How BNP men spend nights to avoid arrest

Several BNP leaders and activists have taken shelter here. The picture was taken from Sayedabad char of Araihazar in Naryanganj on 17 November.Dinar Mahmud

It takes only 10 minutes in dinghy to reach Saidabad char of Araihazar by crossing Meghna from Nagarhati ferry ghat in Sonargaon upazila of Narayanganj. The boatman Sohrab Ali warns, 'there are snakes and jackals'.

After getting off the boat and walking a short distance, there is grassy land and a makeshift house surrounded by trees. Several BNP leaders and activists have taken shelter there. All of them are from the Bardi union of Sonargaon.

Speaking to them, it was learnt that the BNP leaders and activists are fleeing home to avoid arrest. They are hiding in crop fields, river chars and jungles. Some are taking shelter in boats in the middle of the river. Despite hiding in this way, many are unable to escape arrest.

According to the police, over five hundred BNP leaders and activists have been arrested from seven thanas of the district in the last four weeks.

'No one can be trusted'

Matsyajibi Dal convener Selim Hossain alias Dipu is leading the team taking shelter on the Sayedabad char. He was contacted earlier and while visiting on 17 November, it was found there was a makeshift house surrounded by long grass and trees. A polythene sheet was set over the makeshift house to protect them from the rain. A net was also set around the makeshift house to protect from snakes and insects. Bedding has been placed on the straw. Six people are sleeping there. Four are guarding outside. Of these ten, six people are facing multiple cases. The remaining four accused as 'unidentified' are hiding in fear of arrest.

Selim Hossain was not willing to show the location, apprehending that their shelters will be revealed if reports are published in the media. At one stage, he agreed. However, he set conditions that mobile phones cannot be carried. As a reason, he said, now nobody can be trusted.

The leaders and activists, who are on guard, said they left homes one month ago to avoid arrest. A BNP supporter, who is a fisherman, owns this makeshift house. They have been staying there for the last two days. They return to Sonargaon crossing the Meghna so that the people in the locality don't know the matter.

While lighting a mosquito repellent coil, Selim Hossain said they spent four nights in a fishing boat on the Meghna. Earlier, they stayed in a graveyard, a lychee orchard and on the banks of a beel (marsh). They crossed the Meghna and stayed in Cumilla. When a drive was launched for arrests on 17 October, they fled their homes and took shelter in the homes of supporters and relatives. The police started arresting their relatives too. Then they to be fugitives for security.

Hiding in various ways

They have changed their old cell phones and numbers. They have done this so that the police cannot trace them by using technology. Moreover, these people divide in two groups in an interest of security. When a group stands guard, another group takes rest. Besides, the BNP supporters in the locality are asked to remain alert. Information is given when unknown persons are seen in the locality.

Billal Hossain is the president of Sramik Dal of Bardi union. He said he is losing patience.

Disappointed, Billal said, "We are in a helpless situation. Police come in the morning, DB men come in the afternoon. The Awami League men come at night. We cannot stay at home. There are no men now in all our homes. Except death, it seems there is no escape from this inhuman suffering."

Relatives suffer

As we were talking near the makeshift house, Rafiqul Islam woke up. He is general secretary  of ward No 4 of the Bardi union. His brother Ali Asgor is the former chairman of that union. Rafiqul said their relatives are sufferers due to his and his elder brother's political identity. Although they were able to flee home, another two brothers--Safar Ali, 65, and Anwarul Islam, 60, and nephew Ziaul have been arrested. They are in jail.

Rafiqul said his brother and nephew have no other political identity rather than voting for BNP. They were sent to jail as unidentified accused after arresting them in old fictitious cases.

He said relatives of BNP leaders and activists are suffering. Although the men among their relatives don't do politics, they fled home in fear of arrest while the other family members are facing financial crisis and other crises.

Allegations of attacks, vandalism and looting

Like these leaders and activists of Sonargaon upazila, many BNP leaders and activists in the district are passing fugitives. Former district Chhatra Dal president Shafiqul is one of them. With some followers he went out of the district on 22 October, he returned to the locality on 3 November. Since then 30 people led by Bhulta ward No 4 Jubo Dal general secretary Faruk Hossain started spending nights in the graveyard of the locality. A group of people of the ruling party carried out attacks with local arms and set their makeshift house and belongings on fire.

Speaking over the phone on Wednesday, Shafiqul Islam said he along with 10 others are hiding in a place in Dhaka. The means of earning has been stopped as they are fugitives for long. Now family members are going through hardship. Shafiqul claimed around 200 Jubo Dal leaders and activists of Bhulta union fled home.

There are allegations that the homes of BNP leaders and activists are attacked and looted.

According to BNP leaders and activists, the homes of 63 BNP leaders and activists were attacked and looted in the last four weeks. In some cases, female members have been beaten up.

BNP alleged local leaders and activists of Awami League and front organisations carried out these attacks.

According to BNP leaders and activists who are on the run, BNP will form the government through the movement. Then they will not need to flee. They will get rid of politically-motivated cases.