Looting and rape in bus: Where is passenger security?

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

Whether on the road, in trains or travelling by launch – passengers are no longer safe anywhere. Sometimes they face accidents and at another times they are looted by robbers in disguise of passengers. What does this suggest? Where is the security of the passengers?

According to a Prothom Alo report, an Eagle Paribahan bus started for Dhaka from Kushtia with 24-25 passengers on Tuesday night. Some 10-12 youths boarded the bus immediately after it resumed the journey after a short stopover at the Dibaratri Hotel in Sirajganj. When the bus crossed the Bangabandhu Bridge, the robbers took out their firearms, tied up the passengers and robbed them of their money, mobile phones and jewellery. The robbers even gang-raped a female passenger.

One of the robbers reportedly forced the driver to leave the steering and started driving the bus while other members of the gang started looting the passengers. After around three hours the robbers fled when the bus got stuck on a sand pile at Raktipara in Madhupur upazila on Tangail-Mymensingh highway.

One of the passengers said, “We were helpless and couldn’t do anything. The robbers tied our hands, feet and blindfolded us. We were held hostage for three hours. We could not know where they were taking the bus.”

Public transport has its own security system. Sometimes, the highway police conduct searches in buses. The rape victim in Eagle Paribahan was travelling to Dhaka from Kushtia in search of work at an apparel factory. But our road transport system and highway police, deployed for ensuring security on roads, could not save the woman from being gang-raped.

On the night of 25 August 2017, miscreants gang-raped and killed a woman inside a moving bus in Madhupur area and threw out the body in Pachishmile area. Tangail court sentenced four transport workers to death and awarded seven years’ imprisonment to another in a case filed in this regard. But there was no trial of many such incidents of robbery and rape. This culture of impunity has given rise to such crimes on the road. In February, Dhaka Metropolitan Police commissioner informed media that new technology is being introduced to curb robbery in buses. Messages will be sent automatically to local police super, the owner of the bus and national emergency number 999 if any passenger presses the button of the system. Though the incidents of robbery in long-haul buses take place regularly, there is no progress in the introduction of the technology in the last six months.

In some cases it was seen that the robber gang and transport workers were in collusion in such crimes. It needs to be investigated whether something like that happened in this case as well.

The Eagle Paribahan owner said he was informed through mobile phone at 3:09am that night about the robbery. But what did he do after that? Did he inform the matter to the law enforcement? If not, then he too must take the responsibility of the incident.

Such incidents of robbery and rape cannot go on rampantly on roads. Everyone involved with the incident directly and indirectly must be brought to book. At the same time the roles of highway police, and drivers and transport workers need to be investigated.

The authorities should pay sufficient compensation to the victims of robbery and rape in the buses.