Kishore kept in unknown place for 69 hrs, beaten, quizzed about cartoons
Kishore said he was asked questions about the chairman of a private bank as well. They asked him how he knew that businessman, why he made a caricature of him
It was 2 May 2020. Cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore's sleep was broken by the doorbell around 5:30pm. Upon opening the door, an unknown person asked him, "Why aren't you opening the door? Change your ‘lungi’ and were pants and a shirt. You have to come with us.” Cartoonist Kishore jokingly asked the person, “Who are you? Are you taking me for a shoot (filming)?”
Kishore does not know as yet who were these people who picked him up from his house in Kakrail, Dhaka. When these people handed him over to the custody of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) on 5 May, the cartoonist learned that he has been made accused in a lawsuit filed under the Digital Security Act. He is now under arrest. According to the case statement, a team of RAB-3 arrested Kishore from his Kakrail residence at 2:30pm on 5 May. He does not know where he was kept for 69 hours. He alleged that he was tortured physically several times.
Kishore was released on bail from Kashimpur central jail around 11:30am yesterday (Thursday). Prothom Alo talked to him at his lawyer’s chamber in Dhaka before he got admitted to a hospital. He was limping on his way to the lawyer’s chamber from the car. When this correspondent asked how he was, Kishore showed his ear, saying there was pus accumulating there. He also showed his legs bruised with beating. Kishore alleged he did not get proper treatment at jail in the last 10 months. He said the jail super on Tuesday told him to contact a competent physician upon his release in bail.
Kishore broke down and started sobbing about the custodial death of writer Mushtaq, who was also in jail in the same case until his death.
There were three plastic chairs and an exhaust fan there. The room was damp, floor was not smooth. A cold draught was entering the room through the door that was kept ajar. Kishore assumed an air conditioner was running in a room nearby
What exactly happened that day? Who had picked the cartoonist up that day? Kishore told Prothom Alo that there were 16-17 of them. One of them said his name was Jasim. At least four of them had small firearms but no arrest warrant. They started searching his house immediately upon entering. They took possession of Kishore’s mobile phone set and desktop CPU, portable hard disk and all other digital devices and handcuffed him. Then they took him downstairs where six or seven vehicles were stationed. Kishore started shouting at that time. As people started gathering in front of his Kakrail residence, the people masked Kishore with a special cap that covered his face up to his nose and led him to a vehicle. Then they drowned out Kishore’s shouting with loud music.
RAB’s legal and media wing director Lt. Col. Ashik Billah does not agree with this statement of Kishore. He told Prothom Alo that the allegations are completely baseless. An aggrieved person could say anything to defend himself. Cartoonist Kishore was handed over to the court within a specific time-limit. A long time has gone by since the arrest of Kishore in May last year. When such allegations are brought about, these are questionable.
Why are looking so depressed? Have we committed any crime? Stand straight, with a smileMushtaq to Kishore at RAB office
Kishore could not say where that team of unknown people took him. He said there were three plastic chairs and an exhaust fan there. The room was damp, floor was not smooth. A cold draught was entering the room through the door that was kept ajar. Kishore assumed an air conditioner was running in a room nearby. Confused by the strange circumstances, Kishore lay down on the floor. He was taken to another room at the dead of night. There were few people in that room as well. All of them addressed cartoonist Kishore in derogatory way. Asking him to sit on a chair, someone threatened him in English, “I’ll kill you if look behind.” Then they asked him the significance of his cartoons showing them one after another by a projector. At one stage, a bit disgusted Kishore said if they pay him, he will conduct classes on the meaning of cartoons.
When asked which cartoon they specifically objected to, Kishore said, “They found all of my cartoons satirical. I drew a lot of cartoons about coronavirus that time. They showed me a number of cartoons and asked why were these drawn and who are the people those caricatures represent. One of them slapped my ear very hard. For a few minutes I became numb. I realised my ear was bleeding. Then they started hitting my legs with steel-plated stick.”
Kishore thought of writing a book on the contribution of the students of Faujdarhat Cadet College in the Liberation War. Kishore was like a child to the childless couple Mushtaq Ahmed and Lipa Akter
What else did they ask? Kishore said they asked with whom he was in communication with and why. How did he contact Sweden-expatriate journalist Tasnim Khalil, blogger Asif Mahiuddin. They also asked why he told Asif Mahiuddin that the bloggers would come under attack again. To this question, Kishore answered, he felt someone was following him. But his answers did not satisfy the the interrogators.
Kishore said he was asked questions about the chairman of a private bank as well. They asked him how did he know that businessman and why he made a caricature of him.
After being questioned in several phases, he was shifted to the RAB office. He met writer Mushtaq there. Mushtaq Ahmed told him, “Why are looking so depressed? Have we committed any crime? Stand straight, with a smile.” Mushtaq told Kishore that he was given electric shocks. On 6 May morning Kishore and Mushtaq were handed over to Ramna police station. They met Didarul Islam Bhuiyan there.
Regarding this torture, RAB spokesperson Ashik Billah told Prothom Alo, “Medical tests are done to any criminal before handing over to the police. RAB handed over the accused following all the protocol. Why is he saying all this after such a long time? An aggrieved person can say anything.”
Kishore said they were first kept at Keraniganj jail. Later Mushtaq was shifted to Kashimpur High Security unit.
The two met for the last time at the court on 23 February. They planned to visit a base camp of Himalaya if they could get bail.
Kishore thought of writing a book on the contributions of the students of Faujdarhat Cadet College in the Liberation War. Kishore was like a child to the childless couple Mushtaq Ahmed and Lipa Akter.
Kishore learnt the death of Mushtaq Ahmed through a newspaper after around 12 hours, on the morning of 26 February. Both of them were handcuffed at the same time and had hoped to get acquittal together. Mushtaq got 'release' through death.
I had never imagined such a release, Kishore sobbed.
* The report, originally published in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten for English edition by Shameem Reza