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22nd-Apr-2015

Let us not become dehumanised – cold and unfeeling

By MAINUL HOSEIN

To demand arrest of the perpetrators of the audacious crimes committed on the Dhaka University premises by assaulting and abusing women at the celebration of Bengali New Year openly chasing them in the midst of a huge gathering and heightened security network of police, RAB and plain clothes intelligence officials seems irrelevant for correcting the position without knowing why the security arrangement so badly failed. It is not for starting with blaming the police but for knowing why they appeared unmindful and could not intervene. This is the puzzle.According to one account, some 20 women were the helpless victims at the hands of organized groups of youths at least four in number. Such groups were moving around in an organised way teasing and grabbing women and the general visitors were feeling threatened to come to help the victims. It is indescribable how panic-stricken and helpless the victims must have felt putting the law enforcing authorities in charge of the security to shame. As citizens we look worthless.It is clear that not only the government agencies but student leaders were also supervising the security arrangement. At least half of Dhaka's police and RAB personnel were supposed to remain vigilant.It is not that sexual crimes are not committed in our country. But how defiantly in the strong presence of law enforcers such crimes were indulged in that is worrying. The cause of anxiety is more than assaults on women, but also the conduct of the police at the core of the crisis.  It is natural that the people from all walks of life have reacted sharply   in disgust including women organisations. They are protesting such beastly happenings and have demanded quick justice.Because of our divisive politics, all the protesters are not equally strong in their demand or united. We have many human rights organisations the leaders of which should have known the importance of building democratic institutions without which the human rights remain vulnerable. The fact is that the police are not independent is a problem both for the human rights and the rule of law, but none talked about that.There is nothing to be surprised to find a report in an eminent English daily published Tuesday in a lead story quoting police source that the police have been asked to assess the popularity of the government supported candidates and report. The case of violence against women may not be easy for the police to handle freely when police can be used as an extension of party politics. We find it an easy demand asking the authorities to immediately arrest the perpetrators. It is everybody's first and normal reaction to demand that the criminals must be brought to book without loss of time. But the present crimes were committed due to lapse of police duty in providing protection. By insisting on arrest above every others consideration, we have to be careful to know that one wrong cannot be remedied by another wrong.If arrests are to be shown under pressure, police can do the same any time on mere suspicion. The question will be whether rightly guilty ones will be arrested. Our justice system is cluttered with easy arrests and no justice.The offences were committed and victims suffered and humiliated. So now hurrying to punish the criminals does not mean much to the victims. It is a social necessity for others. May be escaping responsibility for others. They have a right to know why police failed to offer safety and security against the concerted attacks of the unruly youths. It is generally believed that they belong to a student wing of some political party and are products of anarchic politics. The security officials were so lax and careless that they were not of any use to justify their presence on duty. The incidents should not have taken anybody by surprise. It looked like the police stayed away deliberately. It should not be right to think that the police exist only for the VIPs in the governments.Unless the inaction aspect is enquired into and examined seriously to understand the true reasons for their inability to come to the help of the victims, there cannot be any convincing reason to believe that the same police will be to free arrest the true miscreants. Just arresting the culprits will not address the issue of police's accountability to the general public about safety and security. Unfortunately, after the despicable events had happened, the police were reluctant at first to admit that any such thing occurred. The fact that two students belonging not to government's student wing who tried to rescue some women from physical abuse gave their eye witness accounts to everybody seeking help. One of them Liton Nandi spoke direct to the police and University authorities.  His courage and sense of responsibility is much to be appreciated.Liton Nandi in an interview with The New Nation complained that police are playing hide and seek in dealing with the sexual assault incidents.One thing is clear and that is the police are still reluctant to accept anything happened in a big way, deserving the fire of protest being raised. Though a departmental committee with Additional Commissioner (Crimes and Operations), a Joint Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner (East) of Detective Branch has been formed for looking into the matter to find if there was any negligence in discharging the duty by the on duty police. A high powered board-based committee for this purpose would have shown that the government had taken the matter as a serious concern.   Again, over the disgraceful human situation there are some who are eager to play politics as regards those who are to be held responsible for the crimes. This demonstrates how party politics has made many of those in politics devoid of human considerations. The process of criminalisation has to come to an end if the society as a whole is to be preserved for a safe and decent way of living. But criminalisation of politics is going strong.  The suspicion is quite widespread as to who might have the boldness to commit the offences so brazenly defying heavy police lookout. We do not want to enter into that controversy. But we certainly want the truth to come out and without political bias or otherwise. Because, this much is sure that the culprits are not ordinary young ones and the police must be induced not to fail the people.Let us prove that we have not become dehumanised, cold and unfeeling.