• Friday, Jan 27, 2023
  • Last Update : 10:24 am

Police yet to press charges 2 years after Churihatta tragedy

  • Published at 10:26 am February 21st, 2021
Chawkbazar Fire
File photo: Haji Wahed Mansion at Nandan Kumar Lane, in Chawkbazar's Churihatta area of Old Dhaka, engulfed in a massive fire on Wednesday, February 20, 2019 Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Bereaved families of 72 deceased still mourn

Although two years have passed since the horrific fire in Old Dhaka’s Churihatta that killed 72 people, police are yet to file a charge sheet in the case.

There are two suspects in the case about whom the investigating officer could not collect any information, resulting in the failure to submit the charge sheet, according to police.

The four-storey Wahed Mansion in Churihatta has since been repaired. Seeing it now, one would not think that the building was in flames on the night of February 20, 2019.

Small chemical warehouses have been set up all over the Chawkbazar area again. The alleyways are still narrow. Moreover, there are several shops selling combustible chemicals just in front of Wahed Mansion.

On the night of February 20, 2019, the massive fire had raged through several multi-storey buildings, killing 72 people and injuring scores more.

Thirty-seven firefighting units brought the inferno under control after working tirelessly for 14 hours.

The following day, Md Asif, a resident of Chawkbazar, had filed the case on the charge of causing massive damages including the loss of many lives due to negligence.

Justice delayed

Fatema Akhter, who lost her husband in the fire, was seen standing in front of Wahed Mansion on Friday evening.

Lamenting to this correspondent, she said almost 100% of her husband Faisal's body had been burnt in the fire.

“What has been achieved by filing the case [over the fire]?” she questioned. 

“The owners of the building did not even have to stay in jail for 10 days, they are now out on bail. The building has been renovated as well,” she said.

Nasir Uddin, father of burnt youth Mahir, told Bangla Tribune: “We are not happy with the legal proceedings.

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“If the government had taken strict action when the fire incident took place in Nimtoli, the Churihatta tragedy would not have happened. If the government still does not take action, such horrible incidents will happen again and again. We want the government to relocate the business of chemicals away from residential areas.”

No father should lose his child, Nasir bemoaned.

“Police had arrested two owners of the building. Lots of information would have surfaced had they been interrogated properly. To this day, police have yet to arrest the owner of the warehouse,” he said.

Police ‘satisfied?’

Dr Sohel Mahmud, head of the Forensic Department of Dhaka Medical College, said they have already handed over the autopsy and DNA reports to the police.

Asked why they have not submitted the charge sheet even after receiving the reports, Chawkbazar police station OC Moudud Hawladar said: “There are two suspects in the case statement whose names and addresses have not yet been found yet, [but] we’ll get them soon.

“Regardless of that, I will soon make a decision regarding the charge sheet. We’ll submit a police report as well.

“We are satisfied with the progress,” he added.

However, plaintiff of the case, Md Asif, expressed his dissatisfaction with how little headway has been made in two years. “It is a regrettable matter. What is even sadder is the fact that chemical warehouses have been set up near the building in front of the administration’s very eyes.”

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