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Silent in the face of injustice

  • Published at 11:56 pm April 19th, 2019
It is time to end the culture of impunity
It is time to end the culture of impunity / BIGSTOCK

Why do we repeatedly fail to ensure justice in our society?

We are boiling with rage and filled with sorrow at the death of brave madrasa student, Nusrat Jahan Rafi, who was sexually harassed by Siraj Ud Doula, principal of Sonagazi Islamia Senior Fazil Madrasa. Despite the fact that she suffered 80% burn injuries, we prayed and hoped that she would come back to her normal life. But we couldn’t save her. 

This brutal killing has triggered mass outrage across the country, with people from all walks of life staging demonstrations and human chains seeking immediate justice for her murder and demanding capital punishment for the principal and his accomplices. 

Nusrat, along with her mother, had gone to Sonagazi police station to file a case against the principal who was continuously threatening and silencing her for her protests against him. In turn, she and her family came under pressure from the local thugs, but they didn’t withdraw the case amidst death threats by the principal’s accomplices. 

Later she gave a clear statement describing the horrific attack made by a group of five burka-clad people in front of the doctors when she was put on life support in the hospital on April 7. She wanted to fight and keep protesting against the barbaric incident till her last breath. 

Crimes are committed in all societies, but the right to justice is ensured in a civilized society. Now some relevant questions come to mind -- how do criminals, even if they are proven guilty, enjoy impunity? Is this because they have money, muscle, and political power to escape the law? 

Why do the victims have to face death threats from the culprits/perpetrators/rapists/killers in our society? Why don’t the people have faith in law enforcing agencies and the judicial system? Why did Nusrat have to succumb to her injuries eventually? Who will be held responsible for Nusrat’s death, and who will ensure justice for her killing? We have already witnessed how the Sagor-Runi and Tonu murder cases were handled.

The court mentioned that the Police Bureau of Investigation (PBI) started holding an inquiry into the incident, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina herself was very concerned about the barbaric crime. Besides, the court urged people to have faith in the investigation, stating that negligence will not be tolerated. We must appreciate the court’s straightforward statement and its bold pronunciation in this regard.

It is very unfortunate that when everyone fails to accomplish an important task, the prime minister has to give a directive. It has now become a common practice. She directed that the perpetrators would not be spared. When our prime minister intervenes, we see a ray of hope. 

But, isn’t it impractical that the prime minister has to interfere in all day-to-day affairs in a parliamentary democracy? Aren’t the ministers, having defined responsibilities, independent or efficient enough to take decisions when they face any difficulty? 

However, a massive human chain was formed, demanding justice for the murder of Nusrat, in the capital. The chain -- which stretched from the prime minister’s residence in Ganabhaban to the president’s official residence in Bangabhaban -- was formed on April 13. Later, many people from different organizations and educational institutions came to the streets to protest against the brutality, and mass protests are still continuing across the country.

The mass protests were organized by the student wings of various political parties, NGOs, and human rights organizations. But we wonder why Islamic scholars from different platforms kept silent and didn’t protest vehemently against this brutal crime. Their silence raised questions and confusion.

It’s very important to find out why the local police officials didn’t cooperate with Nusrat’s family and also make sure these alleged killers don’t get bail. 

We have come to know from newspaper reports that they were backed by politically influential people. Being afraid of the principal’s political and financial clout, the Sonagazi Islamia Madrasa teachers didn’t dare to raise their voices against him.

Nothing will change if we, the people, remain onlookers. We seem to have become ostriches about the rampant corruption, murders, rape, and other crimes taking place in the society. Our silence, nonchalance, and political indulgence have empowered the perpetrators, rapists, and murderers to keep committing crimes and enjoy impunity in the society.

We somehow accept the police’s inaction. We fear raising our voices for a just cause because we have become cruelly selfish. Until we face this kind of brutality or any danger in our personal lives, we choose to keep mum. 

It is our silence that ultimately approves the perpetrators’ crimes or wrongdoings. 

Sheikh Nahid Neazy is Associate Professor and Chair, Department of English, Stamford University Bangladesh.