I’m not sure who to address this to. Do I address our so-called “defenders of the people” -- police, RAB, SWAT, Army -- or do I talk to the ministers, of home and information and education? Or do I aim these words at the political parties, who constantly shoot blame missiles at each other, hoping to distract us from the real problems? Or do I address our esteemed and honourable prime minister herself?
News of the “arrest” of Tahmid and Hasnat broke about a week ago exactly. It was good news for some of us, who had known Tahmid personally. Some of us had spoken to him, hung out with him, played sports and music with him, heard him make jokes, laughed with him.
And, because he had been missing for so long, with the police’s penchant for being simultaneously incredibly inconsistent and persistently inane with their excuses and explanations, some of us had assumed the worst: Tahmid was dead.
Not the nicest of thoughts. Rumours, of course, persisted of his involvement in the case. Even people in my family asked: “Why else would they keep him for so long?”
It would be dishonest of anyone to suggest that they are absolutely certain of his innocence, and I’m no exception. I wasn’t close to him; I barely knew him, in fact. The last time I saw him, he was hosting a cousin’s engagement party, dressed smartly in a tuxedo.
Who would’ve thunk it, right?
But one could say the same about the others who were involved in the Holey attack. That, in itself, is not the most ridiculous thing to come out of the government’s mouth.
It’s the fact that -- after all these weeks wondering where Tahmid and Hasnat were, with the police saying that they had kept him immediately after the attack, to them changing their tune to say they had released him with the rest of the hostages, to them saying again that they had them -- the police claimed that they had been picked up and arrested.
Picked up, was he? They said that they had arrested him from a house in Baridhara, while they had Hasnat picked up from in front Aarong.
And what had they been doing all this while? Laying eggs and making merry of their newfound freedom? Tahmid’s and Hasnat’s respective families had not heard a single word from either of them.
Would the government, police, DGFI, et cetera, et cetera, like to clarify as to why they hadn’t contacted their families? Or were they just having a good ole time? Or had their families just forgotten to let the rest of their families, or the general public, know that they had gotten their loved one back?
Do the authorities really expect us to buy this? How stupid do they think we are?
Then, came the reports, rumours, news that Hasnat had been the “leader,” that Tahmid was his assistant; some said that they had instigated the attackers.
Then came the photographs of Tahmid, Rohan, and Hasnat, with Tahmid holding a gun in his hands. We conjectured from their body language. His gait seemed to have an aura of confidence, while Hasnat does, in fact, seem to be talking to them as if he’s giving instructions.
No one there, perhaps, quite looks like a hostage. So, who can really blame us? Who can blame the public for changing its mind on Tahmid, as it went from #FreeTahmid to something more sinister?
No one is saying Tahmid is beyond suspicion. But let’s not say with absolute certainty that he had taken up the gun to join the terrorists in their jihad against crusaders. Let’s take our time. Let’s learn to doubt
And, with the fluidity with which news comes forth, with the various number of news outlets, both of and lacking repute, all of it is just information to be consumed and digested.
But, knowing the Bangladeshi political climate as we do, its law enforcements, and the lack of trust we should have, collectively, for everything they say, shouldn’t we be at least a tad bit suspicious of these images?
I won’t say much against the authenticity of the images. For all intents and purposes, the images look as real as images from the incident could.
But we already knew that Tahmid was forced to hold a gun; this is nothing new. Hasnat, because of his ties to Hizb ut-Tahrir previously, one would find it more difficult to make excuses for.
We read about how Tahmid broke down in tears, how the rescuers started to beat him seeing the gun before someone told them that he had been one of the hostages.
And isn’t it worth noting how these images came out as soon as they resurfaced? Where were these images before? And where did these images come from? Who took the photographs?
Let us not, especially in this case, jump the gun as to the innocence and guilt of Tahmid, or Hasnat for that matter. The authorities and their non-linear, plot-hole-ridden narrative isn’t worth buying into.
The fact that they could so obviously lie about their whereabouts during the arrest, when, in fact, it seems, for now, pretty evident that they hadn’t stepped outside, for a second, from the confines of some sort of forced captivity, is suspicious to say the least.
If you must judge how clean and “tip-top” both of them look, you may; it is worth taking note of. They do not look too much worse for wear. But that, too, can have more sinister explanations if one chooses to ponder for more than a millisecond before making a rash judgement call.
No one is saying Tahmid is beyond suspicion. But let’s not say with absolute certainty that he had taken up the gun to join the terrorists in their jihad against crusaders.
Let’s take our time. Let’s learn to doubt. Let’s not make rash judgment calls. Let’s not be as stupid as the government seems to think we are.
SN Rasul is a Sub-Editor at Dhaka Tribune. Follow him @snrasul.