By Aiman Rahman Khan
The paper cuttings indicate the event of a recent purse snatching incident in Dhaka. On 22nd May 2016, a BBA student named Priyanka Dutta (22) was travelling by a rickshaw to her workplace at LabAid Hospital Call centre. She fell when the motorcycle passenger forcefully seized her purse as it raced past her rickshaw. She died while being taken to the hospital. According to the Rickshaw puller, she hired the rickshaw from Shahbagh to go to LabAid Hospital and the incident occurred infront of Kataban Mosque. The driver decreased the speed of the bike just beside the rickshaw allowing the 2nd passenger to grab hold of Priyanka’s purse. It is believed that she fell down because of the forceful pull and hit her head on the curb. However, it is not an unfamiliar phenomenon in Dhaka city nowadays.
The victims of purse snatching in Dhaka are mostly the ones who travel by Rickshaw. The horrors of such in Dhaka city is making it fall among the worst places to live in. The snatchers not for a single moment think what would be the consequence of grabbing the purse of an innocent victim on a rickshaw. Majority of these incidents result in death of the victim by falling. Others fatally injure themselves attempting to resist. In the busy parts of the city, as most office goers travel by rickshaw carrying laptops in their bags, they become the prime target. Hence, anyone travelling in those areas whether carrying a laptop or vanity bags face similar situations. A common psychology of these sneak thieves would be spotting anything attractive or valuable being carried by the passenger on a rickshaw, mostly handbags or smart phones.
Rickshaw is the most convenient transportation for Dhakaites. We avail rickshaws in times when our watches and phones make us paranoid, in times we do not find any other alternative. Sitting on a rickshaw seat, most of us slip into pure absent mindedness, thanks to the traffic that we are ‘blessed’ with. Here’s another to smart phones and internet, we never want to stay disconnected. Be it social media or our mind, we often forget we are in the middle of the road with our bags unattended while our minds travel elsewhere. This subliminal period is taken advantage of by certain motorcycle pundits specialized in snatching the valuables we carry. Even before we can step out of that short daydream, we find ourselves on hospital beds fighting for survival. Gradually we are becoming captive to the hands of these petty thieves, also known as ‘Taan Party’ in Dhaka.
While purse snatching is a common crime in Malaysia, in recent times, there are syndicates which have become rampant in Dhaka. Such incidents have claimed many lives since the last 4 years. There were few reported cases of snatchers using taxi cabs or microbuses, but an increased rate has been observed with using motorcycles. Their usual preys are women carrying handbags. They mostly operate at evenings but nowadays their activities can be seen in broad daylight. As discussed above, these snatchers usually take advantage of the absent mindedness of the passenger sitting on a rickshaw. In majority of the reported incidents, similar technique has been applied.
According the leading daily Jugantor (2014), a person named Shariful Islam was travelling towards Farmgate from Agargaon on a rickshaw. At that moment, a bike slowed it speed beside him and one of its passengers grabbed Sharif’s laptop bag and rushed past him. Another incident was in July 2014, where Mortuza along Abbas was returning home from Khambari towards Mirpur. When their rickshaw was just about to cross Bangabandhu Intl Convention Centre, two passengers from a speeding bike snatched Mortuza’s bag which contained expensive computer accessories.
On its report, the Jugantor Newspaper identified Khamarbari to Taltola, from Agargaon crossing to Pongu Hospital and the new road beside Bangladesh Meteorological Department building to be the hotspots of these occurrences. An article published by Newspage24.com (2014) mentioned the death of a newly wed Ayesha Akhter Ripa who fell victim in Sobhanbag, Dhanmondi at dawn. A 4-5 person group in a microbus snatched Ripa’s bag which was wrapped around her arm. Ripa immediately fell on the asphalt hitting her head. With desperate attempts to stop them taking the bag, she was dragged along with the vehicle. At one point, she let go of the bag and succumbed to her injuries on spot.
On 3rd November 2014, Jahidul Islam (27) was crossing the Mirpur Stadium when a bike rushed past him grabbing hold of his laptop bag. Although he could fend off the snatch but was fatally injured while doing so. He breathed his last the next day in Dhaka Medical College Hospital. Newspage24 (2014) marks Kamlapur, Dhanmondi, Gabtoli, Dhaka University area, Mohakhali and Mirpur to be the key zones of snatchers. On 26th August 2013, a person named Hamidur Rahman’s bag containing 9 lacs taka was snatched in a similar manner, according to a source of DB.
Possible preventive measures:
One suggestive method would be to keep the rickshaw hood on. On summer days, it both helps to block the sunlight as well as adding protection. Even if it’s not sunny or at night, this will help you guard yourself from both the sides. If you are travelling with another person, remember to keep your purse in between you and them. A website called Crime-Safety-Security.com laid down few survival strategies regarding purse snatching for women in the following:
- Clutch your purse the way a football players carries football. Hug it to your ribs with one arm- away from the curb to avoid motorcycle or car drive-by purse snatching grabs. But if a purse snatcher does grab it, give it up. Do not risk injury by fighting for your purse.
- Keep your keys in a pocket so you wont lose them along with your name and address in your purse.
- Better yet, put a dummy wallet in your purse and put your valuables in stash clothing.
- Carry pepper spray and personal security alarm.
- Do not receive any calls on your phone unless it is extremely important.
- While on a phone conversation, make sure to be alert about the surroundings.
Like the ones mentioned above, there have been hundreds of reported cases involving purse snatching in Dhaka City. However, little has been done to stop it. Complaints are rarely lodged at the police station as victims barely get to see the snatchers’ faces. The police had identified 80% of the offenders to be University students. Since they do not carry any weapon, no action of stopping them at check posts have been taken. This can only stop if we become more alert while we travel. The police need to take this issue more seriously and identify the syndicates. Campaigns need to be held to address this issue and bring it under the attention of the Government. Most importantly, we need to be more alert to prevent such mishaps that might cost us our lives.
Aiman Rahman Khan is currently pursuing his Master of Social Science with a major in Victimology and Restorative Justice from University of Dhaka.. He completed his LLB from University of London and LL.M from Eastern University, Bangladesh.
- Ahmed B. (2014) ‘রাজধানীতে নির্বিঘ্নে চলছে ল্যাপটপ ছিনতাই’, The Daily Jugantor (26th July 2014), available: http://www.jugantor.com/old/last-page/2014/07/26/127621 [accessed 30th May 2016]
- The Daily Ittefaq (22nd May 2016) ‘ছিনতাইকারীর হামলায় বিবিএ ছাত্রী নিহত’, available: http://www.ittefaq.com.bd/print-edition/last-page/2016/05/22/121233.html [accessed 29th May 2016]
- Crime-Safety-Security.com, ‘Purse Snatching Street Crime Safety tips for Woman FAQ’ (online), available: http://www.crime-safety-security.com/Purse-Snatching.html
- Prothom Alo (2014) ‘ছিনতাইকারীদের দৌরাত্ম্য’, (28th Dec 2014), (online), available: http://www.prothom-alo.com/opinion/article/408955/ছিনতাইকারীদের-দৌরাত্ম্য