Constable Qasem planned big for Eid. But the floods cut his life short

Abul Qasem was eagerly looking forward to celebrating Eid-ul-Azha with his family. The traffic constable planned to sacrifice a goat to mark the occasion.

Published : 10 July 2022, 10:08 AM
Updated : 10 July 2022, 10:08 AM

But then, tragedy struck.

As Sunamganj fell into the grip of the worst deluge in a century, he was swept away by floodwaters. Three days later, his family's worst fear came true as police recovered Qasem's body just a few kilometres away from his home in Dowarabazar's Hazarigaon.

Qasem's death plunged his wife Shaheda Begum into deep despair. She refused to eat or drink anything for the next few days and had to be taken to a hospital at one point.

The spirit of Eid was also lost on their daughter Smriti, a second-grader. Time has seemingly come to a standstill for the whole family.

“He was planning to sacrifice a goat this time," said Qasem's brother-in-law Iqbal Hossain Russell. "But now, we don't have any plans. We've decided against offering a sacrifice."

On Jun 16, Qasem was on his way back from the funeral of a friend's father in Sylhet on a motorcycle. Two others were with him that night when the gushing water on the Sunamganj-Dowarabazar road tipped over the two-wheeler.

While the others managed to swim to safety, Qasem wasn't as lucky as his raincoat restricted his movement.

According to some locals, the water current intensified in the next two days. Police and family members were also unsuccessful in their attempts to find Qasem.

But then on Jun 19, police received a 999 call about a body floating in the water in Hazarigaon, about 1 km away from the place where Qasem is believed to have drowned.

“The water had started receding at the time. We got a call about a body clad in a police raincoat. We later went and recovered the body,” said SI Panna Lal Dey of Dowarabazar Police Station.

Qasem's brother Abul Hossain said he had dropped by his house on the evening of Jun 16.

“He said he wanted to go to the Katakhali market in Sylhet. But we didn't know when he was leaving for Sylhet. ”

Floodwaters had started creeping into the front yard during Qasem's visit.

"I was preparing for my prayers when he came. I thought he would stay until the prayers ended. But he said he had to go," Qasem's sister-in-law Rehana Khatun said.

Qasim was the youngest of five brothers and four sisters. Rehana, 53, said he was only two years old when she got married to his brother Abdul Latif.

“I helped raise him. That's why he would always come and see me whenever he was in the area. But I couldn't meet him that night”

By the time the police came by to inform the family that Qasem had gone missing, Rehana's home was swamped.

"The officer in charge had called the family over the phone when we got the news," said SI Panna.

But the call got disconnected midway through as the OC's phone was running low on battery, according to Rehana.

Although they knew about Qasem's disappearance, his brothers were rendered helpless by the floods. They frantically searched for him by boat for the next two days, but came back empty-handed.

Three days later on Jun 19, the family received the news they'd been dreading. The next day, they laid Qasem to rest in the family cemetery.

According to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, floods, lightning and electrocution led to 15 deaths, including Qasem's, between Jun 16 and 21.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher