The heightened media response and public outcry prompted by the rape of two girls at a Banani hotel in Dhaka city deserves commendation for obvious reasons. What, however, does not merit equal and unqualified commendation, and in fact points to a systemic deficiency, is the unusual agility of enforcement organisations following the unfortunate occurrence. In the instant case, such deficiency principally relates to the alleged refusal of the police station to record the incident at the first instance, and thereafter resorting to action being goaded primarily by media exposure.
In the incident under discussion, the concerned police unit had no business whatsoever to verify the authenticity of the complaint as alleged. Their job, quite clearly as per regulation, was to record the occurrence of a heinous cognisable criminal offence and then proceed to investigate. Experience indicates that proper and prompt investigation would most likely reveal the facts and circumstances as has been proved subsequently. At the least, the police station should have entered the complaint in the prescribed General Diary and do the needful. Should the complaint turn out to be false, there is provision under the law to deal with the informant. However, it is clear that the Banani Police Station did not take the required procedural steps.
It would be appropriate to say that the defaults of the other law enforcing organisations need to be focused. Quite naturally, the question arises whether the Customs Intelligence outfit was waiting in the wings for the concerned jewellery businessman's son to commit some mischief to propel them into action and probing allegations of gold smuggling and tax evasion. Their sudden over-zealous actions have raised more questions about the organisation's evenhandedness and the official somnolence. Similar accusations could also be levelled against the Department of Narcotics that vainly tried to shake off inertia and show some activity by seizing some unauthorised liquours from the hotel where the incident took place.
It is quite a distressing reflection on our polity that this high-profile rape case and the attendant media focus has in fact relegated into background the shocking gang rape of a young girl in Jurain on April 28 this year. Police has thus far arrested only the abettor, a security guard, and are yet to nab the five rapists while the father of the victim continues to receive threatening telephone calls to withdraw the criminal case.
Media focus, unfortunately, is on the wane, also in respect of the heartrending suicide on the rail track of a father and daughter in Sreepur. To recollect, Hazrat Ali, the terrified father, approached the Union Parishad member and the police and sought protection of his minor daughter, being pestered continuously by the local bullies. He did not get any relief and was compelled to commit suicide. The Union Parishad member is now accused of inducing suicide but no action had been taken regarding the defaulting policemen.
Under circumstances as stated above, one may wonder, if incidents like the ones at Jurain and Sreepur will not be pursued by law enforcing agencies simply because there is no media hype on such depredations. And whether hyper activity by State agencies will be in evidence only in exceptional cases like the Banani incident? The question is, shall we fail to note that behind the agility and sudden speed of activity in exceptional incidents, like the one that took place in the Banani hotel, lie the unpardonable insensitivity in applying the law as a matter of course to the relief of all citizens? The commitment of a model investigation of the Banani incident as attributed to an official of the detective branch must not be, one hopes, an exception. Equity in law enforcement shall not remain an elusive goal.
The writer is a former IGP and columnist of The Daily Star.