The February 23's outrage committed against a female student of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University (BSMRSTU) of Gopalganj by some local miscreants is another reminder of how insecure girls are in Bangladesh. That a female university student is the victim in the present case only shows the growing level of audacity of the criminals. The question of audacity arises because such kind of sexual predators usually prey on victims from the poor and vulnerable segments of society. They also often target lone women in an unfamiliar environment.
Obviously, the criminals usually target such victims as they would put up least resistance to any violence they are subjected to, followed by little or no social repercussions. But of late, it appears, the criminals are getting bolder. What is worrying is the local community's apparent lack of concern for, rather tolerance of, such iniquities in their vicinity. Thus, seeing no resistance from the community in general, the criminals are now pouncing on even female students from schools, colleges and universities from stronger social and institutional backgrounds. This is ominous.
Consider the chutzpah of the criminals in question of Gopalganj. They and their associates even dared to attack protest demonstrations organised by students and teachers of BSMRSTU following the incident. This is very alarming. What is further concerning is that, as the female BSMRSTU students told the press, their neigbours from the local community hold them in contempt.
Such attitude of the local community is definitely a factor that emboldened the reprobates to inflict such savagery on a female student of the BSMRSTU. However, such attitude born of very conservative social outlook towards the female university students is not unusual. Moreover, in the present case of theBSMRSTU students being looked down upon by the people of the area has also a local twist. Consider the very setting of the BSMRSTU. It is situated at the headquarter of an erstwhile subdivision, later upgraded to a district. Though it now happens to be home to some higher educational institutions like BSMRSTU, some people of the area are yet to come out of their parochial mindset-- characteristic of a place far from the major urban centres of the country. So, it will take some time for them to accept outsiders like non-local female students who move independently and confidently before their very eyes.
To many conservative residents of the locality, the manners of these outsiders border on impertinence. However, there is hardly any point blaming the locals only for such kind of attitude towards the girl students of the university. The local leaders, the administration and the university authorities have a role to play in changing local community's attitude. Programmes can be arranged involving local community leaders whereby the latter may develop a sense of belonging to the university and its students and consider them as their own children.
It is important that the local community feel that the higher educational institutions including BSMRSTU are their own and they should be proud of those. This will also help to motivate and mobilise the local community against criminals who take the existing communication gap between the university and local community to their advantage. The law-enforcement department, on its part, needs to be more active in rooting out the criminal networks of the locality so that female students of different higher institutions of learning of the area may feel safe.
It is reassuring to know at this point that the members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) have successfully done the job of arresting six of the culprits responsible for the odious crime in Gopalganj. They should be brought to quickest justice.