After the Pahela Baishakh sexual attack, a hotline was opened and advertisements were published in different newspapers, requesting the victims to help police identify the culprits.
Three years down the line, none of the women, however, has stepped forward. The law enforcers claim they too tried to find the victims in vain.
According to police, victims in such cases seem unwilling to assist them due to the social stigma. Many fear their identities would be disclosed.
Besides, the witnesses and the complainant in the case filed over the sexual attack, despite repeated warrants, did not show up in court over unknown reasons, throwing the trial into uncertainty, according to lawyers.
In such a situation, the capital is gearing up to celebrate Pahela Baishakh, the first day of Bangla New Year, tomorrow. The Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) yesterday announced that it has formed special teams to prevent eve teasing and also has banned the use of Vuvuzela.
During the Pahela Baishakh celebrations on the Dhaka University campus in 2015, a group of rowdy youths went berserk in TSC area for about an hour, sexually harassing at least 20 women.
The incident sparked a firestorm of protest with people from all walks of life calling for the immediate punishment of the assaulters.
Immediately after the assault, none of the victims came forward to speak out against the culprits.
Despite the huge public cry, the law enforcers initially had denied the sexual harassment but later on April 18 admitted for the first time that the women were victimised that day.
Police filed a case with Shahbagh Police Station under the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act, 2000.
Later, the law enforcers analysed footage of CCTVs installed at the scene and released the photographs of eight suspects. Police also declared cash rewards for information on them.
The Detective Branch (DB) of police was handed the case and it began its probe on April 23 the same year. Later on December 24, DB Sub-inspector Dipak Kumar Das submitted a final report to the Third Tribunal for Prevention of Woman and Children in Dhaka, saying none of the assaulters was indentified or arrested.
On February 26, 2016, Police Bureau of Investigation (PBI) was given the charge of the investigation after Public Prosecutor Mahmuda Akter filed a no-confidence petition with the court against the final report.
The next day, DB arrested one of the suspects, Mohammad Kamal, in Chawk Bazar area of the capital.
With the lone arrest, the PBI submitted a charge sheet to the court on December 15, 2016. Kamal, however, got HC bail and was freed.
The trial court framed charges against the arrestee on June 19 last year. It also fixed June 3 for the next hearing and asked the witnesses to appear before it.
PP Mahmuda Akter told The Daily Star yesterday that the trial began nearly four months ago but none of the witnesses and also the complainant appeared before the court for a single time despite being asked repeatedly.
It was making the case complicated, she said, adding, “The culprits need to be punished but it's very difficult to hand the punishment without the witnesses and the victims in court.”
A warrant was issued against Inspector (operation) of Shahbagh Police Station Abul Kalam Azad, also the complainant. But he did not appear in court, court sources said.
Contacted, the police official said he did not receive any court summons. “I would have definitely gone to the court had I got any such order.”
Taherul Huq Chauhan, additional superintendent of PBI, also the investigation supervising officer in the case, told The Daily Star that they pressed charges against Kamal after he had “pleaded guilty”.
Police had also seized a Punjabi from Kamal's house that matched with one of the dresses worn by the assaulters, he said.
About the victims, he said police were still looking for them.
“We opened a hotline for them but none contacted us,” he said, adding they were “doing their best” to gather evidence.
Asked about the seven other suspects, Chauhan said they were trying to arrest them.
“We often conducted drives to arrest them whenever we got any information or clue from our sources. We even went to a place last week to arrest a suspect but in vain,” he said, adding that they had detained many people but released them later as they seemed innocent.
“If we find involvement of any more suspects in the assault, we still can name them in our supplementary charge-sheet,” he added.