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     Volume 6 Issue 41 | October 26, 2007 |

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After Sunset

Elita Karim

Tejgaon - one of the many streets in Dhaka City where muggers attack commuters frequently.

It was about 11:45 pm when Sajid Rahim and his friend were returning home on a rickshaw from Kalabagan. Taking the street parallel to Metro Shopping Mall, the rickshaw got inside a connecting road when suddenly a white car screeched past by and stopped the rickshaw. Four men got down and surrounded the rickshaw, threatening the passengers to give up everything they owned or to be ripped to pieces with the sharp weapons they were carrying.

This has become a usual story in the streets of Dhaka these days. As dusk hits the city, a feeling of uncertainty creeps inside pedestrians, people returning home from work or the general city dwellers just going about their day-to-day lives. There was a time when people walking by would readily give away their belongings to the muggers, for the sake of their lives. However, the scenario has reached a point now, where muggers are not satisfied with just taking valuables of their victims.

A few months ago, Tarek (not his real name) in his mid twenties was returning from work at around 10:30 pm in the night. A tailor by profession, there has been times when Tarek had to work well after midnight. While on his way home, his CNG driven autorickshaw was stopped by a group of men on the Mohakhali Flyover. Tarek gave away all the money that he had on him along with his cell phone. That, however, was not enough for the muggers. They forcibly rubbed 'malam' and a chilly mix into his eyes and made him walk up and down on the flyover for approximately two hours. Tarek, tortured, exhausted and in pain could do nothing but submit to their barbaric demands.

Most victims are never able to defend themselves against the big groups of hooligans who attack them with sharp knives and guns. This is one of the main reasons as to why mugging and violence of this kind is increasing every day, in various parts of the city.

In Sajid's case, however, things were a little different. The four men demanded that Sajid and his friend give everything that they had on them, when his friend took out his wallet and cell phone to hand them over. Sajid kicked the man on his right. Shocked by the sudden action, the man on the left immediately stabbed Sajid from the other side with a dagger. Instantly, chaos broke out. One of the muggers were stabbing Sajid while the other one was trying to get the cell phone out of his pocket. Both Sajid and his friend were trying to fight the mugger with the dagger but were still getting stabbed in several places.

Meanwhile, some of the pedestrians took notice and ran to the rescue along with some guards from the nearby houses. This frightened the muggers, which made them dash to their car. Sajid and his friend, hurt and bleeding, held on to one of the muggers till the RAB officials appeared into the scene and took the mugger away. "The people from around were beating the mugger up," says Sajid. "And he kept on screaming about him being a mere pedestrian and not a mugger. In fact, he held on to this statement even when the RAB officials transferred him to the police station. Apparently, the police could not get a confession out of him and he was released."

One may wonder how the police, notorious for their inhuman methods of interrogation, could never get a confession out of the mugger who was caught by his victims. Sajid was immediately taken to the Gonoshahsthyo Hospital where he was kept for treatment for two days. "I am back home now but am still in a lot of pain," he says. "My wounds are still fresh and am not allowed to move too much."

In spite of all the security measures that the police claims to have taken exclusively for pedestrians and people commuting on public transport, such terrifying stories of muggers pouncing upon office goers and pedestrians in the city continue. Some people think that it's high time that we carried sharp weapons and guns to protect ourselves from these hooligans. That is hardly a sensible solution but one that may be the last resort, unless the law enforcement agents make sincere efforts to patrol the streets and catch these criminals who make the life of ordinary citizens, a living hell.



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