Police did everything to ensure that the news of Yasmin Akhter, who was brutally raped and murdered by three policemen on August 24, 1995, was not published in the local newspaper, said editor of a local daily in Dinajpur yesterday.
Matiur Rahman, editor of The Daily Uttarbangla published in Dinajpur, narrated how police and the then local administration tried to cover up the rape and murder of Yasmin and how local journalists overcame the threats and published the news that sparked public outrage and led to bringing the culprits to justice.
He said pressure and threats from the administration and political goons are still there, putting obstacles to journalism at the local level.
Matiur was speaking at a roundtable titled “Challenges before Regional and District Newspapers: Problems and Way Forward” held at The Daily Star Centre. The event was organised on the occasion of the daily's 26th anniversary.
"After so many years of the tragic incident, we feel happy that the rapists and killers of Yasmin were hanged. And the country observes the day [August 24] as the Resistance Day against Repression of Women," he said.
"It was August 25 morning. We were returning to Dinajpur from Dhaka. Manoranjon Shill Gopal, now a lawmaker of Dinajpur, informed us that police raped and killed a girl in Dashmile area. When we wanted to know from the police about the matter the next day, they called Yasmin a prostitute and buried her hurriedly."
He said, “After getting the identity and photo of Yasmin the next day [26 August], we were preparing to publish the news with eight column banner. Knowing about it, police asked me not to publish the news and threatened me with dire consequences.”
At night, police cut power supply to his press.
"But the next day, we published the news that Yasmin was raped and murdered, borrowing electricity from a neighbour. People took to the streets, laid siege to the police station and looted it. The local administration imposed curfew. Police opened fire on the agitating people, killing seven and wounding around hundred others,” Matiur recalled the incident that happened 22 years ago.
He said if they did not report the incident correctly and if they bowed to the pressure, the truth would have never come out and there would have been no justice.
Matiur said the three policemen were awarded death penalty and hanged accordingly. But those officials who tried to protect them did not get punishment.
Yasmin, a 14-year-old house help, was picked up on a police van over an assurance that they would drop her home in Dashmile area in Dinajpur on August 24, 1995. She was on her way to Dinajpur from Dhaka. A day later her body was found by the side of a road, bruised and battered.