The unresolved murder of young playwright Chanchal

Nahid Riyasad | Published: 00:00, Jul 14,2019 | Updated: 00:59, Jul 14,2019

Didarul Islam Chanchal, Narayanganj, Narayanganj Crimes, Crime, Murder, Young Playwright, Chanchal, Santrash Nirmul Taqi Mancha, Tanvir Mohammad Taqi, Rafiur Rabbi

Didarul Islam Chanchal, a young playwright and cultural activist, went out with his friends on July 17, 2012 and never returned home. He was found dead in the river Sitalakhya the next day. No one has faced trial for his murder yet. — Chanchal Smriti Parishad/Facebook


Didarul Islam Chanchal was a young playwright and cultural activist in Narayanganj who was murdered in 2012. Three law enforcement agencies in the last seven years have failed to make any visible improvement in the investigation. The inefficiency of the justice delivery system has in fact triggered more such crimes and more will be around the corner if the authority continues with their indifference, writes Nahid Riyasad     

IT WAS the wee hours of July 17, 2012. Family members, relatives and neighbours were busy organising for post-funeral rites of Nazir Hossain Prodhan at Deobhog, Narayanganj. Didarul Islam Chanchal, a young playwright from that area was also involved in the process. At around 2:00am, along with two of his friends, Rashed and Ruhit, he went out for a cup of tea. Mim Pradhan, a host of the programme later joined them.

Zubayer Islam Pomel, Chanchal’s elder brother thought they were going to grab a tea from their corner tea stall however the group had different plans. They went to the 2 No Railgate area at the town centre for late-night refreshments. Little did the family know it was Chanchal’s last outing.

On the following morning, when the family find his room empty, they asked his friends with whom he went out but could not get any definitive answers. The family became restless and worried sick as they could not contact Chanchal, who had three brothers and one sister.

On July 18, 2012, police recovered an unidentified dead body from river Shitalakkha near Shantinagar, Bandar area. After a post-mortem at Munshiganj General Hospital, the body was buried with the help of charity body Anjuman Mofidul Islam.

On July 19, family members identified Chanchal from the photograph of the dead body buried the day before and the clothing kept at the police station.

The following morning was a Friday; people from Narayanganj Shankskritik Jote (a platform for cultural and political activists of Narayanganj) started to arrive at Chanchal’s home. Awlad Hossain, ailing father of Chanchal sensed the worst at wave of friends and well-wishers in grief at his door.

Chanchal was a fresher at the Bangla department of Government Tolaram College. He was drawn to study Bangla because of his passion for literature. He was a familiar face in the local cultural circle and active in different social and cultural activities.

He was a regular member of Oikik Theatre, a local theatre group of Narayanganj. His passion for drama and literature was not confined to merely studying in Bangla or becoming a member of a theatre group. He was similarly passionate about writing and his passion has earned him prestigious achievements.

In his short playwriting career, Chanchal has penned three dramas — Shoto Manusher Hajar Shopno, Har Torongo and Boktabali. On July 13, three days before his murder, his drama Boktabali was staged at the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy as part of a programme to mark the 40th anniversary of the liberation war.

Among 100 dramas staged for the celebration, Chanchal’s Boktabali was adjudged as the best play. He was given a crest and prize money for his achievement.

Chanchal’s murder jolted the cultural community in grief. His chehlam (the prayer on the 40th day after the death of a Muslim person) became a gathering of aggrieved citizens of Narayanganj. They prayed for his soul, but also shared their collective anger about the law and order situation in their town.

Chanchal was not the first young men to embrace such fate; he was surely not the last one. On March 6, 2013, eight months after Chanchal’s murder, Tanvir Mohammad Taqi, another bright young citizen was murdered. Both of their bodies were found floating on the River Sitalakhya.  After identifying Chanchal’s body from the clothes kept at the police station and a photograph, his mother Rubina Begum filed a murder case seeking justice for his son. His brother, Pomel for the past seven years is relentlessly campaigning for a judicious investigation and fair trial of brother’s murder.

With his active involvement, a platform to commemorate the life of dramatist Chanchal and demand justice for him — Chanchal Smriti Parishad (Chanchal Memorial Forum) — was formed. On Chanchal’s birthday and death anniversary, the platform organises prayer, protest gathering, press conferences every year.

Similarly, Santrash Nirmul Taqi Mancha was formed after the brutal murder of Taqi in March 2013. Taqi Mancha and Smriti Parishad at times co-organised protest meetings and human chains demanding justice for their loved ones and asking for a better and safe Narayanganj for its young citizens.

However, they met with nothing but indifference of the legal system. On October 12, 2015, the detective branch of police filed charge sheet against Mehedi Hasan Ruhit, Mim Pradhan, Rakib, Rashed and Shafiq. Ruhit was the last person to call Chanchal at 3.09am of the night of his disappearance. Nonetheless, at least three law enforcements agencies involved in the investigation of the case failed to arrest him.

In January 2015, one of the prime absconded accused was seen by Pomel at the town centre, he immediately called the police, but mysteriously the accused man managed to flee again. Inevitably, Chanchal’s mother filed no confidence against the charge sheet pointing the inconsistencies and insincerity in the investigation. Her petition stated that elder brother, Pomel mentioned one Arefin to the investigation officer and told that he had information about the murder of Chanchal, but he was never questioned.

On Thursday, July 19, family members of Didarul Islam Chanchal, a young theatre and cultural activist, demanded justice for his unsolved murder, during a press session, on its 6th anniversary at Narayanganj Press Club. — Chanchal Smriti Parishad/Facebook


Pomel told reporters that law enforcement agency prepared the charge sheet based on his primary statement given immediate after the murder, without further investigation or questioning the named accused.

On September 19, 2016, a Narayanganj court ordered the Crime Investigation Department of the police to investigate the case. The court order came following family’s allegation of police negligence in investigation and detective branch handed the responsibility of the case to CID.

Chanchal’s friends and family members could not give any clue to New Age Youth about the possible motive of the murder. They wondered, why a young promising soul like Chanchal who never raised his voice or always avoided confrontational situation would be targeted such violence.  

However, the then officer-in-charge of Bandar police station Akhter Hossain, detective branch officer Delwar Hossain and assistant superintendent of police Golam Azad Khan told the reporters that they have managed to discern the motive of the killing. They never disclosed the motive to the public or to the court.

New Age Youth contacted the convener of Santrash Nirmul Taqi Mancha and father of Taqi Rafiur Rabbi and asked him how these murders and subsequent failure of justice dispensation system affect the youths. ‘When the system fails to deliver justice in case of such grim crimes, not only the youth but also the entire nation would plunge into darkness. Crimes like murder of Chanchal or Taqi would only increase should the authority fail to bring justice.’

When asked about youth’s role against such crimes, he said, ‘Reluctance to deliver justice is apparent in cases which would expose powerful quarters involvement in such crimes. In this situation, youths should raise voice against injustices. From the Taqi Mancha, voices are still raised in different part of Bangladesh demanding justice for the gruesome murder.’      

Amal Akash, a member of Samageet, a band from Narayanganj who personally knew and worked with Chanchal, expressed his concern and blamed it on the justice delivery system which in fact trigger more such crimes. ‘Should the authority managed to bring the Chanchal murderers to trial, Taqi might never had to face the same fate’.

Akash also emphasised on ensuring a properly working justice dispensation system which would guarantee safety of ordinary people. ‘When law and order will be established, crimes of such nature would decrease’.

There are a lot of eerie similarities in both the incidents — both of them were talented young intellectuals hailed from Narayanganj, reasons for their deaths were never revealed and most hauntingly, law enforcements could do nothing to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The government with its youth friendly political rhetoric has let quite a few numbers of young lives to disappear or murder. Biswajit Das, Romel Chakma, Rifat and the list goes on.

More frightening is that nearly none of these murders have been tried or the perpetrators have been handed sentence. The obvious question here is that is the justice dispensation system rusty?

Or the law enforcement agencies are unwilling or unable to freely investigate? Or is it simply that the quarters who are harbouring such criminals are way too strong for the state?

One thing is to be noted here that should these incidents go unaddressed properly, more are waiting right around the corner and the next victim might be someone we personally know or love.

Nahid Riyasad is a member of the New Age Youth team.

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