Hospital authorities block journalists’ access to Sumon Bepari, who was rescued 13 hours after the launch sank
The apparently ‘miraculous’ survivor from Sunday’s tragic accident on the Buriganga River near Sadarghat was traced down Saturday in a different part of Mitford Hospital from the one he was alleged to have fled on Wednesday.
A family member who has accompanied Sumon Bepari, a fruit-seller in Sadarghat who it was claimed to have survived 13 hours under water before being rescued, refuted that they had ever fled the hospital, or even left cordially.
Rather, they had merely changed buildings within the Mitford complex, said Foysal Ahmed Shakib, who is Sumon’s nephew.
A visit to Sumon’s home address in Abdullapur union of Munshiganj, within Tongibari upazila, presented a very different picture.
There was no shortage of locals there, including Union Parishad Chairman Abdur Rahim Bepari and Sumon’s elder brother Shahajahan, who all said Sumon had indeed returned home on Wednesday, and spent entire Thursday there, before receiving “an urgent call from Dhaka” the next day, following which he went back and got admitted to Mitford Hospital again on Friday night.
Who called Sumon is unknown - it is presumed to have been “higher-ups”.
Whoever it was would seem to exercise influence at Mitford as well. Visiting the hospital on Saturday, UNB’s Keraniganj correspondent was told Sumon is off-limits to journalists. When our correspondent tried to meet Sumon, he was told by Dr Isahak Majumder that “No media man can meet Sumon now. Nor can any doctors speak on his condition.”
These directives too have just been passed down by “the higher-ups”, Dr Majumder confirmed.
“There is a bar on a specific group of people about meeting Sumon at the hospital,” he said, adding that “As doctors, we are also barred from providing any statement in this regard.”
However, UNB managed to talk to Sumon’s nephew Foysal Ahmed Shakib over phone, who said his uncle never fled from the hospital.
“We have been in the hospital throughout, but shifted from building number two to three here,” Shakib added.
However, a number of people in Sumon’s neighbourhood in Abdullapur, Munshiganj claimed that Sumon did come home on Wednesday.
One of them was Abdullahpur UP Chairman Abdur Rahim Bepari, who captured the general skepticism in the village by adding “Allah knows better about how Sumon survived 13 hours in the water.” He insisted that Sumon was home on Wednesday night, but went back and got admitted to the hospital again on Friday.
“The entire issue is a mystery,” he said, adding that “Sumon had no symptoms of having been 13 hours under water.”
Abu Bakar Mridha, a gas cylinder seller of Uttar Paikpara in Abdullahpur, told UNB that “Sumon came to the bazaar on Thursday and spoke with everyone here.”
He was said to be doing well, and Mridha too struggles to understand why Sumon was admitted to hospital again. “It’s mysterious,” he says.
Back in the capital, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) Joint Director AKM Arif Uddin and Sadarghat River Police Station’s officer-in-charge Rezaul Karim Bhuiyan were both dismissive of the media reports regarding their involvement in what many perceive to have been a staged rescue drama.
Sumon can tell better about how he survived for 13 hours under water, they added.
Earlier on June 30 (Thursday night), Syed Kamrul Hasan, duty officer of the control room at Fire Service and Civil Defence headquarters, claimed that “Sumon Bepari, 55, of Abdullapur area under Tongibari thana in Munshiganj, was rescued at around 10:30pm from Buriganga River.”
Since then, he had been undergoing treatment at Sir Salimullah Medical College Mitford Hospital.
However, media reports published on Friday night said that Sumon had fled from hospital two days earlier while receiving treatment after media reports and analysis triggered much debate over his ‘mysterious’ survival incident.
Dhaka-bound ‘MV Morning Bird’ launch from Munshiganj sank at 9:33 am in the river after being hit by another launch ‘Mayur-2’ near Shyambazar in the capital’s old town.
A total of 33 people were killed.