“I can’t even bear to look at the boy’s face. His eye causes him so much . But, I don’t know what to do. I am just a poor father,” Abul Kalam was choking with tears.
He kept silent for a while, cleared his voice, then continued his agonising tale of not being able to arrange for his son’s treatment.
Kamal’s suffering began even more than a year ago. On 7 July last year, 54 workers were killed in the fire incident at Hashem Foods Factory in Narayanganj’s Rupganj.
Police got involved in clashes with the workers and relatives waiting for the bodies to arrive. When police opened fire on them, a stray bullet hit Abul Kalam’s 16-year-old son Shahporan in the left eye.
To save the eye, he underwent surgery at a hospital in the capital, butdidn’t get his eyesight back. Physicians say that there is a possibility of Shahporan regaining his eyesight if the bullet trapped in his eyeball is removed through a second operation.
Shahporan’s father Abul Kalam said, it would take Tk 80 thousand to arrange for another operation. But, he had already borrowed Tk 200,000 for his son’s treatment in the first phase. Sometimes, they starve in their poor household to repay that loan. Since then, Shahporan has been living with a bullet in one of his eyes.
Abul Kalam’s house is in Cumilla’s Debidwar upazila. Along with his family, he moved to Rupganj about one and a half years ago. He lives in a house at Panch Number Canal area for half rent in exchange of working as a caretaker of the house. He somehow manages to run his family by also working as an office assistant in a private company.
During a visit to Shahporan’s rented house recently, it was learnt that they stopped talking to outsiders since Shahporan lost one of his eyes. Influential people of the area have prohibited them, for there is fear of getting entangled in police trouble.
While talking to Shahporan he said he came to the city with his parents, full of dreams, one and a half years ago. He got admitted in the commerce group of Class Nine at a local school. Only four months after that, the terrible fire broke out at Hashem Foods Factory.
His eyes filled with tears while recollecting the memories of that day. Workers were being burnt to death right beside his house. Relatives were howling for the bodies of their loved ones, outside.
Shahporan was walking past the factory gates, towards the mosque for the Jumma prayers. Then a chase and counter chase broke out between the police and the relatives seeking the bodies. And a stray bullet fired by the police hit Shahporan in the eye.
Shahporan said the pain in his eyes got worse recently. However, his parents’ suffering torments him more than his own pain. To express his grief the teenager said, “I never find my father at home. He works day and night. My mother has joined work too. She has fallen sick working so hard. My grandfather died out of grief for me.”
When asked about this, Amir Khasru, Narayanganj additional superintendent of police (crime and operation) said to Prothom Alo, all the bodies were being taken out together on the afternoon of 9 July last year. At that moment, thousands of workers, local residents and some opportunists tried to enter the factory. This was risky and also hampered fire service’s rescue operations. Some even ransacked the factory.
This police official added, “We had then tried to move people to safety. The people got agitated and started throwing stones at the police and fire service men. To bring the situation under control we fired shotguns towards the sky. I am unaware of any teenager losing his eyesight because of this. If it’s true, it was totally unintentional. We’ll investigate the matter.”