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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Saturday, November 17, 2012
OP-ED

Bitter Truth

Crime but no punishment

With a surge of crimes such as murder, abduction, extortion and robbery occurring in broad daylight and with the law enforcers utterly incapable of combating it, the country, and most spectacularly Dhaka city, has in recent times plunged into a morass of chaos and anarchy. Some other cities in the world surely have higher crime rates, but Dhaka's "reputation" could soon dwarf theirs in absolute terms.

Parag, a 6 year old child, was abducted when his mother was taking him and his two sisters to school at 7 a.m. The incident, in which the kidnappers shot his mother, sisters and the driver of their car, came as a chilling reminder of the vulnerability of the people on the roads or within the boundary of their houses. The people who want to live in peace burst into angry protests against such terrorism let loose by a handful of thugs and gangs who operate their clandestine activities with the patronage and blessings of some influential godfathers. Punishment of the monsters, even if they are arrested later, is a distant dream

The drama surrounding the rescue of Parag is still shrouded in mystery. While Rab officials claim that ransom money was paid to the abductors for getting him back alive, the father of the boy and police sources refute that claim. The administration must realise that such contradictory claims and a tendency to put things under a veil unnecessarily create a sense of despondency in people as well as lack of confidence in the government.

This incident reinforced the conviction that deadly violence, once mostly confined to crime-ridden, comparatively obscure places, may now lash out randomly at any one, at any time and even in the heart of the metropolis, which is considered relatively safe because it is under the very nose of the law enforcers.

Reports of gruesome murders published in the newspapers reinforce our belief about the horrendous crime situation in the country. A report published in an English daily on November 13 indicated that murders in Chittagong city have increased alarmingly, with 15 people becoming victims of gruesome killings in just over a month ending November 9.

In a country that we proudly call cultured and civilised, and its people imbued with religious, ethical and moral values, such ghastly incidents put a stigma on our collective psyche.

Sadly true, most notably, the capital city and adjacent areas seem caught in a frightening coil of fear and trauma as extortionists of all hues are preying upon innocent people going out of their houses to perform their daily chores. It is worth mentioning that in one day (November I), at least 10 people were killed in different parts of the country, either as a sequel to political vengeance or falling victim to domestic violence and dowry related conflict.

People, especially residents of Dhaka can put up with damaged roads, clogged drains, mosquito menace and frequent load shedding and a host of other ills that plague their everyday life, but how can they take so much uncertainty, risk, and insecurity? In recent times the city and its adjacent areas seem so consumed with crime that people are incapable of thinking about anything else.

A report published on November 13 in an English daily said that on November 12, Saddam, spurned suitor of Farzana Akhtar (16), set her on fire when she was sleeping in her house. Seriously burnt, Farzana is now undergoing treatment at the burn unit of DMCH. In another case, at least 40 people were injured in a clash between two groups of villagers in Kendua Upazila of Netrokona over stalking of a school girl. Another report on the same day stated that in Gaibandha at least seven people were injured as an alleged stalker Siddique along with seven accomplices stormed the house of a girl and opened fire as she refused to marry him. Reports published in newspapers on November 11 indicated that police recovered the decomposed bodies of Riyadh and Delwar Hossain, the first one from the Uttara lake and the other from inside a drum in Sadarghat launch terminal. Newspaper reports quoting family sources suggest that Riyadh became a victim of deception by some unscrupulous manpower agent who, after swindling Tk.4.5 lakh from Riyadh with the false promise of sending him to Denmark, killed him. Police is still clueless about the reason for Delwar's killing.

A report carried by the media of the alleged violation of a fatwa victim in Rangpur by a policeman engaged by the High Court to ensure her safety is one more disturbing revelation of the sadistic tendencies and proclivity to sexual abuse by some deviant members of the law enforcement agency. The story has it that on the basis of a report published on July 7, the High Court in a Suo Moto rule ordered the arrest of the persons issuing edicts for imposing humiliating punishment on two women in Badargnj. On their appeal, and in apprehension of further harassment, the High Court asked the Rangpur police superintendent to ensure their safety by posting police guards round the clock near their residences pending disposal of the rule. Sadly, one of the protectors turned out to be a perpetrator this time. On the basis of a written complaint by the victim to the police superintendent, the accused police guard has been temporarily suspended and closed in the Rangpur police line.

People are afraid to take their cases of trauma and suffering to the police even when they fall victim to rash and unjust treatment at the hands of an influential individual or group. Most worryingly, fear of corruption, criminality and harassment has become all-pervasive and rampant. The whole endeavour ends up being a tortuous process with no support coming to the victims from any quarter. What is worse, some law enforcers seem to think they can get away without being booked because they can twist laws, invent loopholes, and manipulate tricky factors or points in their favour. The sad part of these cases is that when they continue to be dragged in the court for years, the victims are taken to be guilty until proved innocent

The distressing crime scene calls for some introspection on the part of the democratic government. Unhappily, as the government has started its journey towards building democratic governance, it continues to face the most harrowing time with so much criminal action jeopardising governance, much of it initiated by some self-seeking party activists. For a government that came to power with soaring expectation, the fall or decline must not precipitate into a crisis situation. The euphoria over election victory with a big margin would all but dissipate and would be replaced by exasperation that is fast turning into anger. It is not enough that policy directives are framed, it is important that these are implemented and complied with by those in charge of police administration without malice, fear or favour, and of necessity without delay.

The writer is a columnist of The Daily Star.

E-mail: aukhandk@gmil.com

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