The deception, disappearance, and dismemberment of Bangladesh MP Anwarul Azim Anar

The cold-blooded murder of the Bangladesh MP in Kolkata has left law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border grappling with numerous unanswered questions.

Updated - May 31, 2024 03:29 am IST

Published - May 30, 2024 11:38 pm IST

Members of the the Disaster Management Group take the help of local fishermen to recover body parts of the Bangladesh MP Anwarul Azim Anar.

Members of the the Disaster Management Group take the help of local fishermen to recover body parts of the Bangladesh MP Anwarul Azim Anar. | Photo Credit: DEBASISH BHADURI

Trigger warning: The following article contains potentially disturbing details of violence.

Fajli Bibi was not expecting to see professional divers slap on black wetsuits on a humid Saturday afternoon in Bhangar, the Assembly constituency where she lives. A few locals — mostly women — from her village, about 10 kilometres from Kolkata, West Bengal’s State capital, join the growing crowd of police, Crime Investigation Department officials, disaster management personnel, and journalists. They are eager to get a glimpse of the unusual: four divers plopping into the murky waters of the Bagjola canal in search of the last remains of a dead body.

“It is tragic to see Bhangar be called khunir desh (land of murderers) because of Bangladeshi criminals. They are ruining the reputation of our locality,” Bibi says. She adds matter-of-factly that there is a graveyard and butchery a few blocks ahead, known to attract a dense population of jackals. “If human remains were dropped here, the jackals would have already taken them away,” she says. Six police personnel discuss the sheer size of the jackals they spotted there that day.

Meanwhile, a Kolkata Police official, sweating profusely while herding about 40 curious people away from the spot of the investigation, says the murkiness and low visibility of the water has made it difficult for divers to find anything. “Local fishermen were also reluctant to help. No one wants to see a dead body,” he says, on the condition of anonymity. The road, flanked by the canal and a forest, swells with the morbid excitement of activity. People peer through the foliage at the canal and the outside broadcasting (OB) vans of TV channels.

A few days before, a housing complex in Kolkata’s unevenly developed New Town area, descended into eeriness after it emerged that a Bangladeshi MP had been killed there, his body hacked to pieces. “We have received conclusive news from Indian police officials that MP Anwarul Azim Anar has been murdered,” Asaduzzaman Khan, Bangladesh’s Home Minister, told the media at a press conference on May 22 in Dhaka.

That was the first official announcement of the death of 56-year-old Anar, a three-time Awami League MP from Bangladesh’s Jhenaidah-4, who had come to Kolkata on May 12 seeking medical treatment and had gone missing. Khan added that the murder was pre-planned and that three people had already been arrested by Bangladesh law enforcement.

Sanjeeva Gardens, where the murder took place.

Sanjeeva Gardens, where the murder took place. | Photo Credit: DEBASISH BHADURI

A regular apartment block

Currently, a tense silence engulfs Sanjeeva Gardens, the complex that houses the three-floor flat in which Anar was allegedly smothered to death on May 13. Among the many gates that guard this expansive complex, Gate 3 is closest to the crime scene. “Please go away. We have been instructed not to allow the media in,” is the curt, almost automated response by the Gate 3 guards at the sight of reporters and photographers. To the slum-dwellers living outside Gate 3, the frequent visits by law enforcement officials and the press over the past few days has stirred up their lives. “We heard someone has been killed here, but we don’t know much,” a woman says tentatively.

Police retracing Anar’s movements say that after his arrival to Kolkata, Anar stayed at the city’s northern old quarter, Baranagar, at the residence of Gopal Biswas, a gold trader. When he stepped out on May 13, he told Biswas that he would be back for dinner. That was the last time Biswas saw him.

“On May 13, the MP told his friend, whose house he was staying at, that he was stepping out for some medical treatment. Then he did not return,” Alok Rajoria, Police Commissioner of Barrackpore says. The missing complaint was filed by Biswas at Baranagar Police Station under the Barrackpore Commissionerate. He added that the MP’s daughter had also reached out to Biswas, asking where her father was.

The family was receiving WhatsApp texts from Anar in the following days claiming he was meeting VIPs in New Delhi, but no phone calls were going through to him. “Later we found that the accused had fled to Bihar with the MP’s phone,” the Commissioner says. On May 18, Biswas filed a general diary, logging the details, and a missing person enquiry was initiated.

“It was a laborious task to retrace the MP’s footsteps since he left his friend’s house,” Rajoria says. “The accused had taken great care to ensure he could not be found, including making him change vehicles at Bidhannagar before he went to the flat.”

CCTV clips from Sanjeeva Gardens provided critical clues to the sleuths. The first clue was the entry of the Bangladesh MP on the afternoon of May 13 — his last reported sighting. He was accompanied by two suspects, Faisal and Shimul Bhuniyan. Three others accused of the murder, including alleged ‘honey trap’ Celesty Rahman (who the police originally believed had lured the MP to Kolkata), were waiting for him inside.

Anar was allegedly rendered unconscious with chloroform and smothered to death within 15 minutes of his arrival. In a 1.9 minute-long CCTV clip from the following day, cops saw two men, dressed in shirts and trousers, stepping out of the flat and into the lift with a large, turquoise trolley-bag and multiple small plastic bags. They suspect that the bags contained pieces of Anar’s chopped up body parts. In another CCTV clip from a few days before the incident, Rahman was seen cooking meals in the flat’s kitchen.

Cops and a canal

According to Rajoria, a murder case was registered under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code against Jihad Hawladar based on a complaint by the Barrackpore IO.

On May 23, the West Bengal CID arrested Bangaldeshi butcher, 24-year-old Hawladar, from Bongaon in North 24 Parganas district. Hawladar was one of the suspects seen entering and leaving the flat in the CCTV footage of the New Town complex. A resident of Barakpur in Bangladesh’s Khulna district, “he is an illegal immigrant living in Mumbai,” the CID said in a statement. It said that Hawladar was brought to Kolkata two months prior by Md. Akhtaruzzaman Shahin, a U.S. citizen of Bangladeshi origin, who they claimed was the “mastermind of this planned, gruesome murder”.

Hawladar confessed that on the orders of Shahin, he and four other Bangladeshi nationals smothered and killed the MP in the flat, the statement added. Hawladar had stayed in a flat in Kolkata’s Chinar Park for two months before committing the crime. He also said that he had got rid of the body parts in the Bagjola Canal.

Fajli Bibi recalls seeing Hawladar being brought to the Bagjola Canal by cops days before search operations began underwater. “I did not see his face; he had covered it with a cloth,” she says. “But he was showing the cops specific spots along the canal.”

On Sunday, May 26, a team of three Dhaka police officials including the chief of the detective branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Mohammad Harun-or-Rashid landed in Kolkata and jointly examined the New Town flat with local investigators. The accused, Hawladar, was asked to reconstruct the sequence of events. Another suspect who was arrested in Bangladesh was called over video to help corroborate the facts and findings. It was then that the cops found out that after chopping the dead body, the killers flushed parts of it down the commode of the flat, and disposed of some other parts outside. Some of the blood was drained out of the bathroom of the flat.

According to Hawladar’s statements to the CID, the suspects spent the night of the murder drinking alcohol while chopping up the body and packing the parts into different bags. In CCTV footage examined by investigators from Kolkata and Bangladesh, the butcher was seen leaving the flat the next morning wearing Anar’s clothes. Reportedly, his own clothes had been stained with Anar’s blood the previous night.

“Even as a cop, it is difficult for me to stomach the details of this murder,” Harun-or-Rashid said, addressing the media from inside his car after his arrival in Kolkata, his signature pair of aviator sunglasses on. “I have seen many murders in my career as a cop, and based on my experience I can say that the people who planned it, and the people who executed it are all cold-blooded, level-headed individuals.”

A disaster management group in search of the body parts of the Bangladesh MP.

A disaster management group in search of the body parts of the Bangladesh MP. | Photo Credit: DEBASISH BHADURI

Strings and strands

Harun-or-Rashid said the flat at Sanjeeva Gardens, owned by an employee of the excise department, was rented by Shahin. “We have sought help from law enforcement agencies in the U.S., India, and Nepal and from the Interpol to find Akhtaruzzaman Shahin and put him on trial,” Bangladesh Home Minister Khan told the media.

Shahin, who remains elusive, is the brother of Md. Shahiduzzaman, the mayor of Kotchandpur municipality in Bangladesh’s Jhenaidah. While addressing the press, Shahiduzzaman said he had no knowledge of his brother’s relationship with the murdered Awami League MP, and that stern action should be taken if he is found guilty.

Media reports have also emerged of a childhood friendship between Shahin and Anar, which had allegedly extended to a partnership over gold smuggling. Bangladeshi media outlets have also claimed that the two had a falling out recently. According to Harun-or-Rashid, Shahin had left the New Town flat days before the murder, and later fled to the U.S. The West Bengal Police has told the media that they are planning to extradite Shahin to India, since India has an extradition treaty with the U.S. and the crime took place on Indian soil.

While three suspects were arrested in Bangladesh earlier in connection with Anar’s death, four other accused — Shahin, Siam, Faizal, and Mustafizur — are still missing. Investigators suspect that Siam fled to Nepal and Mustafizur took shelter in a hotel in Chinar Park.

Borders and neighbours

Harun-or-Rashid has laid emphasis on the fact that the murder, from its plan to execution, was committed entirely by Bangladeshi nationals. “The plan was hatched in Bangladesh, and the execution took place in Kolkata,” he specified, adding that the support of the Indian law enforcement has been crucial through the investigation.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal says, “Law enforcement agencies from both countries are coordinating, and necessary information is being exchanged in the matter. The government is extending necessary support to the Bangladesh side as part of the investigation.”

Imankalyan Lahiri, professor of international relations at Kolkata’s Jadavpur University, says the murder highlights a bigger problem: the infiltration of illegal Bangladeshi nationals into India through West Bengal. “A crime being committed on Indian soil by Bangladeshi immigrants who have crossed the border without valid documents is deeply problematic for India’s national security,” Prof. Lahiri says.

West Bengal shares a 2,216.7-kilometre-long border with Bangladesh, of which major parts are unfenced and porous. In October 2014, India and Bangladesh were embroiled in another cross-border crime after a bomb exploded in a rented house in Khagragarh in West Bengal’s Burdwan district, killing two.

It was subsequently revealed that the people in the house, believed to be members of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, a terrorist organisation in Bangladesh, were engaged in the preparation of bombs, arms and ammunition, maintaining hideouts and organising terrorist training camps on Indian soil. In its first chargesheet in March 2015, the National Investigation Agency described it as a “conspiracy of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, Bangladesh, to overthrow the existing democratic government in Bangladesh through violent terrorist acts.”

Meanwhile Dorin, the MP’s daughter, who is studying law in England, told Bangladeshi media that she is awaiting her visa to come to Kolkata for a DNA test, to ascertain whether the samples recovered from the septic tank indeed belong to her father.

In her first press briefing after the tragic news, Dorin, her Bengali slanted to a Dhaka accent, had broken into tears. “I want justice, I want to see the people who did this hanged in front of me,” she cried into the TV microphones placed in front of her. “One who doesn’t have a father has no one. There is no one like a father…. We have been orphaned.” She could barely enunciate her words through her sobs.

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