters, "We have decided to suspend the rescue operation as the child’s location couldn’t be identified.
"Experts of different intelligence agencies examined the photos and videos but didn’t find sign of any human body there."
At about 2:45am yesterday, State Minister for Home Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said, "From what we have seen in camera footage, we can say there is none out there."
Talking to reporters around the same time, Abu Sayeed Raihan, joint director of National Security Intelligence, said Jihad’s falling into the shaft could be a “rumour”.
People from all over the capital thronged the scene since morning. They waited anxiously to know the child’s fate as the 23-hour operation went on.
Many were seen crying after Jihad’s body was pulled out.
As the news of the child’s death spread, locals staged demonstrations and chanted slogans against the state minister for home and fire service officials.
They alleged that the child died due to negligence of rescuers, who, according to them, were slow in conducting the operation.
At one stage, angry locals vandalised several establishments.
In a late night development, Jihad’s father filed a case with Shahjahanpur Police Station against Abdus Salam, contractor for installing a deep well, and Jahangir Alam, senior sub-assistant engineer of Bangladesh Railway, for negligence in duty.
The accident was the result of negligence on the part of the contractor and the railway that were supposed to keep the abandoned well sealed but they left it open, said the plaintiff.