Rape at JU: University authorities can’t evade responsibility

We are utterly shocked at the reported incident of a woman being raped on campus while her husband was kept confined in a residential hall of Jahangirnagar University. There were incidents of rape in this university campus earlier too. Where will women be safe if safety is not ensured at a highest educational institution of the country?

A former student of the 45th batch of International Relations department and a Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) leader, Mostafizur Rahman, is the main accused of the heinous crime. He called the couple to the campus through his friend Mamunur Rashid, an outsider and an acquaintance of the couple. Then three students, who are associates of Mostafiz, confined the husband of the victim woman in a room of Mir Mosharraf Hossain Hall and Mostafiz and Mamun took his wife to a bush near the botanical gardens and raped her.

The university administration has taken action against the six people in the incident. Three of them are leaders and activists of Bangladesh Chhatra League. Mustafizur Rahman is the international affairs secretary of the BCL’s JU unit; Shah Paran is a vice president, Murad Hossain is an assistant secretary and Sabbir Hasan is an executive member. All of them are followers of Akhtaruzzaman Sohel, president of JU unit of BCL and current and former residential students of Mir Mosharraf Hossain Hall. Studentship of some of them ended long ago.

Meanwhile, the court has granted three-day remand of four people, including BCL leader Mostafizur Rahman, arrested in connection with the rape for questioning. Senior judicial magistrate of the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) court of Dhaka, Rabeya Begum, gave this order Sunday.

The university administration suspended the certificate of accused Mostafizur Rahman and declared him persona non grata on campus. The same punishment has been given to Hasanuzzaman, former student of the 45th batch, who helped Mostafizur escape. The certificate of Shah Paran, another former student of the 44th batch, has also been suspended due to his involvement in helping to escape the main accused.

The syndicate meeting of the university has ordered the illegal students staying in the residence halls to vacate the dorms within five working days; otherwise, disciplinary action will be taken against them, it warned. It has also been decided to ban the entry of outsiders in the campus, remove the floating shops and ban the movement of unauthorised auto-rickshaws in the campus.

Despite welcoming this decision, we would like to ask the university administration, how the former students stayed in the hall for so long when current students do not get seats in the hall? Why did the university administration not take action against them earlier? Is it not the administration’s responsibility to keep the university campus safe?

Adviser to a former caretaker government, Sultana Kamal, expressed concerns over the incident and said, “Such abominable act like a rape by the students of a university, the highest educational institution, involvement with drugs cases and the ruling party’s involvement in it are extremely humiliating for the country and the nation.”

The bigger question is - would the government and the university administration allow this humiliating situation to continue or bring the perpetrators to book and ensure security on the campus. All the accused have not been arrested yet. The accused who are on the run should immediately be arrested and all the accused should be brought to book.

The incidents of rape took place in the Jahangirnagar University in the past as well. A BCL leader, who boasted of raping 100 girls, was not brought under the law; rather, influential people provided him a safe passage to go abroad. At that time, the students who mobilised an anti-rape movement in the university faced harassment in different ways.

That is why, we want to make it clear that it is not enough to expel the accused from the university temporarily and suspend their certificates. The university authority is responsible for making the campus safe both for the students or outsiders. A university campus cannot be a “safe haven” for criminals.

The university administration cannot just avoid its responsibility for the rape incident on the campus.