• Sunday, Dec 15, 2019
  • Last Update : 02:37 pm

Old, blind, ailing, and guilty

  • Published at 12:54 am February 10th, 2019
71-year-old Shah Ali_Old, blind, ailing, and guilty
71-year-old Shah Ali says he was shocked upon learning he was being accused of hurling a bomb at an Awami League leader’s house before the general election Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

It was no different a day for the court in Dhaka though. Its premises are still abuzz with presence of hundreds of people coming from different districts across the country to seek anticipatory bails in cases filed on charges of attempted ‘subversive activities’ before the 11th national election

The  High Court granted anticipatory bail to 90 accused on Tuesday in a case of alleged bombing in Sirajganj.

It was no different a day for the court in Dhaka though. Its premises are still abuzz with presence of hundreds of people coming from different districts across the country to seek anticipatory bails in cases filed on charges of attempted ‘subversive activities’ before the 11th national election.

But for 71-year-old Shah Ali, a co-accused in the Sirajganj crude bomb case, it was a great deal of an ordeal. Ali, who has long been suffering from night blindness, owns a small-scale peanut trader, apparently having no involvement in partisan politics.

When some of the co-accused informed him of his ‘involvement,’ Ali simply could not believe that he was an accused in a bomb blast case filed with a Sirajganj police station. Shah Ali was accused of hurling a crude bomb at a local Awami League leader’s house in Sirajganj town at 10:50pm on December 26, five days ahead of the last parliamentary polls. His age was mentioned as 55 years in the FIR.

Ali, who came to the High Court with local BNP leaders and activists, who were also accused in the case, told the Dhaka Tribune that he was never involved with any politics. 

“I am a peanut trader. My three sons and I run this business. We buy peanuts from wholesale dealers and sell the same to the vendors,” he said.

Ali has poor vision, wears glasses and normally does not stay outside home after sunset. 

“The place where the bombs were hurled is about four kilometers far from my house,” he said.

The bail seekers, who are mostly affiliated with the BNP and its alliance parties, claimed that most of these are “ghost” cases, with many accused who are elderly, living abroad, injured or invalid, or working in other districts.

Md Asaduzzaman Asad, vice president of Jubo Dal’s Sirajganj unit, who is also an accused in the case, said they were surprised to see Ali’s name in the case statement. He said that 102 people were named accused in the case, along with 30-35 unnamed leaders of BNP, Jamaat and Shibir. Many accused were never involved with politics. 

“I have never seen these people in a political rally,” he said.

After learning about the case, Shah Ali collected the FIR and saw his name at number 77 in the accused persons list. 

“We then decided to take him with us to Dhaka and include his name in the petition for anticipatory bail,” Asad said.

Asad, who claimed the case is a ‘ghost case,’ argued that the procession was brought out in the night. The Awami League leader did not see who were in the procession. Besides, he named some persons who are not even physically ableto join a procession at night.

The story of 45-year-old Abdul Halim, who is also an accused in the same case, is a bit different. BNP’s Kaliaharipur union unit secretary is now under treatment at the National Institute of Neurosciences and Hospital. Doctors have removed a tumor from his head on February 4. He was admitted in that hospital 15 days back. 

His wife Shahida Begum claimed that her husband became sick ten to twelve days before the national polls of December 30. Halim was away from home at least for a month before the election fearing cases and arrest.

“One day he came to my father’s house and asked me to go there. We saw his jaw looking abnormal and he could not speak clearly. He could not move his right hand,” she said.

They took him to a local doctor but could not get admitted to hospital fearing police harassment. He stayed at his father-in-law’s house till the election.

Two days after the polls, when his physical situation worsened, he was admitted to Sirajganj Sadar Hospital and doctors there refereed him to the National Institute of Neurosciences in the capital. 

“It took us time to manage a seat here.”

Still Halim can not move his right hand and has difficulty speaking.

His wife claimed that the place of incident at Hosenpur Uttar at Sadar upazila is seven kilometers from their home. It was not possible for him to go that far. He was named as he was previously accused in some political cases.

“We even could not admit him in the hospital before the polls as BNP Kaliaharipur union unit’s President Anisur Rahman Anis was arrested earlier. We thought, my husband was the cops’ next target,” she said.

Shahida and Halim have three children. The eldest daughter is an HSC examinee. Halim has a small rice business.

In the last few days several media reported on the ghost cases where even visually challenged and man with deformed arms were made accused in cases filed for committing subversive activities ahead of the national polls.  

As example, visually-challenged 70-year-old Keramat Ali came to the HC seeking anticipatory bail in a case filed for setting fire to a motorbike at Banda Goaliya village, Kheruadani union, Muktagaccha under Mymensingh district on December 22, eight days before the polls. Keramat uses to beg for living as he lost his wife, two sons many years back and he can not move without other’s assistance.

In the fourth week of January 45-year-old Tara Mia with a deformed arm came to the High Court, accused of attacking police at Mallikpur Bazar, Sunamganj on December 28, two days before the general election. He was granted six-week anticipatory bail by the High Court.

Prior to the 11th parliamentary election held on December 30, BNP has submitted list of 'ghost cases' filed against its leaders and activists to the Prime Ministers' Office (PMO) and Chief Election Commissioner seeking their in withdrawal of those cases to ensure a level playing field.

Many of those cases, as claimed by BNP as 'false, fabricated, peculiar, baseless, fictitious and politically motivated' includes names of dead, ailing and maimed persons, hajj pilgrims, and persons living abroad.

The party leaders alleged that 90,340 false and ghost cases were filed against its party leaders and activists since 2009 to September 30 last year. 

On December 27, BNP leader Ruhul Kabir Rizvi claimed that over 9,200 of its activists were arrested with 806 ghost cases since the declaration of election schedule on November 8.