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Widespread public outcry as Baishakh celebration tainted by incidents of sexual assault

The attack on women continued for about an hour ; cops were only yards away.

The celebration of Pahela Baishakh,  Bangalee’s biggest festival — — was tainted by incidents of sexual assault on women on the Dhaka University campus Tuesday evening, sparking widespread public outrage. Witnesses said some 30 to 40 rowdy youths assaulted and sexually harassed around 20 women for about one hour at the Suhrawardy Udyan gate near the TSC area around 6:00pm. They alleged although law enforcers were stationed only 20 yards from the spot, they did nothing to rescue the women or arrest those who launched the sexual assault.

The incident, which happened close to writer Avijit’s murder scene, ignited fury on social networking sites. Several organisations condemned the assault and demanded immediate arrest of the attackers. Bangladesh Chhatra Union, the organisation that came forward to rescue the women, at a press conference on the campus yesterday demanded that police identify the culprits and bring them to book immediately. Several student organisations brought out processions in protest at the shocking incident.

Even one day after the incident, police could not even identify the culprits, let alone arrest them. However, Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mohammad Asaduzzaman Miah claimed no incident of sexual assault took place on the campus on Tuesday. He also claimed police did not allow any outsider in the campus area. He said a female student had gone to the TSC area along with her friend when a group of students “teased” her and another group protested the incident.

“Our force present there charged batons and dispersed the students,” he said. “We still do not know the identity of the female student and no one registered any complaint with us, but we are trying to find out the student.” He also said the police were scrutinising footage of the CCTV cameras installed in the campus area. “It would take us some time since the recorded footage is around 48 hours long.”

DMP installed around 19 CCTV cameras in the Shahbagh area with three to four cameras positioned right around the spot, said Sirajul Islam, officer-in-charge of Shahbagh Police Station, according to online sources said..

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