Brahmanbaria violence: Confusion over death toll

Violence in Brahmanbaria. The photo was taken from Mother Gorha area in the city on 26 March, 2021
Prothom Alo file photo

Ashiqul Islam, 32, used to work in a schoolbag factory in the capital’s Rayerbagh area. Two months ago, he went back to his village in Brahmanbaria as he lost his job. Ashiqul was desperately looking for a job.

Meanwhile, on the morning of 28 March, he went to the nearby Poirtala bus stand to picket in support of the strike called by Hefazat-e- Islam. Then his family received the news around 12:00pm that he had been shot dead.

Speaking to Prothom Alo at her house on Sunday, Ashiqul's mother Shamsun Nahar said that the bullet hit Ashiqul in the head. The people around him said the police fired at him.

Ashiqul is among those who were killed in the violence that took place in Brahmanbaria from 26 to 28 March. According to the government, some 13 people lost their lives at the time. However, Ashiqul's name was not on the official list. His name appeared on the list of the deceased drawn up by Hefazat-e-Islam. They claim that 15 people have died, including Ashiqul. The names of 12 among them are on the official list too. But names of three deceased are not included on the list made by the government. Again, the name of Nurul Islam, 22, one of the deceased according to the official list, did not appear in the list made by Hefazat.

The question is whether the number of the deceased is 13 or 15 or 16. Of the 15 people listed by Hefazat, names of six were found in the death certificates and register of the surgery unit of Brahmanbaria General Hospital. They are - Badal Mia, 28, Jahirul Islam, 40, Kawsar Ahmed, 22, Al Amin, 19, Md Zubayer (12) and Kawsar Ahmed (20). The medical certificate states that the last three were shot dead.

Apart from this, two of the injured were taken to Dhaka and Cumilla Medical College. After their deaths, their bodies were taken for autopsy. They were identified as Abdullah Ratin, 15, and Kamal Mia, 21.

These reporters spoke with the families of the other seven. They confirmed the death of those seven.

Confusion over the government list

The list of the deceased sent by the field level administration to the home ministry includes the names, addresses and professions of 13 people. According to the “list of names of the deceased members of Hefazat engaged in destructive activities”, the people who lost their lives in these three days are - mason Md Ashik, 20, CNG auto-rickshaw driver Jor Alam, 40, CNG auto-rickshaw driver Sujan, 20, plastic factory worker Badal, 28, raw material trader Kausar, 30, Darul Arkam Madrassa’s former student Md Jobayer, 14, Jamia Yunisia Madrassa’s student of last year Mohammad Hossain, 27, Sarail Pathanpara Hafizia Madrassa’s former student Md Alamin, 19, rickshaw puller Liton, 30, worker Kamaluddin, 32, Tablig Jamaat member Kalon Mia, 40, clothing store employee Md Ratim, 22 and worker Nurul Amin, 22.

However, five names on the official list of the deceased are not accurate. According to the family members, the actual names of Jor Alam, Sujan, Mohammad Hussain, Kamaluddin and Md Ratim are Zahirul Islam, Hafez Kausar Ahmed, Hussain Mohammad, Kamal Mia and Abdullah Ratin respectively.

According to the official list, deceased Nurul Alam is from Nandanpur area in Brahmanbaria and his father’s name is Madu Mia. Based on this information, Prothom Alo contacted five residents of Nandanpur and the local UP chairman. They said they had not heard of anyone named Nurul Amin of the area being killed in the violence. Brahmanbaria Sadar police station’s officer-in-charge (OC) Abdur Rahim also said that they did not have any information about Nurul Amin either.

Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan told Prothom Alo on Monday that the list was based on the information from Brahmanbaria district police and district special branch. Each of them died in the clashes.

However, officer-in-charge (DIO-1) of the special branch of Brahmanbaria police, Imtiaz Ahmed told Prothom Alo that he did not know who made the list and how.

Those who are excluded from the official list

Of the 13 people on the government's list, except Nurul Amin, the names of the 12 deceased are also on the list by Hefazat-e-Islam. Names of Moshahid Mia, 18, Md Ashiqul Islam, 32, and Md Faisal, 17, were not in the in the government's list. But they were mentioned in the list made by Hefazat.

Among the listed, Moshahid lived in Shimrailkandi area in Brahmanbaria city. Prothom Alo spoke to his father Nur Alam. He said, a clash broke out between Chhatra League and the students of Jamia Yunusia Madrassa and upon getting the news Moshahid went there. He was shot in the abdomen around 7.30pm. Members of the law enforcement agencies fired at him. He died in the ambulance in Narayanganj on the way to Dhaka.

While visiting Ashiqul’s house in Gokarna Ghat area on the same day, his mother claimed his son to be a martyr. She does not want to lodge a case in this regard.

Deceased Faisal’s elder brother Anar Mia said over the phone that Faisal used to work in a tailor shop. On 26 March, Faisal was caught up in a chase between the law enforcers and madrassa students in Nandanpur. Faisal was shot dead by police after Asr prayers.

These correspondents contacted the families of 15 among the deceased. The families said they had been shot dead. In case of murder, conflict, accident or untimely death, a case is usually lodged by the family members or the police. If the family does not, then police file a case of unnatural death. But no case has been registered against any of the victims of the violence in Brahmanbaria.

Police superintendent (SP) of Brahmanbaria Anisur Rahman refused to comment when asked about this. Officer-in-charge (OC) of Brahmanbaria Sadar police station, Abdur Rahim told Prothom Alo that they had no information about the deceased persons. No one came to file a case either.

General secretary of Shushasoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan) of Brahmanbaria, AKM Shibli said, "No death is warranted. Neither the violent movement of Hefazat-e-Islam, nor the shooting is justifiable."

*This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu