Police investigating the sexual harassment of women during the Pohela Boishakh celebrations at Dhaka University in 2015 have identified only one suspect, despite releasing photographs of eight others and posting a substantial reward for information which might lead to their arrest.
According to witnesses, at least 20 women were sexually assaulted in an hour by a group of rowdy youths on the evening of April 14, 2015.
Witnesses alleged that several police officers were standing nearby at the time of the incident, but did nothing to prevent the assaults. One officer is even said to have released two of the culprits who were caught red-handed by the public.
Police in the first instance denied having any evidence of sexual assault and termed the incident “a mere scuffle”.
In response to the mass public outcry which followed, however, Inspector General of Police AKM Shahidul Hoque told the media that they had recognised the faces of eight people and offered a reward of Tk 1 lakh for information which would lead to the arrest of each.
Police also released photos of the eight suspected youths, who were captured on CCTV cameras installed around the scene.
But two years on from the attacks, the Police Bureau of Investigation (PBI) has submitted a charge sheet accusing only one perpetrator, who is still awaiting trial.
Detective Branch (DB) of police were given the responsibility to investigate the case. After eight months, the case investigation officer DB Sub inspector Dipok Kumar submitted a report before a Dhaka court in December 13, 2015 which said he had failed to identify any of the suspects.
But the IO later appealed to the court seeking the re-opening of the case following the arrest of a suspect, identified as Md Kamal, from Dhaka’s Chawkbazar on January 27, 2016.
Four weeks later, a Dhaka court directed the PBI for re-investigation in the case but investigators again failed to identify the suspects.
On December 20 last year, the PBI submitted a charge sheet against the lone arrestee in the case.
However, Kamal’s counsel Anisur Rahman told the Dhaka Tribune that his client is innocent and was not involved in the assaults.
Dhaka Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s court sent the charge sheet to the Dhaka Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal-3 on January 2, where the charge acceptance is now pending.
The Special Public Prosecutor of the tribunal, Mahmuda Aktar, told the Dhaka Tribune that the hearing on the charge sheet would be held on May 2.