It is the duty of the judicial system of the country to punish offenders. The state cannot avoid the responsibility of such killings. Any failure to identify the culprits will lead to erosion in the rule of law
Shamim A. Zahedy
In the early hours of February 1, 2019, the body of a young man was found in an abandoned brick kiln in Rajapur upazila of the South-western district of Jhalakathi. But what caused a stir in the public mind was a note hanging around his neck that read, “I am Rakib …. I am the rapist of a girl from Bhandaria of Pirojpur. This is the consequence of a rapist. Beware, rapists…Hercules.”
The small note in Bangla, though it had lots of spelling mistakes, is the first of its kind that reveals the name of the so-called killer, who is none but the namesake of Hercules, the Roman name for the Greek hero Heracles, the most popular figure from ancient Greek mythology that dates back over 3,000 years. The demigod Hercules, who was a child of the god Zeus and a mortal woman, is mostly famous for the accomplishments of a series of 12 heroic tasks he was assigned to make amends for a crime.
The dead, Rakib Mollah, 20, stood accused in a case filed with Bhandaria police station in connection with the gang rape of a female student. The student was allegedly gang raped by two men when she was on the way to her grandparents’ house on January 14.
Rakib Mollah, who was studying law in one of Dhaka’s private universities, had been missing since January 25. His father said that Rakib, who used to stay in Dhaka with other family members, went to his village home in Bhandaria, Pirojpur 27 December last year. Following the rape allegation against him, he left the village and took a refuge at his friend’s house in Nabinagar, Savar on the outskirts of Dhaka.
Rakib and his friend were picked up by unidentified goons. While they were having tea at a stall in the vicinity of Ganaswasthya University, they were forcefully bundled into a white- colour microbus. Rakib’s friend, however, was released later.
Earlier, police recovered a body of another accused in the same case with a similar note hanging round the neck. But there was no revelation about the so called killer. Sajal Jamaddar, 30, was found dead in Kathalia area of Jhalakathi district. Local police officials said that Sajal was kidnapped on January 22 from Dhaka and later he was hacked by sharp weapons to death.
With these two, police recovered bodies of at least three rape accused persons, who were killed in similar fashions in the space of two weeks. On January 17, police found the body of Ripon, 39, a suspect in the gang rape and murder of a female worker of a readymade garment factory in Savar with a similar note hanging around the neck.
In the early hours of January 7, an 18-year-old girl was found dead in her house hours after she had filed a case with police station against Ripon and three other co-workers for raping her.
The police, however, so far have no clue about the motive of these three murders of similar manner. Bangladesh’s home minister, who has been assigned to look after the country’ law and order, took one long week to vent his reaction on the incident, vowing to bring the so-called ‘Hercules’ to justice soon. Upon enquiries from reporters at a programme in Dhaka, Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said the authorities would find the killer or killers of those suspected rapists in a little while.
But the vigilante-style murders of rape suspects have raised eyebrows among rights activists over possible extrajudicial killings amid rising rape cases in Bangladesh. According to a Dhaka-based rights group, Ain-o-Salish Kendra, some 732 women and 444 children were raped in 2018, a rise of 18 per cent compared with the numbers in 2017.
Ain O Salish Kendra’s Executive Director Sheepa Hafiza said that killing people “extra judicially” and leaving a note with the murdered person cannot be acceptable. “We have to be cautious. We have to look very carefully into why such incidents are taking place,” she was quoted as saying.
Ain O Salish Kendra has put the number of extrajudicial killings across Bangladesh in 2018 at 466, the highest in a single year over the past six years. In 2017, at least 162 people fell victims to such malpractice.
The emergence of a Hercules in the 21st century of the Anno Domini or Common Era to right a wrong unlawfully is a cause of great concern and it does not bode well for Bangladesh. Unless this Hercules is stopped now, namesakes of King Arthur, the legendary British, who led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the late 5th and early 6th centuries, or Beowulf, the early 6th century legendary Scandinavian hero who came to the aid of the King of the Danes, will descend on Bangladesh soon obviously for wrong reasons.
As it is the duty of the country’s judicial system to punish the offenders, the state cannot avoid the responsibility of such killings. Any failure to identify the culprits will lead to erosion in the rule of law, which might eventually result in lawlessness. Let Bangladesh beware!
The writer is the Executive Editor of The Independent.
First appeared: 10 February, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 23 February, 2019 04:09:42 PM