A month has gone by since mentally challenged Polash Mia landed in prison on charges of attacking and looting Hindu houses in Brahmanbaria's Nasirnagar upazila.
He may have to be in jail for days or even months, as his father Ohid Mia is yet to move bail prayer in court for his release.
Seventy-year-old Ohid, a poor day labourer with a six-member family, doesn't know how he would manage money to hire a lawyer for moving bail prayer for his son.
He tried to borrow some money from his neighbours and relatives but his efforts went in vain.
“I don't know whether I would actually be able to hire a lawyer,” he told The Daily Star over the phone on Sunday.
Police arrested 31-year-old Polash in the early hours of October 7 from his house at Datmondol village. He was charged with attacking and looting Hindu houses in Nasirnagar on October 30 following an anti-Islamic post on Facebook made allegedly by a Hindu youth.
Palash had first landed in Brahmanbaria jail. On November 18, he was shifted to Comilla Central Jail so that he could be provided with treatment. He is now kept in a cell specialised for prisoners with mental illness.
“There is no good hospital for treating patients with mental sickness in Brahmanbaria. So, we sent him to Comilla so that he gets better treatment,” said Nurunnabi Bhuiyan, jail superintendent at Brahmanbaria district prison.
On November 18, Polash was taken to Comilla Medical College Hospital where a physician gave him medicine. He was then brought to Comilla Central Jail.
“He is now receiving treatment at the prison,” Mujibur Rahman, jail superintendent at Comilla prison, told The Daily Star yesterday.
“He behaves abnormally and hardly talks,” added Mujibur.
Nasirnagar locals say most of the one hundred people arrested over the October 30 attacks were not involved in the incident, and Polash is one of the innocent victims of the blanket arrest.
Contacted, Nasirnagar police claimed that they made the arrests after identifying the attackers from the video clips of the incident.
Police picked up the mentally challenged man from Datmondol village around 2:00am on November 7. His father repeatedly told police that his son was mentally ill and pleaded with them not to arrest him.
Ohid said he along with his wife Halima Begum went to Nasirnagar Police Station that morning, and requested police to release their son. But they were not even allowed to meet Polash, the eldest of their five children.
Polash was later produced before a court, which sent him to Brahmanbaria jail.
“Everyone in our village knows that my son is mentally ill. How he can be an attacker.” Ohid said over a mobile phone.
As Ohid doesn't have a mobile phone, this correspondent called his neighbour Alamgir to contact him.
Ohid said he visited his son twice at Brahmanbaria jail -- first alone and then with his wife. “I took her [Polash's mother] with me as she was crying to see Polash.”
Last week, he went to Brahmanbaria jail to see his son only to find that Polash was taken to Comilla. “Someone told me that he was taken to a mental hospital in Comilla. I don't know how I can find him,” he said.
Polash started behaving abnormally about seven years ago. As his condition deteriorated, his father took him to a doctor in Nasirnagar. But his condition didn't improve. He was then treated by a shaman. It also didn't work and Ohid stopped his son's treatment two years ago.
Like others in Datmondol village, union parishad member Siddiqur Rahman also knows about Polash's condition. “Villagers avoid him as he suddenly gets violent… We all were surprised to know that he was arrested and put in jail.”
Ohid said he had to shackle his son in the house several times to prevent him from going out.
Talking to this correspondent, Human Rights Commission Chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque said it was “very unwise” on the part of the police to arrest the mentally challenged man and put him in prison.
Persons like him are supposed to be treated especially. Police denied him his rights by arresting him and putting him in prison, added Reazul.