Students or criminals?
We are alarmed by the increasing incidents of mugging on the campus of Dhaka University (DU) where the culprits are none other than students. According to media reports, several such incidents have taken place over the last one month alone. The latest case to be reported saw a married couple mugged near the Shaheed Minar area on February 4. The couple was attacked by a group of 10 to 12 men who not only took away their cash and ATM cards, but also beat them mercilessly. And when their uncle, who happened to be an official of DU, tried to save them, the muggers assaulted him as well.
One may wonder who these students are, or why they are engaging in such petty crimes on their own campus. The answer is probably known to all: these muggers are reportedly leaders and activists of the dreaded Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) unit of DU. Apparently, there are several such criminal groups active on the campus who are led by the BCL. The group that attacked the couple in question was reportedly led by BCL activists belonging to the Masterda Surja Sen Hall.
BCL's involvement was found in all recent criminal activities reported in the area – for example, beating and snatching Tk 15,000 from a covered-van driver, vandalising a shop at Bangabazar because its owner refused to pay extortion money, assaulting a woman and her husband at Suhrawardy Udyan, etc. While these organised groups mostly target non-students passing by or through the campus, students are also not spared. Our reporters talked to several students who said they knew someone who had been assaulted or mugged on campus, while many said they had been victims themselves. The situation has turned so bad in recent times that even the Shahbagh police station acknowledged it.
The question is, what action has the university administration taken against these criminal groups? Nothing visible or effective yet. This is quite disturbing. The administration clearly does not have the will to hold BCL-linked criminals to account due to political reasons. And when it comes to ordinary students, they hardly have the courage to speak up against the BCL or report such crimes. The case with the police is the same as well. They sometimes arrest students committing such crimes, only to release them a few days later. The inaction of the university administration and law enforcers as well as the silence of the victims are thus creating an environment in which such crimes are on the rise, to say nothing of other atrocities routinely committed by BCL on the campus. This must stop.
We urge the authorities to take a strong position against on-campus criminal activities and take action against all those involved. They should also take necessary steps to prevent mugging – such as installing adequate street lights and CCTV cameras, increasing patrols on campus, etc. – to ensure the safety of students and ordinary people.