Relatives search at prisons for persons ‘missing’ since their arrests

Some of the relatives of arrested people read the lists pasted outside the jailProthom Alo

A list of the persons, who have been imprisoned recently, has been hung on the wall of the waiting room on the eastern side of the Dhaka Central Jail in Keraniganj. There was a little crowd there checking on the list looking for the names of their sons or brothers or husbands, who had been arrested in different political cases, their relatives claim.

They say some of them were arrested from the rally venues, some were arrested from homes. Finding no trace of the persons since their arrests, they came to the central jail to check the list of the detainees.

The law enforcement agencies are conducting drives across the country, including Dhaka and adjacent areas, centering the programmes of de facto opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) demanding the resignation of the government. A number of political activists are being arrested in these drives every day. It has increased the pressure of prisoners at the central jail. The jail authority is struggling to cope with pressure.

According to the sources in the authority, the central jail has a capacity of accommodating 4,590 prisoners. However, there are more than 10,000 prisoners at the central jail now, which is more than double the capacity. Most of these prisoners are accused in different political cases. To tackle the situation, the jail authority is shifting some prisoners to the three newly constructed buildings for male prisoners at Kashimpur jail.

Ratna Begum, a resident of Mirpur-7 area in the capital, was checking the list of the prisoners. Speaking to this correspondent, she said, “My son Asif runs a water filter business. He is involved with Jubo Dal’s politics. Members of Shah Ali police station detained him from home a week ago. There has been no trace of him since then.”

“Finding no other way, I came here looking for my son. However, he is not here either. The prison guards said he might have been transferred to Kashimpur Jail. They told me to go there,” she added.

Awlad Hossain was looking for his brother Nur Islam’s name in the list. He said, “Members of Dohar police station arrested my brother on 30 October. He has been missing since then. I came here after checking the police station and the court. He is not here either. I don’t know where to go now.

Homemaker Bokul Akter of the Jurain area in the capital was looking for her husband Delowar Hossain. She said, “Policemen from Kadamtali police station detained my husband from home at night on 3 November. I have had no contact with him since then. Now I am moving from court to prison one after another with my 18-month-old daughter.”

On condition of anonymity, a prison official said that they are struggling to deal with the pressure of accommodating such a large number of prisoners at once. The issue has been brought to the attention of the higher authorities. Each of the cells is completely crammed with prisoners.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, prison guard Aktaj Mia said, “I am showing the list of new prisoners to the people coming here looking for their relatives. A number of people have been coming here from different areas every day in search of people, to check whether their family members have been kept here after arrest. It’s hard to tackle such a huge crowd.”

Senior jail superintendent of Dhaka Central Jail, Subhash Kumar said they have a capacity of accommodating 4,590 prisoners. However, there are more than 10,000 prisoners at the central jail at the moment. Therefore, they have started shifting some prisoners to the new buildings constructed at the Kashimpur central jail.