In My View
‘Mother, I want to live,’ Pori Moni tells PM
The alleged attempt to rape and murder Pori Moni, a high-profile film actress of Bangladesh has brought up several important national issues--especially the policy on the enforcement of law and order in the country and the state's role in providing security to the life of every citizen--for discussion on an urgent basis.
Born into a modest family of Bangladesh, the model-turned-actress who traveled a long way through ups and downs to reach the status of a celebrity has brought some serious allegations including attempted rape and murder against a rich and influential person of the country and few others in a case she filed with a police station on the outskirts of the nation's capital.
In normal circumstances in any law-abiding country anywhere in the world, the alleged perpetrators who have been accused of attempting to rape and murder the actress would be very worried today for obvious reasons. But ironically, it was the other way around here. It was rather Pori Moni, the actress who claimed who was a victim of the ugly incident was worried for her life.
This kind of situation usually happens in a mafia state where there is no law and order and properly functioning criminal justice system. In those states, rapists and murderers have the upper hand while the victims and their relatives fear for their lives. But Bangladesh is not--I repeat not-- a mafia state. Yet, why someone who claimed who was a victim of an attempted rape and murder should be worried for her life.
What are we missing or getting wrong here? Why is it that the victim of an alleged crime is worried for her life instead of the perpetrators? Don't we have an effective government that provides security of life to all citizens including even criminals? Don't we have a properly functioning criminal justice system that protects the innocents and punishes the perpetrators? If we do, then why do the victims like Pori Moni fear for their life?
Right since the June 8 ugly incident at Dhaka Boat Club as described by the actress at a late night news conference at her Banani residence, she reached out to everybody she thought would come forward to help her at this critical time of her life. But without getting any hopeful response from them, she finally made a desperate plea straight to the head of the government of Bangladesh to protect her.
By reaching out directly to the prime minister of Bangladesh for justice, Pori Moni has raised a series of important questions that we the journalists, columnists, the civil society as well as the government leaders must address. Isn't the law and order properly functioning in Bangladesh? Isn't the criminal justice system effectively working in our country? Are the high-profile rapists and murderers beyond the reach of Bangladeshi law? At what stage, somebody turns to the prime minister of a country for help?
One can argue that the head of the government of a country is reached for help as the last resort or when there is no other alternative. Another can say that people seek intervention from the head of the government of a country for protection of their lives when the law enforcing agencies fail to do so or after the collapse of the law and order situation of that country altogether. But Pori Moni didn't do any wrong by reaching out to the prime minister for help after what she experienced in four worrisome days since the Dhaka Boat Club incident.
Actually, her effort to reach out to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina paid off. After she made an appeal to the prime minister to protect her life, things started to move at a rapid pace. Police hurriedly arrested five persons including the principal accused in the case of attempted rape and murder filed by Pori Moni. Things also dramatically changed with Banani Police. First, they refused to register the case when Pori Moni went to them on the night of the incident but now they have posted even police guards in front of her residence for her protection.
Pori Moni reached out to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in a manner she was probably never reached before by anybody. It was a direct appeal from a fearful citizen of Bangladesh to Bangladesh prime minister to save her life. And the actress smartly used the social media to send her moving message to none other than the head of the government of Bangladesh. Pori Moni lost her own mother at the age of only two and a half years but found another mother--who is one of the most powerful women in the world--in prime minister of Bangladesh at the most critical time of her life.
So without feeling shy, she directly addressed Sheikh Hasina--who in real life is a mother too--as her "mother". In a widely viewed Facebook post, Pori Moni wrote to the prime minister of Bangladesh: "I have been a victim of physical assault. Attempts were made to rape and kill me. I want justice but where do I go for it? Who will do fair justice? Mother, no one from the police station to our own film industry has come to my aid for the last four days. Everybody who has heard about the incident has simply said 'we will see to it' and then they all went silent."
Pori Moni went on: "But I cannot remain quiet. If I keep quiet after what has happened to me thinking 'I am a woman or the possible reactions of people', then I will simply be one of those who remain silent despite being wronged. In such a situation, I will have nothing but regret. Mother, can I keep quiet like them? I have never found you tolerate any injustice by keeping just quiet. I was only two and a half-year-old when my mother died. I never felt her need even for a moment. But today I strongly feel I need her and I need to hold her tightly."
She closed her heart-touching direct appeal to the prime minister of Bangladesh with these words: "Mother, I need you; I need you for my survival. Mother, I want to live; please save me." It was indeed a rare and desperate communication between a citizen and prime minister of Bangladesh through which the citizen literally begged for her life even though she was not the perpetrator. Instead, she claimed she was the victim of physical assault and also an attempted rape and murder at Dhaka's newly established elite club.
After Pori Moni's moving appeal to the prime minister of Bangladesh to protect her life, there has been a noticeable shift in the activities of the law enforcement agencies with regard to her case. They are now looking determined to get to the bottom of the incident and find out exactly what happened at Dhaka Boat Club on the night of June 8. It is also now extremely likely that the case filed by the actress will soon play out in the court of law and the judgement is expected to be delivered in a remarkably expeditious way.
However, the Pori Moni episode exposed a double standard of Bangladesh Police. While they deserve praise for doing a commendable job for whatever reasons in thoroughly investigating the incident of an attempted rape and murder of a well-known movie star of Bangladesh, they do not pay much attention--not to speak of thorough investigations--to the actual rape and murder of hundreds of unknown young girls and women each year in the country. Rapists and murderers often go scot-free as if they are above the law.
If perpetrators of major crimes like rape and murder sleep peacefully at night and victims stay awake and run around seeking justice and security for their lives in a country, then that country must have either a total breakdown of law and order or at least a very serious problem that needs immediate fixation for re-joining the nations of the civilized world.
The writer is a Toronto-based journalist who also writes for the Toronto Sun and Canada's Postmedia Network