Polok said he personally did not want to antagonize anyone at the time as all he wanted was to get his father back in good shape
Monorom Polok, son of journalist and photographer Shafiqul Islam Kajol, had a normal life like any other young adult in the country until one day everything in his life turned upside down.
Hobbies, friends, and studies – there were plenty of things in his life to keep him occupied until he received a call from his mother on March 9 in 2020.
“The first call I got that day was from my mother. I could tell from her voice that she was extremely worried as my father's phone remained unreachable since the evening and she could not trace his whereabouts from anyone,” Polok told Dhaka Tribune.
He felt numb and did not want to imagine the worst as he knew many people, who had disappeared before, never came back. Polok tried to divert his mind from such horrific thoughts by having dinner at a friend’s place.
“By that time, I was slowly feeling anxious. I had a strong feeling that when I will get back home, Baba will not be waiting for me,” he told Dhaka Tribune.
As time went by, Polok felt entirely numb and helpless. However, at the same time, he knew he had to do everything in his power to find his father.
A dark shadow enshrouded his family.
“I had my sister and my mother as my emotional support. We became each other's counsellors in that moment of crisis,” he said.
Polok frantically tried to start a movement to let the world know that his father had gone missing. However, he soon learnt that many doors were being slammed right on his face.
“People were telling me how they will not be able to do anything like forming a human chain or any kind of protests for my father. When I wanted to start a movement to get my father back, all I received were free advice on party politics and groupism,” said Polok.
The boy already knew by then that this was going to be a long battle and he will not find any support from his father’s circle.
Polok only knew people from his age group, all in their early 20s. He finally decided to talk to the media at the National Press Club and in front of the National Museum in Shahbagh.
“I knew that I was speaking against a crime. I spoke up and it made me feel stronger. I found the direction I was looking for,” he said.
Human rights watchdog Amnesty International released a CCTV footage on March 21 that showed some unidentified men tampering with journalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol’s motorbike in his absence.
Amnesty also claimed that the footage was the last time anyone had seen or heard from Kajol before his disappearance.
After seeing the CCTV footage, Polok decided to form an online movement with a Facebook page and hashtag “Where Is Kajol” as there was a countrywide lockdown due to the Covid-19 situation.
However, he did not expect it to turn that big and draw attention from people from all walks of life around the world.
Polok said he personally did not want to antagonize anyone that time as all he wanted was to get his father back in good shape.
On March 9, Awami League lawmaker from the Magura 1 constituency Saifuzzaman Shikhor filed a case under the Digital Security Act (DSA) against Kajol and 31 others, including Daily Manab Zamin Editor Matiur Rahman Chowdhury, on charges of publishing a report with false information regarding expelled Jubo Mohila League leader Shamima Noor Papia — who had been arrested back in February on charges of smuggling counterfeit notes and sentenced to jail in October in an arms case — and circulating it on social media.
On March 10, Kajol went missing after leaving his office.
After being missing for 53 days, police showed Kajol in their custody on May 3 after the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) arrested him on charges of trespassing through Benapole border in Jessore.
Shown formally arrested in the cases, Kajol had been in jail since then.
“My father was ‘found’ and immediately thrown into jail for several months. I was relieved to know that my father was alive but then I saw him being handcuffed like a notorious criminal,” said Polok.
After languishing in jail for almost eight months, Kajal finally secured bail in all three DSA cases filed against him, on December 25, 2020.
Kajol’s counsel Jyotirmoy Barua posted on that day on this Facebook account: “Monorom Polok’s struggle for his father’s release will definitely inspire others.”
Polok does not want to call it a mass movement, but rather terms it as just a cause in which a son was looking for his missing father.
“However, I would definitely say that ‘Where Is Kajol’ became a strong cause not just for my father but for many others who went through the same struggle,” he said.
“I got momentum when I found people, whom I had never met before, standing beside me for the cause I was fighting for,” Polok told Dhaka Tribune.
Sometimes, Polok wants to go back to the time when his life was simpler.
“I wish I could be my older self. Now, people ask me how my father and I are doing. It feels like I am still in a time loop when I was fighting for my father’s release. I lost nine productive months from my life but the silver lining is that I met progressive minds from home and abroad during my struggle.”
Polok now hopes that the people who did this to his father will take their cases back. All he wants is to put this all behind him and move towards a normal life.
He hopes his father would get over his PTSD and get back in good shape.
When asked whether he wants justice for all that he and his family went through in the past one year, Polok concluded the interview with a question: “It does not matter whether I want justice for my hardship or not. My question would be whether it is even possible to get justice in the backdrop of the current situation in Bangladesh?”