Sinha Md Rashed Khan, a free spirit whose dreams were shattered by a bullet
On the last day of July in 2020, Sinha Md Rashed Khan, a retired army major, was recording a time-lapse video of the sunset on a hill in Paharchhara.
As fate would have it, he would never see the sun rise again.
Life in the army was eventful, too, but it came with its fair share of restrictions. Longing for an unshackled life, Major Sinha opted for early retirement from the army to pursue his personal interests.
He would start making travel documentaries. But that was just the beginning.
He had a much bigger dream — to travel the world. But in Teknaf, fate would pit him against a person with a very different obsession.
According to investigators, Pradip Kumar Das, former chief of Teknaf police, had a “cruel habit” of extorting money from people by “threatening to kill them in gunfights” under the guise of the war on drugs.
Sinha learned about his sinister deeds when he went to Cox’s Bazar to film a docuseries — a discovery that would ultimately cut his life short.
Sinha’s life was cruelly ended by Pradip and his cohorts as he was shot dead at a checkpoint on Cox’s Bazar’s Marine Drive on Jul 31.
One can but hope that his dreams will live on. Perhaps, it now falls on others to carry those dreams forward.
Accompanying him in Cox’s Bazar were Shipra Debnath, Shahedul Islam Sefat and Tahsin Rifat Noor, all students of Film and Media Studies at Dhaka’s Stamford University.
Shipra met Sinha in Sunamganj’s Tanguar Haor in 2018 and they soon became friends. That was when they planned to make the documentary ‘Just Go’.
“I want to work until the last day of my life to turn Sinha’s dream a reality,” Shipra said in an interview.
Only time will tell if Shipra can succeed. But at least one of her wishes since her friend’s death has been fulfilled.
She wanted justice and now, a Cox’s Bazar court has handed down the death sentence to sacked police officers Pradip and Liakat Ali for the murder of Sinha.
Sinha was not a celebrity. Nobody, apart from his family and friends, knew him too well. But his death caused a stir throughout the nation.
People had become habituated to reports of extrajudicial killings, but Sinha’s death triggered a shift in attitude towards the so-called shootouts involving law enforcement.
His untimely death would also shed light on how a malevolent law enforcer abused the public’s trust to commit crimes in the pretext of combating it.
It was important, then, that his assailants were brought to book in order to restore a semblance of faith in the justice system among the public.
The government was compelled to make wholesale changes to the police force in Cox’s Bazar in the aftermath of Sinha’s death, with almost all personnel, including top officers and constables, being transferred out of the district.
Since childhood, Sinha, fondly called Adnan at home, loved to travel.
When he joined the army after growing up, he quickly caught the attention of his coursemates.
Sinha’s father Ershad Khan was a deputy secretary at the finance ministry. He died in 2007.
Although they were natives of Jashore, Sinha’s family moved across Bangladesh due to his father’s job postings.
They were living in Rangamati when Sinha was born on Jul 26, 1984. Sinha’s family had also lived in Cox’s Bazar, and Chapainawabganj before moving to Satkhira when he was in his teens.
“That was the year his father was appointed as Sirajganj’s Deputy Commissioner. Adnan completed two years of schooling from class six to eight there. His school was situated beside a river, where he played with his friends. He loved his friends and they loved him, too,” said Sinha’s mother Nasima Akter.
“He was fond of sports as a child. He was independent. Adnan would only spend a brief amount of time studying but that was enough for him. Both his father and I were okay with it.”
Sinha’s family shifted to Dhaka when his father joined the finance ministry. He was admitted to BAF Shaheen School and College.
Sinha passed his SSC exams from that school before completing his HSC at Rajuk Uttara Model College.
His academic achievements were good enough to earn him a place at Jahangirnagar University’s IBA, but instead, he found a different calling.
LIFE IN THE ARMY
Sinha joined Bangladesh Military Academy’s 51st Long Course on Jan 21, 2003. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant on Dec 22, 2004.
While recalling his time with Sinha, one of his coursemates was overcome with emotion. He did not want to be named as he is on active service.
“Whenever we (course mates) meet, we invariably talk about him. We were sure no one could stop him from being a topper after he joined BMA. He did very well in the first term. From the second term, Sinha went through some changes,” he said.
Instead of working on becoming a topper himself, he started helping others out with complicated subjects and finishing assignments.”
Towards the end, the platoon commanders used to seek help from Sinha to guide those who were struggling to pass the tests.
Sinha was very fond of reading, according to the army officer.
The 36-year-old would later go on to become a member of the Special Security Force, tasked with guarding the prime minister.
He was promoted to the rank of major in 2013 after returning from a UN Peacekeeping Mission in the Ivory Coast.
After five years of service, Sinha went into early retirement from the army.
His sister Sharmin Shahria Ferdous believes that it was his patriotism that led him to join the army.
“He told me that he learned a lot from his time in the army. But at the same time, he wanted to learn more about and travel around the globe,” she said.
DREAMS OF A WORLD TOUR
Sinha dreamed of travelling to the Himalayas since he was a second-grader, according to Sharmin.
To him, a world tour did not mean staying in plush hotels, but in tents set up on the streets and alleys, she said.
“Adnan planned to go to China first and then to Nepal. He planned to get to the base camp and then climb to the summit of Mount Everest without the help of a Sherpa. After that, he would travel to other destinations — that was his plan.”
Sinha was preparing accordingly. But his plans were foiled when the coronavirus pandemic hit Bangladesh in March 2020.
As life around the world was thrown into disarray, Sinha had to put his dreams of travelling the world on hold.
But in the meantime, he pursued another dream. As part of their plan to make a travel docuseries, Sinha along with his friend Shipra had formed a team of four.
To begin with, they made some videos on smartphones in Naogaon’s Altadighi in March and April, 2020, as part of their project Just Go, a YouTube channel.
Shipra says she might have been the one to come up with the concept of Just Go, but she discovered that Sinha, a “very intelligent, creative and wise man”, was on the same page after she shared the idea with him.
The family have opened a condolence book at the home of retired army major Sinha Md Rashed Khan in Dhaka’s Uttara after his death in police fire at a Cox’s Bazar check-point.
“Sinha’s passion was travelling, while mine was filming. Our relationship was based on mutual understanding and intellectual friendship,” she said in an interview in 2020.
“His main plan was to go on a world tour. When he heard my plan [of making a travel docuseries], he said that was easier. That would enable him to do the world tour simultaneously.”
After Altadighi, the team finally chose Cox’s Bazar as a location to film the travel documentary as the district, with its beaches, hills and forests, offers plenty of attractions for travellers.
Sinha used to worry about his mother amid the coronavirus pandemic. As he used to travel a lot, he feared that he could be a carrier of the pathogen.
He returned from Rajshahi and Naogaon and left for Cox’s Bazar in July.There, they rented rooms at Nilima Resort in Himchhari and began filming videos on Jul 13 with the approval of the district administration.
They filmed the Reju canal, hills and the sea with its surroundings. Sinha did not have any media training, but he quickly developed a knack for documentary-making, said Shipra.
”Being a former army man, he always ensured our safety and security. We always used safety gears while climbing a hill or when we went to the sea.”
On the night of Jul 31, Sinha and Sefat were returning to the resort in Sinha’s car after filming a time-lapse video of the evening stars. Shipra was waiting for them back at the resot.
But the wait would never end.
Sinha was killed on his way back by police, just five days after celebrating his birthday. His mother and sister had wished him and sent a gift.
“His birth and death took place in the same month, and in a place surrounded by hills and the sea, as Sinha was born in Rangamati,” said his mother.
”My brother didn’t believe in being pessimistic or negative. We are trying to follow him by being positive and nurturing hope. And yes, Adnan is always with us. He will always be an integral part of our lives,” said Sharmin.
[Written in English by Sabrina Karim Murshed, edited by Turaj Ahmad]