It’s been quite a while since I last wrote a blog post on behalf of my Advocacy Project Fellowship, and this past month and a half – two months – has been incredibly eventful/fulfilling/stressful/worth it. Because so many things have happened I’m going to split this blog into a few posts, but I guess I should start with the reasoning behind the initial halt in writing blogs…
Two days after my last blog post on July 23rd, Shahed and I spent the morning in the Bagmusa Cobbler Community School, just as we had spent many mornings. After finishing our work Shahed approached Dipu (a Subornogram Volunteer) and I, asking if we would like to visit the newest Subornogram School on Ramprasader Chor Island, across the Meghna River. Excited for the opportunity to profile, work, meet, take pictures, and socialize with the children and teachers at a school I hadn’t been to yet, I answered with an enthusiastic – Ugh … YES!
Shahed, Dipu, and I left Bagmusa for the Baidyer Bazaar where we would catch a private boat to cross the Meghna River on our way to visit the school. Fifteen to twenty minutes into our ride across the Meghna I noticed a small speedboat carrying 6-7 guys rapidly approaching us, yelling out as they got closer. Once their boat was flanking ours they stayed pace and told the captain of our boat to run the nose ashore of an island we were approaching. After running our boat ashore, some villagers on this island came over to see what the commotion was about; now in hindsight I believe that the men on the speedboat realized at the time that we 1) had an escape route if things were to get serious, and 2) they didn’t want any villagers to see or know what was about to happen.
The men on the speedboat told our captain to push the boat back out into the river and follow them. After we were a decent way out into the river a few men began to board our boat, yelling at Shahed, Dipu and myself in Bengali. I was sitting on the roof of the boat with Dipu at the time, and one of the guys jumped up onto the roof between Dipu and I, continuing to yell. At the time I believed that the men were fishermen and that we had possibly snagged one of their nets with the propeller, so I wasn’t fully aware of the seriousness of the situation. After a bit of grabbing, pushing and shoving the atmosphere calmed down as one of the older guys boarded our boat and sat down next to Shahed and began conversing in a normal tone. To know more about the boat navigate here.
It was at this time that the second boat flanked our other side and Shahed was pushed and pulled into the second boat. Realizing that something wasn’t quite right, my initial reaction was to board the boat with Shahed to find out what was going on. My foot was kicked off the side of their boat and it sped off. Frustrated that the situation had escalated to this point, and not really having a grasp as to what was going on, I immediately began asking the guys that remained on our boat where they were taking Shahed.
They dismissed my questions, grabbed Shahed’s camera and cell phone that were left in our boat, hopped back onto the second speedboat, and took off after the other. I told the captain of the boat that Dipu and I remained on to follow them, but he refused, heading back for the Bazaar we’d initially departed from. On the ride back my mind was racing around what had just happened, trying to piece together possible scenarios when it hit me … these guys had to be the illegal sand dredgers that I’d been warned about …
Posted By Chris Pinderhughes
Posted Sep 30th, 2013