Two months after being picked up allegedly by law enforcement agencies in Dhaka, Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s joint secretary general Salah Uddin Ahmed was found alive in a government-owned mental hospital at Shillong in the Indian state of Meghalaya, his wife said after talking to him by phone Tuesday.
Meghalaya police confirmed his presence there but told New Age he was found in a ‘different circumstance.’
‘I am alive and well,’ Salahuddin Ahmed was quoted by his wife Hasina Ahmed as saying while talking with her over phone between 11:00am and 12:00noon on Tuesday.
Talking to reporters at Salah Uddin’s residence at Gulshan in the capital in the afternoon, Hasina said her husband had urged her to take immediate step to bring him home from Meghalaya Institute of Mental Health and Neurological Science in Shillong.
She said she had received a phone call from the authority of MIMHNS in Shillong who told her that her husband Salah Uddin Ahmed wanted to talk with her and she talked with Salah Uddin.
Hasina Ahmed said Salah Uddin had told her to let the party about his whereabouts and inform ‘Madam’ (BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia) that he was alive.
‘It is cold here and I have no clothes,’ Salah Uddin was quoted by her wife as telling her.
In reply to a question, Hasina Ahmed said she had applied for Indian visa to visit her husband and she would go to Meghalaya as soon as the visa was available.
She said she along with two of her relatives would fly to Meghalaya.
Hasina Ahmed, who met with Khaleda Zia at the latter’s residence soon after talking with Salah Uddin, said the BNP chairperson had asked her to take immediate steps to go to Meghalaya and assured her that she would do wherever was necessary so that Hasina quickly got the visa.
Hasina Ahmed said that she along with a number of her family members had already applied for Indian visa and would fly as early as possible.
Asked when and how her husband went to India, Hasina Ahmed told New Age, ‘I do not want to know at the moment what happened to him in the last two months… I want my husband back alive.’
She was not sure whether her husband was arrested for illegally crossing into India since she had submitted his (Salah Uddin) passport along with the application for visas.
The Indian high commissioner in Dhaka, Pankaj Saran, meanwhile, said the BNP were inquiring about the authenticity of the news on Salah Uddin that he was ‘languishing’ in a hospital in Meghalaya.
‘We are looking into the matter,’ Pankaj told reporters during a meeting at Bangladesh secretariat.
Asked whether Salah Uddin was arrested, the Meghalaya police additional director general (CID/SB), SK Jain told New Age on Tuesday evening, ‘We found him in a different circumstance.’
Meghalaya police officials said that Salah Uddin Ahmed was detained by a police patrol on Monday morning in Golf Link area after local people had alerted the police to the ‘suspicious movement’ of a man in the area.
East Khasi Hills district police superintendent Mariahom Kharkrang told New Age, ‘We have detained him on charge of intrusion.’
‘He is fine now,’ Kharkrang said, adding, ‘He will be taken to jail when the hospital releases him.’
Kharkrang said they had taken Salah Uddin to the Shillong Civil Hospital for check-up and later he was referred to the MIMHANS.
MIMHANS officials said Salah Uddin was brought by the police to the mental hospital around 11:30am on Monday.
‘Yes, I am Salah Uddin Ahmed, a BNP leader. I was kidnapped by a group of unidentified people from Uttara and I don’t know how I landed here [Shillong],’ Salah Uddin said, according to Yahoo News India.
Leaders of BNP on Tuesday termed ‘big and happy news’ that Salah Uddin had been found alive finally and demanded that the government publish a ‘whitepaper’ on the entire episode leading to his appearance in the Indian state of Meghalaya.
The BNP leaders came up with the remarks when asked about ruling Awami League presidium member Mohammad Nasim’s comments that it had been proved that BNP had spread falsehood in the past two months over the Salah Uddin episode after his telephone conversations with his wife.
BNP standing committee member Mahbubur Rahman told New Age that Salah Uddin’s wife and the people wanted to know who had taken Salah Uddin to Meghalaya, how and why they did it and how he was found in a mental hospital there.
He said that ‘taking Salah Uddin to a foreign country’ by illegally crossing the border was an international crime. He said he thought there was a ‘deep conspiracy’ over the matter.
The whereabouts of Salah Uddin was disclosed two days after BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia on Sunday renewed her demand for his safe return and blamed law enforcement agencies for his ‘abduction’.
Salah Uddin, who had been appointed spokesperson of the party six weeks earlier, has not been seen in public for nearly two months since he was ‘picked up’ from a house at Uttara on the night of 10 March 2015.
Salah Uddin was picked up allegedly by some persons identifying themselves as members of ‘Detective Branch’ from house 49/B on road 13/B at Uttara 3 in the capital.
According to Meghalaya government website the hospital where Salah Uddin was staying was located on Pasteur Hills, Lawmali in Shillong, which could be reached by crossing the border in Sylhet.
The inspector general of police, AKM Shahidul Hoque, on Tuesday told reporters at his office that they were investigating how Salah Uddin had fled to India.
The police had searched for the BNP leaders since he was made an accused in subversive cases.
‘His presence in India and talks with his wife proves that law enforcement agencies did not arrest the BNP leader,’ Shahidul said.
After Salah Uddin’s appearance in Meghalaya, the Bangladesh police formed a probe committee but refused to disclose at the moment what information they had gathered so far.
Investigation by New Age has found that the First Security Islami Bank provides a crucial link between a sequence of raids and arrests by RAB that finally resulted in the BNP politician being picked up, just over 48 hours later on 10 March, from a flat at Uttara where one of the bank’s deputy managing directors lived.
RAB raided the Bank’s headquarters on 8 March due to Salah Uddin’s ownership of the building.
At the time he went missing, the caretaker of the building told journalists that ‘Detective Branch officers’ had taken Salah Uddin ‘blindfolded’ from the first floor flat and put him into a vehicle waiting outside.
Local guards and security officers also confirmed RAB vehicles were seen that night in the vicinity of the building, and that its officers had sought the location of the house where Salah Uddin was residing.
RAB 1 commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Tuhin Mohammad Masud had told New Age at that time that it had been searching for Salah Uddin from before 10 March 2015 and was still searching.
Khaleda Zia had told the media on May 10, ‘We have information it was RAB members who had picked Salah Uddin up and he’s in their custody. I would ask them to return Salah Uddin to his family or put him back right there from where you picked him up.’
Salah Uddin Ahmed in India – the three things to know
According to media reports, the Police in Meghalaya say they arrested Salah Uddin Ahmed from Golf Links in capital Shillong late on Monday, that he was hospitalised and that it appeared to be a case of illegal trespass into Indian territory without valid travel documents.
So what do we make of this? Here are three initials things to know.
First of all this is very similar to what happened to Sukhranjan Bali.
Bali was a witness at the International Crimes Tribunal who was picked up on 5 February 2012, from outside the International Crimes Tribunal on the morning he hoped to give evidence on behalf of Delwar Hossain Sayedee. His defense lawyers claimed at the time that law enforcement officials who introduced themselves as from the detective branch took him.
Seven months later, New Age revealed that he was detained in an Indian jail. In a statement he gave from the jail which was reported in the paper, he said that he was picked up and kept for six weeks in a place that he thought was a detective branch office when he was then driven to the border of India and pushed over from where he was arrested for illegal entry. The article reads:
Bali’s statement goes on to state that having been kept by Bangladesh law enforcing agencies for about six weeks, on December 23, 2012 he was blindfolded and taken by the Bangladesh police to the border and handed him over to India’s Border Security Force.
“They stopped the car in Magura at a hotel to provide me with food. They removed the blindfold and I found out that I was brought there in a private car. After I finished my meal, I was again blindfolded and we were driving again and they finally handed me over to the BSF about 5:00pm and then they left,” he says in his statement.
Bali says that he was harshly treated by the Border Security Force.
It seems that that the law enforcement authorities have used a similar modus operandi in this case.
Secondly, I doubt that we will know the truth about what happened to Salah Uddin whilst the Awami League is in power.
Though there can be no doubt that on 10 March Salah Uddin was taken by anyone other than the law enforcement authorities, pieces of the jigsaw remain missing – and it seems unlikely that Salah Uddin himself will will speak publicly. His wife said today that all she is concerned is that he is alive, and I am sure that there is an implicit/explicit deal that Salah Uddin has been allowed to live as long as he does not speak publicly about what happened to him. Moreover, of course, he may well find himself holed up in an Indian jail for sometime (on charges of illegal entry), with the prospect if he is sent back to Bangladesh he will be arrested on various cases against him.
And thirdly, this is how government’s get away time and again with these kinds of abduction. Fear. Along of course with supine human rights organizations, a quiescent civil society and a silent and compromised international community.