Around 12:30 pm on August 24, 2016 a girl – an 8th grader – was stabbed in front of her school, Willes Little Flower School and College (WLFSC). On August 28 she drew her last breath.
When I first heard of the incident, I remembered that on August 8, 2016, just 16 days before the stabbing of Suraya Akhter Risha, I walked through the spot where the tragedy took place. I remembered while frantically rushing to make it to an appointment on time, I heard a man screaming at me because, even in my kameez and orna, I was too ‘inappropriate’, too ‘vile’, too ‘exposed’. That, however, was easy to brush off; happens often enough. I knew that I wasn't the first person this happened to, and I definitely wouldn't be the last.
What I feel, after only being there once, is next to nothing compared to the school students – girls, to be more precise. This is not an incident that can be recovered from. We are all Risha. Every demonstrator, everyone who is part of the human chain after the stabbing, understands this all too well.
The walk to school shouldn't be something that children have to come to dread, and especially it shouldn't come to a point that students are legitimately scared for their lives. This issue isn't just limited to WLFSC. While reports of stabbing and murder are thankfully not particularly common, at least not in front of schools, there are many who experience harassment on their commute.
Harassment ranges from verbal abuse, sexual advances, groping, spitting, threats, and even physical altercation. Yes, I concede that this level of harassment has not yet killed anyone, but given the chance to accelerate, it very well may. It is important to realise that these attacks are on school going children – young and vulnerable. The predators know this and use it to their advantage. The accused attacker of Risha didn't stab her on their first interaction. He made several advances; he stalked her. Harassment should be taken more seriously.
School-goers should be able to talk to adults and caregivers as soon as they experience harassment. On their daily commute, students are unfortunately easy targets. Reports such as these should be handled with care and seriousness. School authorities should be notified, and they, in turn, should take prompt actions to ensure safety of students.
When I saw photos of Risha where she was vibrant and full of life, I was distraught. It is difficult to imagine the pain that her family, her teachers, classmates and friends must be in.
Though this hurt is unbearable, there has to be a collective effort to make school commutes safe. It is only our moral and social duty to stop harassment and assault when seen. It cannot be easy to turn a blind eye in broad daylight.
With a keen eye and a broken brain to mouth filter, Mahejabeen Hossain Nidhi has a habit of throwing obscure insults from classic novels at random people who may or may not have done anything to warrant them. Drop her a line at email@example.com