The long road since 48 hours
It is difficult to recall whether any other high-profile murder case in Bangladesh has remained irresoluble for such a long time as that of the murder of the journalist couple Sagar-Runi. Both were senior journalists, Sagar being the head of an electronic news channel at the time of his death. Both had acquired a decent reputation as good investigative journalists. Soon after the killings, the then home minister had assured us that the killers would be nabbed within 48 hours. Alas! Countless 48 hours have passed since then. And after 11 years, the investigators are yet to solve the murder mystery.
Only those who have had to endure the pains of such gruesome killing of their kinsmen can understand the agony one goes through every hour of the day waiting for the case to come to trial and for justice to be done. Eleven years is too long a time to suffer through such pain. But any talk of trial feels redundant when we don't even know what happened to the five or so people arrested at the very seminal stage of the investigation.
Again, this year, a fresh date has been sought by the investigating agencies, for the 95th time since 2011. After the investigating officer being changed six times, the case has, in all probability, stalled. We believe, it being a high-profile murder case, the progress made so far must be made public, at least as much as would not hamper the investigation process.
Why has the double murder resisted a solution for 11 years? Surely, there must have been some lead pointing to the killers and their motives. Are we to believe that the killers were so methodical that they left no trace behind? Facts tell us that every murderer leaves behind evidence. It defies imagination that our investigating agencies would remain clueless after conducting probes for 11 years. Or are we to believe that the assassins and the mastermind – and I strongly believe that they are not the same – are so very powerful that their names cannot be revealed?
One despairs to see the waning of interest in the journalist community regarding this matter. Initially, there was a robust group of journos literally breathing down the neck of the government, the information minister's in particular, for a thorough inquiry and quick identification of the killers. But since the person giving leadership to this group of journalists was given an important post, he has not been seen talking much about the case anymore. Little ground there is not to believe that the post was a lollipop to lure him to abstain from lending his weight to the movement seeking justice for the slain couple. And in a situation where a good part of the fourth estate in Bangladesh has chosen discretion over valour – some willingly sought pliancy, some did so fearing retribution – it is little wonder that the issue has come to receive decreasing attention from them, except for a yearly statement expressing their frustration, till it dissipates from public memory eventually.
The motive of the gruesome murder remains unexplained. We wonder what happened to the High Court hearing on the rule issued by it in 2012 over the government move to identify the motive of the killing, which was scheduled for the first week of April of 2022? It doesn't need a Poirot or a Holmes to surmise that robbery was not the motive, since nothing valuable was found to be missing. Then what was?
Even an ignoramus knows that the first thing investigators try to establish when probing into a killing is the motive behind it. By a process of elimination, they preclude all possible motives till only one stands out as the prime. It is difficult to believe that our highly trained agencies have so far been unable to put their fingers on the motive.
Or are both the motive and the possible perpetrators too hot to put a finger on? Is it that the then IGP's statement of there having been "marked progress in the investigation" a few days after the killings was indeed some very incriminating evidence which cannot be revealed? That is a natural corollary to the narrative so far. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the victims, having been investigative journalists, had probably come by very sensitive matters related to influential persons that would have caused serious damage to said person and/or their business if made public. This is not my personal assumption, but something that has been in the grapevine all these years and is still making the rounds. We wonder whether Rab has probed this area at all?
It is time the matter came to a head. We wonder what the agencies have not been able to find out in 11 years that the investigators will be able to discover in the next few months or years, if at all. What is there to be probed further that has not been done in 11 years?
There can be two explanations. Either the investigators are really out of their depth or in a cul-de-sac (which defies logic), or the findings would rather not be revealed, for whatever reasons.
We believe it is up to the government to prove wrong those who label this country as having an "appalling and pervasive culture of impunity" by completing the probe into Sagar and Runi's murder without further ado and bringing the killers and those behind the killings to justice, whoever they may be – or live with the contemptible tag.
Brig Gen Shahedul Anam Khan, ndc, psc (retd) is a former associate editor of The Daily Star.