On the night of 11 March, Imtiaz Hossain Sabbir, a 24 years old MBA student of a private university in Chattogram, went missing. The following day, Sabbir's father, Shahab Mia, filed a missing person's diary with the city's Chandgaon police station.
On 14 March, Sabbir's family found out from the investigating officer on the case that Sabbir had been picked up by the Detective Branch of police and taken to Dhaka.
In search of his son, Shahab Mia journeyed to the capital city. "I came to Dhaka this morning (20 March). I do not know where he [Sabbir] is now," he said.
Sabbir's case is not an exception. On the night of 11 March, four youths reportedly went missing from Chattogram city. They are Imtiaz Hossain Sabbir, 24, Fahad bin Newaz, 26, Borhan, 40, and Masud Hossain, 36.
On 12 March, three separate missing diaries were filed with Panchlaish and Chandgaon police stations in the city. For each case, investigating officers commenced investigations and collected CCTV footage of possible sites of disappearances.
On 14 March, parties concerned were informed that the four individuals had been arrested in a case filed under the Digital Security Act with the Paltan police station in the capital.
Shivendra Dhali, sub-inspector of the cyber and special crime department of the police, told The Business Standard that Kamruzzaman, an inspector in the same department of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, filed a case with the Paltan police station in the capital against the four youths on 23 February. Kamruzzaman's filing implicates the youths under the Digital Security Act.
The case documents state that the youths were arrested from RS Road near Reyazuddin Bazar of Kotwali police station in Chattogram on 13 March at 9pm. The following day, they were handed over to the court. They are currently in jail .
But the families of the victims claim that the four men were arrested in the early night of 11 March from different areas. And 48 hours lapsed before the families were even informed about the arrests. The families had no knowledge about their whereabouts for two days between 11 and 13 March.
One of the four youths, Masud Hossain's uncle, Mamun, said, "On 11 March, at around 10pm, Masud left his Agrabad office and came to the Chevron Diagnostic Center in Panchlaish police station area of the city. From that point onward, his mobile phone was found to be switched off."
Sub-Inspector Imam of Panchlaish police station collected all the CCTV footage in the area. "After reviewing the footage, I can rest assured that Masud was arrested from the Chawkbazar area on the night of 11 March," he said.
Meanwhile, Chandgaon police station SI Kauser said, "After analyzing the CCTV footage of Chandgaon police residential area, some people were seen stationed in front of Imtiaz Hossain Sabbir's house around 12:30am on 11 March. Fahad bin Newaz, one of the four missing youths, was also seen there. Later, we came to know that the DB police arrested them and took them away."
Chandgaon and Panchlaish police station OCs Mostafizur Rahman and Abul Kashem Bhuiyan said missing diaries for Imtiaz Hossain, Masud Hossain and Fahad bin Newaz were filed with their police stations, but they were left in the dark regarding the arrests by the DB.
OC Abul Kashem commented, "Everyone needs to work according to the rule of law."
Advocate Zia Uddin, general secretary of the Chattogram District Bar Association, said, "If an arrest is made of a suspect, the police station concerned has to be informed. This is the law. Now if the DB or RAB comes from Dhaka and picks up someone without informing the police station, then that is a kind of crime."
There had been a similar missing case in Chattogram prior to 11 March.
Yasin Haque, 25, a news correspondent for an online portal called the Passenger Voice, went missing from the Bayezid Bostami police station area of Chattogram on 9 March. Senior officials of the Chattogram Metropolitan Police were immediately informed about the disappearance by the media.
The CMP could not officially comment on the incident. But on 14 March, Shamsuddin Chowdhury, the editor of the online portal, said Yasin Haque had been arrested by members of the Dhaka Metro CID. He has been charged for a murder.
Shamsuddin Chowdhury said, "Yasin went missing on 9 March. The CID's investigating officer claimed in court that he arrested Yasin from Chattogram on 13 March."
He further added, "So where was Yasin in the three days between these dates? If Yasin is convicted of murder, he should be given a fair trial. And there is a proper process for this."
Noor Khan, secretary general of the Ain O Salish Kendra, told The Business Standard: "The members of the law enforcement agencies have not followed the proper rules in the recent arrests in Chattogram. It is important to investigate the illegal activities of the state agencies and bring the culprits to justice. I do not think this is the first or last incident in Bangladesh. Such incidents happen every day."
A total of 64 missing diaries have been registered from 1 to 18 March, in nine out of 16 police stations in Chattogram city. Officials from the remaining seven police stations refused to disclose the missing diary information.