DS: If there is a rape incident at the college dormitory, the responsibility falls on you as the principal. I would like to know your reaction to what happened on your campus last night.
It is true that as the principal I am responsible for everything in this college. But I cannot predict if something is going to happen before it happens. You know the situation of our society, of the entirety of Bangladesh. The gate of our college was closed. The dormitories too were closed -- sometimes the gates are locked, sometimes they are not, because many teachers, staffers and their families live there.
Perhaps the gates weren't locked when the incident happened and the perpetrators went into the dormitory. There was also construction going on, on the fifth floor of the building.
There is also a hillock right behind the student dormitory. In addition, while the front of the building is well lit, there are no lights out at the back. That is precisely where this young woman was raped. Most of the accused are not students -- only one is a current student, three are alumni and two outsiders.
DS: Is this the residential hall which was set on fire by Bangladesh Chhatra League?
DS: When did you learn of the rape incident?
One of my staffers called me to let me know around 8:00pm in the evening right after the incident had happened. It was after his call that I received a phone call from the officer-in-charge of Shah Poran police station, requesting my permission to bring police into the campus.
I requested them to enter the campus as soon as possible. Two of my hostel superintendents were on leave and two were on campus -- I sent them to the spot immediately. Soon after the police entered the campus, I sent an associate professor and the secretary of the Teachers' Council to the spot, since I was a little ill myself.
They let me know that the investigation was ongoing and I didn't need to go to the spot immediately. They asked me to go at 12:30 am, which is when I went. I stayed there till 3:00am.
It is being said that BCL was involved with this incident and it is often observed that a portion of the teachers or administration shelter them from accountability. As a result, the students too are getting frantic.
This may be the case for universities too because there is often groupings among them. But I can say with confidence that there are no groupings among my teachers. There is no question of sheltering incidents like this. However our college is located in Tilagor, where local politics is at play, which will influence this incident. Whoever is sheltering the perpetrators are from outside the college.
DS: What kind of action are you thinking of taking against the accused perpetrators?
I have created an investigation committee to find out who the past students involved with this incident are, which department they were from, when they graduated etc. They will recommend what to do. According to their recommendation, I will request the National University authorities to cancel their diplomas.
It is often seen in the case of investigation committees that the probe report remains unpublished or their recommendations are not implemented. There are previous examples of this in MC College itself -- the arson incident at the student dormitory being one of them.
I was a department head when the arson happened in 2012. The investigation report was submitted within due time and published as well. The committee took only as much as was needed to complete a detailed investigation but the issue of meting out punishment was not in our hands. A case was filed in this regard as well which is still under trial.
DS: What steps have you taken against the students involved in this incident?
All those directly involved had graduated four to five years ago. I cannot take any decision on behalf of any organisation. If they are associated with any organisation, the central committees of those bodies will take action against them.
DS: Past students, current students and outsiders were also involved in setting fire to the 128 year old residential hall. You had given some recommendations to the administration back then, but no action was ever taken. Why was it so?
The residential hall was repaired using Tk 6 crore but the perpetrators were not ever held accountable. I too have the same question as you. We needed an exemplary punishment to be meted out back then, so that repeat incidences do not occur.
DS: What are your expectations now? Do you think the accused will be punished?
I hope they will be given the highest punishment. I have done everything I could from my side. A lot of journalists came to me this morning…it was while talking with them that a senior Secretary, a former student of this college, called me and I told him that he is well-placed to make sure that justice is served. Many of the graduates of this college are in important positions. I have called them and sought their help. The law enforcers too are trying their best to arrest the perpetrators. My only hope is that appropriate legal action will be taken against them.
DS: Have you spoken to the education minister or the ministry?
No, I have not had a chance to discuss the matter with them. I have been busy giving media interviews since the incident. I also have to conduct meetings with the academic council and staff council. I will contact the ministry after that. When I call them, they will want to know what steps I have taken -- I have to be prepared to answer that question.