Rehabilitation of Sundarbans Robbers

From jungle to normal life

Mahabub Alam

14 July, 2020 12:00 AM printer

It is really hard to lead a decent life with honest income after giving up the act of robbery in the Sundarbans, says a robber leader who has taken the path of light, leaving his 23 years of notorious profession.

“Though I used to earn a lot during that time, I was not happy with the income. I earned illegally,” Mostafa Sheikh, the ring leader of Master Bahini, said.

After the surrender, Mostafa said, he had been working hard to manage meals for his six-member family.

“Though I earn less now, it gives me immense pleasure,” he said.

His dark life came to an end when an initiative of “surrender and rehabilitation” of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) was taken under the directive of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2016.

Mostafa with his about 70 cohorts used to haunt the entire mangrove forest. His name was a panic among the forest dependents, villagers and even small dacoit groups.

For the first time, Mostafa accompanied by his nine associates formally surrendered to RAB in presence of Home Minister at Mongla Port on May 31, 2016 with 52 firearms and 3,904 ammunitions. At that time, each of them was paid Tk1.70 lakh for their rehabilitation.

Mostafa set up a motor garage near Mongla Port with the money he was paid. “Now, I can lead my family with the earnings coming from the garage. The surrender and rehabilitation initiative ended my long time robbery that I began in 1993,” he said.

The surrender of Mostafa and his associates was an epoch-making incident as 318 more dacoits of 31 bahinis (groups) followed their paths by surrendering with 410 firearms and 18,600 bullets between 2016 and 2018, according to the RAB.

Most of them are now enjoying a normal life after obtaining bails from the courts, said Lt Col Rowshanul Firoz, commanding officer of RAB-6.

After the end of surrender initiative, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina declared the Sundarbans as dacoit-free on November 1, 2018, he added.

Mostafa said their cases, except murder and rape, were assured of withdrawal, but that was not done yet.

“I am wanted in five cases with three police stations in Bagerhat. It needs much money to combat the cases. My associates were also wanted in more than one case. If the cases are withdrawn, it will be very helpful for us,” he said.

On the issue, Chowdhury Abdullah Al-Mamun, director general (DG) of RAB, said the consideration of withdrawal of the cases against the surrendered dacoits is under way.       

He added that RAB is providing legal help to them.

He added that the elite force took various steps to make them self-employed so they never go back to their notorious path. Alam Sarder, the ring leader of ‘Alam Bahini,’ with his 13 cohorts surrendered to the elite force on September 8, 2016 along with 20 firearms and 1,008 bullets. Alam was also paid with Tk1.70 lakh for rehabilitation. “I bought a battery-run-auto with the money. I can now afford my family with the earnings I make by operating the vehicle at Munshiganj village under Shyamnagar Upazila in Satkhira,” he said.

Like Mostafa, he also said it was difficult for him to fight seven cases filed against him with his earning. “If the cases are withdrawn, it will be very helpful for us,” he said.