Sohagi Jahan Tonu, a second year History student of Comilla Victoria College, was reportedly raped and murdered by miscreants in Alipur area of Mainamati Cantonment, Comilla on 20 March. It was an early Sunday night when she was returning from a tuition. According to the media report, "the body of 19-year old Tonu, with her head smashed, was found in a bush near a culvert at the cantonment's Alipur area on March 20 night. After recovering the body, police, based on the findings at the crime scene, had said that the girl was first raped and then murdered" (Daily Observer, March 25). "Her half naked body with smashed head was recovered later that night from inside the cantonment" as reported in the media. The following day, Tonu's father Yaar Hossain, a Class IV employee of the Cantonment Board, had lodged a case with Kotwali police of Comilla city. Along with Comilla University students and teachers, people across the country have been protesting, demanding justice for Tonu.
Despite such protests across the country and filing case, it is quite ironic that even after a week the perpetrators have not been brought to book yet. At the same time it is ironic that the authorities seem happy after providing BDT 20,000 and a piece of land in return of Tonu's sexual violation and
Such a kind of backdrop, in fact, raises a number of questions. Where are we going? If our girls are not safe even in cantonment areas, where the security personnel live, where tight security is maintained, which is a restricted area, then where are our girls safe? And how can the perpetrators flee from such a restricted area after committing such a heinous act? And why, even after a week, have the perpetrators not been identified? It is also paradoxical that the mainstream media did not cover the report with priority, as claimed by Kadir Kallol (BBC Bangla, March 23).
I was wondering if Tonu had been the daughter of a high military or civil officer instead of a fourth class employee, would she be the victim to such a heinous act like this? And would the progress of the investigation go with a snail's pace? Would the perpetrators be identified and punished? Would justice be ensured? Or would it be the same like giving some money and a piece of land?
If justice is not ensured and the perpetrators are not brought to book and punished, it is sure to bring long-term negative consequences in the whole country. Others might be encouraged to commit such crimes in the days to come. Thus, exemplary punishment for the murderers of Tonu needs to be ensured.
What is being repeated time and again is the need to make society realise the dignity of women in the first place. There is also the need for stern action that can only be ensured by enacting and properly implementing laws. There are many laws in our society to protect women but very few are being earnestly implemented. Fast-track courts need to be set up to ensure a time-bound disposal of cases. While law is the last resort, the best that we should do is to create an ambience within each and every family to foster the culture of bestowing respect and dignity to women. Therefore, it is high time to bring about changes in our society through nurturing family values, and mutual respect. It's time to stop such heinous acts. It's time to ensure the safety of our girls irrespective of time and place.
Like Tonu, there might be a number of unreported Tonus who are raped and murdered on a regular basis. In this context, the media need to play a significant role to raise awareness and create a culture of mutual respect and to ensure justice to the victims. Media should not cover only hard security and high political issues through considering profit maximizing. They also need to provide coverage with emphasis on soft security issues in our society.
The unfortunate fact remains that after a few days the memory of this barbaric happening will fade away and a good deal of pledges will be made and forgotten thereby. But will the family of the victim ever forget the fateful evening of March 20? How will the mother of the victim console herself? Can she at all?
Md Shariful Islam teaches International Relations at the University of Rajshahi