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|Volume 11 |Issue 43| November 02, 2012 ||
Still Awaiting Justice
According to our Home Minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir said last week that the investigation into the Sagar-Runi murder will be completed soon. The brutal murder of journalist couple Sagar Sarowar and Meherun Runi earlier this year became one of the most talked about crime stories. The torrent of shocking details poured forth by the mass media caused so much righteous indignation in the society that the then Home Minister Shahara Khatun had to say that she had given instructions to the law enforcement agencies to arrest the killers within 48 hours of the crime. The Inspector General of Police informed the media that great progress was being made in the investigation even before the 48 hours had passed. After more than eight months since the crime took place, it is clear that Shahara and the police's claims were mainly intended to pacify the general public and the journalist community. The chances that the criminal masterminds behind the murders will finally be brought to justice, therefore, are slight.
It took eight months for the law enforcers to identify seven 'suspects' and arrest six of them. The families of the killed journalists have also become frustrated about the proceedings.
"We don't know about the current progress of the case. We have stopped following it," says Runi's brother, Nawsher Alam Roman. He adds that the authorities always give the same answer when the families contact them. "They have always been saying that they are trying their best and that the case will be solved soon," he says. The reason why the families stopped following the procedure is understandable.
Two months after the sensational murders took place, the High Court, frustrated with Detective Branch's performance, handed over the case to Rab. When asked about the current progress of the case, the legal and media wing director of Rab, Commander M Shoail, says almost exactly what Roman has been told repeatedly over the last eight months: "The investigation is of prime importance to us. We have put our maximum effort into the inquiry." At the suggestion that he needs to be a little more specific, the director gives the routine answer: "It's impossible to say anything about an investigation, while it's still going on."
Intellectuals, especially journalists, have strong doubts about the culpability of the individuals arrested, insisting that the real culprits are yet to be identified. The skepticism prevalent among them can be understood if we look at how random individuals are often framed for sensational crimes in order to keep the real motives in darkness. In 2005, during the BNP regime, police arrested a small time crook named Joj Miah and framed him for his 'involvement' in the grenade attack on an Awami League rally in 21 August 2004. Journalists later found out that a top CID official had taught Joj Miah how to handle a grenade during his detention and convinced him to 'confess' his crimes to the court. It was later known that the BNP government framed him to hide the involvement of some of its top leaders in the attack.
People who have been keeping track of the court proceedings in the Sagar-Runi murder case have been saying that a cover up, similar to the Joj Miah case is being concocted here. Interestingly, well before the six "suspects" were arrested, a Rab official, on conditions of anonymity, told this writer that the suspects of Dr Narayan Chandra Nitai case were going to be the next Joj Miahs on the scene. The families of the journalist couple were also critical of the turn the case was taking. When asked for his comments, Runi's brother says that he does not know on what ground the police are accusing the 'suspects'. "They [the authorities] know better. We don't have any clear idea of what's going on and I don't know what to say," he says.
Journalists are still protesting on the streets demanding the arrest of the 'real killers'. They have set a deadline till November 24 for arresting them. They are also demanding proper investigation to find out the motive of the killing, and have declared to hold a grand rally on November 25, if their demands are not met.
"The honourable home minister has said that four of the suspects are professional killers. Professional killers don't kill people just for the heck of it. Somebody has to hire them to do the work," says Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, president of Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists (BFUJ). He adds that if the there are professional killers involved, the identity of the people who hired them and why they wanted to get the couple killed must be revealed.
Journalist leaders are also stressing the need for finishing the investigations quickly. "An investigation can't go on for an indefinite period of time. We have been demanding from the beginning to expedite the trial," adds Sobhan. However, he still sees grounds for optimism. "We believe that the law enforcers have not arrested the suspects without any clues. However, since the cops arrested them, they have to prove they are the real criminals as well."
There is a general consensus among the public that in order to solve the mystery surrounding the crime, journalists must investigate the matter on their own, instead of pressing home their demands on the streets. At the suggestion, Sobhan pointed out that journalists are not equipped for the job and that it's easier said than done. "Unlike some other countries, we don't even have private detectives here. What rights do we have to ask and interrogate people?" he says.
Sobhan also explains that journalists mostly talk to the people who are responsible for the investigations in cases like this. They rely on the government agencies as primary sources and talk to people who are related to the stories they cover. "Besides, it's the sole responsibility of the law enforcers to bring the criminals to justice."
There has been widespread speculation in the journalistic community that the slain journalists were working on uncovering some huge corruption in the government and they were killed before they made anything public. There are several other conspiracy theories involving the government. The government's tendency to save corrupt individuals belonging to the ruling Awami League does not help to refute such theories. After the gunfights at Rajshahi University last month, for instance, the police kept claiming that they could not find the gunslingers belonging to Bangladesh Chhatra League. At the same time, photographs of those gunslingers hobnobbing with police officers in the city were being published in the national dailies every week.
Nobody wants to see another staging of the Joj Miah episode again. "We want justice, but we also don't want any innocent to suffer. It's been eight months since the murders took place. We are tired of waiting," says a weary Roman. Our leaders must remember that no matter how elaborate their schemes are, they cannot con the people forever.
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