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How and why Sinha was murdered: A day of reckoning for a Cox’s Bazar police team  

On the eve of Eid-ul-Azha, Sinha went to Muinna Hill at Marish Bunia with an associate to create a time-lapse video of the sunset.

A team of the Armed Police Battalion stopped his car at a checkpoint in Shamlapur as they were headed back. The members of the APBn checked their identification and signalled them to go.

Then Inspector Liakat Ali, head of Baharchhara Investigation Centre under Teknaf Police Station, stopped the vehicle and shot Sinha.

This is how the Rapid Action Battalion describes the incident following its investigation. The verdict in the case is finally set to be announced on Monday.

But why was Sinha, a retired major who once worked in the SSF, murdered? Why did police shoot a nature-loving, amiable man who loved to drive and dreamed of going on a world tour someday?

In the case dossier submitted, Senior Assistant Police Superintendent Khairul Islam gave a vivid description of what had happened on Jul 31, 2020, at the APBn checkpoint on the Cox’s Bazar-Teknaf Marine Drive.

It showed how a corrupt police official arranged for the murder of Sinha with the help of his colleagues in a bid to cover his own crimes.

According to the case documents, Sinha and his companions learned that Pradip Kumar Das, chief of Teknaf Police Station, used to ‘torture innocent people in the name of the war on drugs’. They even interviewed some people tortured by Pradip.

Sinha and his team members Shipra Debnath and Shahadul Islam Sefat spoke to Pradip about the issue. Anticipating further trouble, Pradip started looking for a chance to ‘take out’ Sinha and his team. It was his plan that led to Sinha’s death at the check post.

After Sinha was killed, Cox’s Bazar Police claimed he had ‘prevented them from searching him and his car’ and ‘drew his pistol’, forcing the officer at the checkpoint to shoot him.

Three cases were filed against the group and Shipra and Sefat were arrested. But the police statement raised questions and the home ministry formed a high-level investigation panel which brought the ‘extrajudicial killings by police’ to light.

Shipra and Sefat were released on bail after 10 days and the RAB cleared all cases filed by police as they did not find any proof against the two.

On Dec 13, 2020, four months after the incident, at least 15 people were indicted in the Sinha murder case.

WHAT DID PRADIP WANT TO HIDE?

Pradip joined Teknaf Police Station as its chief on Oct 20, 2018. He was previously the chief of Moheshkhali Police Station.

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After his transfer to Teknaf, he ‘misused his legal powers’ to gain financial benefits. In addition to yaba dealers, Pradip used to target affluent local families and entangle them in false cases, or extort them for money by threatening to ‘kill them in a crossfire’.

The home ministry investigation found that 174 people were killed in 106 gunfights in the 33-month tenure of Pradip as Teknaf Police Station chief.

However, Pradip also received the Bangladesh Police Medal or BPM, the highest accolade for the force in 2019. His award cites ‘only six crossfire incidents’.

According to locals, Teknaf police ‘killed people indiscriminately,’ during Pradip’s tenure. Marine Drive Road became known as a key location for the extrajudicial ‘killing of people under the guise of crossfire.’

The Sinha murder investigation report also said more than 100 people died in ‘gunfight incidents’ led by Pradip or on his orders.

“His style was to negotiate for money through middlemen and sources when people were detained with drugs or when he framed them in false drug cases. Most of the time the victim’s family would pay a hefty amount to protect them from being killed in ‘crossfire incidents’.”

If that amount was not enough to meet Pradip and his accomplices’ demands, the families were framed again in false drug cases. In cases where the families could not pay the money, the detainees were killed in ‘crossfire’ and the families were accused in the cases. Female family members were even sexually abused, according to the investigation report.

No one dared to stand against Pradip, fearing his wrath.

“Pradip and his gang made millions by threatening to kill people in ‘crossfire’, evicting people from their homes, or torching them. He formed his own gang of like-minded police who would commit those crimes,” the investigation officer wrote in the report.

HOW SINHA WAS KILLED

The investigation report says Sinha and his co-worker Sefat, a university student, left Nilima Resort at Himchhari around 3:30 pm on the day of his murder. The crew members had stayed at the resort for about a month.

Sinha drove his Toyota Allion to the hill, wearing a combat shirt and combat pants. While climbing the hill, Sinha and Sefat met with Zahirul Islam, the imam of the local mosque Mathabhanga Masjid. They exchanged greetings and introductions. The two then asked a boy for directions to the top of the hill. It grew dark as they finished their work.

Meanwhile, three police informers — Nurul Amin, Nizam Uddin and Mohammad Ayaz — heard that two people were filming videos on the hill and one of them was wearing a uniform similar to that of the army.

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Liakat and Pradip had asked the informers to track Sinha. Pradip had also instructed them to identify the “video party” as a gang of robbers and instigate locals into lynching Sinha and the others.

As a part of the plan, the informers made an announcement through the mosque’s loudspeaker that robbers had entered the area. Some locals gathered after the announcement but left soon afterwards as there was no sign of movement on the hill.

The informers then asked imam Zahirul to make another announcement on the ‘robbers’ around 8 pm. But Zahirul refused, saying he had talked to Sinha and knew he was a former army officer. Hearing Zahirul’s words, the locals left again.

Sinha and Sefat then came down the hill. The informers used a torch to confirm their identity. They followed Sinha and Sefat to Marine Drive. After the two got in the car, informer Nurul Amin called Liakat over the phone at 8:47 pm and told him that Sinha was heading towards Cox’s Bazar. Over the next three hours, Nurul and Liakat spoke 15 times over the phone.

Liakat then asked Sub-Inspector Dulal Raxit to take him to Shamlapur checkpoint on Dulal’s motorcycle. Sinha’s car passed a Border Guard Bangladesh checkpoint at 9:20 pm after the BGB confirmed their identities and allowed them to pass.

Five minutes later, the car reached the APBn checkpoint at Shamlapur. Rajib Hossain, an APBn constable, signalled the car to stop. APBn Sub-Inspector Shahjahan Ali and Constable Abdullah Al Mamun let them go after Sinha identified himself.

Inspector Liakat was standing behind the car at the time. As soon as Sinha identified himself, Liakat shouted for the car to stop and asked Sinha’s identity again. After hearing his name, Liakat drew a police barricade across the middle of the road and started acting angrily. The APBn members also helped him stop the car. Liakat then pointed his pistol at the car and started hurling abusive words towards Sinha. He asked them to get out of the car with their hands up.

Noticing the commotion, locals started gathering. Many people were able to clearly see the ensuing incident in the solar-powered light from the nearby mosque and market.

The investigation report said Liakat was very agitated at the time. Sefat got out of the car with his hands raised. Sinha also left the car with hands up, saying, “Calm down, calm down”. 

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Liakat fired two shots at Sinha first, and then two more shots after stepping forward. As Sinha fell on the road, Liakat asked the others to handcuff the retired army officer and Sefat.

SI Dulal handcuffed Sinha. As APBn SI Shahjahan did not have any handcuffs, Liakat got angry at him and ordered him to bring a rope from the market and tie Sefat. Constable Abdullah then bought a rope from the market and the APBn members tied Sefat.

Around 9:30 pm, Liakat called Pradip and informed him of the incident. They spoke for 1 minute and 19 seconds. Liakat then called the Cox’s Bazar police superintendent at 9:33 pm.

Major Sinha was still alive at the time and groaning in pain. He begged for drinking water and Liakat said: “Did I shoot you so I could give you water?”

Liakat then kicked Sinha hard on the left side of his chest and pinned his head to the floor.

Meanwhile, SI Nanda Dulal called Baharchhara Investigation Centre and asked them to send more police to Shamlapur Police Station. ASI Liton, Constable Abdullah Al Mamun, Kamal Hossain Azad and Safanul Karim arrived at the scene soon after. Following Liakat’s orders, they searched Major Sinha’s car and recovered a pistol, some documents, a camera, and video equipment. No drugs were found in the car that time, the witnesses in the area said, having seen the search under the bright lights.

When called by Liakat, Pradip arrived at the scene with additional personnel and spoke to him in private. After that, he went to Sinha, who was still alive and begging for water. Pradip kicked Sinha’s chest and stepped on his throat. Sinha stopped moving and the police left his body at the scene for some time.

The police personnel who came from Teknaf with Pradip searched Sinha’s car again. This time they announced that drugs were found in the vehicle. As directed by Pradip, police took Sefat inside the check post and beat him severely.

Around 10 pm, some police stopped a pick-up and sent Sinha to hospital in that car some 40 minutes later. Though police had quite a few vehicles with them, they never used them to send Sinha to the hospital.

When Sgt Ayub Ali from Ramu Cantonment, a witness in the case, went to the scene, police misbehaved and drove him away.

According to the charge sheet, police filed three false cases against Sinha and his associates to cover up his murder.

[Written in English by Shoumik Hassin]

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