A 12th grade female cadet, now believed to have been murdered by the very staff at her college that claimed she had committed suicide, awaits justice as the trial of her killers remains elusive.
The 2005 death of Mymensingh Girls’ Cadet College (MGCC) student Sharmila Shahrin Pollen was claimed by college authorities to be a suicide.
But following no-confidence petitions submitted by Pollen’s family against earlier probes, a judicial investigation found in 2013 that Pollen had not only been murdered, but that college authorities had conspired to cover it up.
The judicial probe was ordered after Pollen’s father submitted a no-confidence petition against the police and Criminal Investigative Department (CID) investigation reports which claimed she had committed suicide.
The judicial probe report, a copy of which has been obtained by the Dhaka Tribune, found that after being physically assaulted and beaten unconscious, the adjutant of MGCC strangled Pollen to death.
The report reads: “Sharmila Shahrin Pollen did not commit suicide but was killed on Friday, February 11, 2005, around 10:30am during milk break at Mymensingh Girls’ Cadet College. She was physically injured with a blunt object, causing her to become unconscious, and was then killed by strangulation. To hide the fact of her murder, her body was hanged by her orna [a long scarf] from the shower pipe in Shanti House.”
The 68-page probe report was submitted to a Mymensingh cognisance court on May, 2013 by Senior Judicial Magistrate Md Al Amin, who investigated the case.
The probe report concludes: “During this judicial investigation the extremely significant doctrine of the law of evidence – ‘A man can tell a lie, but circumstances of evidence can not tell a lie’ – will likely be proven true again.”
Prima facie evidence suggests that then adjutant of Mymensingh Girls’ Cadet College, Major Nazmul Haque, murdered Pollen aided by accomplices Sergeant Nowsheruzzaman and security guard Hena Begum.
Nazmul Haque, when contacted by the Dhaka Tribune, declined to comment on the case.
The report found that then deputy adjutant general (DAG) (cadet colleges) Major Munir Ahammed Chowdhury, then assistant professor Abul Hossain and the three other prime accused covered up the murder and framed the crime as a suicide by destroying testimonial evidence and giving false information.
The court took the report into cognisance on May 27, 2013 and issued arrest warrants against the five accused.
In light of the probe report which it termed “objective and authentic,” the court ordered the general case to be turned into a criminal case.
Nineteen months have passed since the judicial investigation report was submitted and the arrest warrants issued, but the trial of the case has not yet started.
Four of the five accused have gone back to work having obtained bail from the court. The fifth is absconding.
Pollen, a talented, confident and happy resident student of the college, was preparing for her HSC Examination in 2005. She received a GPA of 5 – in all subjects – in her SSC Examination in 2003.
On February 11, 2005, Pollen died on the MGCC campus. College authorities announced that: “Pollen committed suicide by hanging herself from the shower of a bathroom of Shanti House.”
But the victim’s father, Flt Sgt (retd), MA Bashar Patowary and his family claimed Pollen had been murdered.
After police refused to take his case, Pollen’s father filed a case with a Mymensingh cognisable court on February 19 against the designated officers of MGCC and their associates for Pollen’s murder.
He claimed: “There was no sign of suicide on Pollen’s body. A round wound mark was found on the left side of her neck.”
Pollen’s father claimed her murderers hit her with a non-lethal object on the left side of the neck and then killed her. He had his daughter exhumed for a re-autopsy.
According to the case documents, Kotwali police station of Mymensingh started an investigation on April 6, 2005 following an order from the court. After five months, police submitted their final report with a recommendation to drop the designated officers and their associates from the case saying: “No allegation was proven and the case is wrong according to the provided information.”
The investigating officer of the case was changed thrice during the five-month investigation.
According to the case documents, on October 16, 2005, Pollen’s father submitted a no-confidence petition in the court against the police report where he named then principal Khademul Haque, then adjutant Major Nazmul Haque, then Sergeant Nowsheruzzaman, then security guard Hena Begum, then DAG (cadet colleges) Major Munir Ahammed Chowdhury, then assistant professor of MGCC Abul Hossain, Abdul Khalek and then mess manager Shahjahan as accused in the case.
Taking Pollen’s father’s no-confidence petition into cognisance the court ordered the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to investigate further.
According to case documents, on March 2, 2006, the CID started an investigation and, after more than three years, submitted its report on September 4, 2009.
In the final report, the CID recommended dropping all of the accused from the case saying: “No allegation was proven and the case is wrong according to the provided information.”
Pollen’s father MA Bashar Patowary again submitted a no-confidence petition against the CID investigation. The court instructed a judiciary probe committee to be formed.
Suicide a ‘story of the imagination’
According to the instruction of the court, Senior Judicial Magistrate Md Al Amin started an investigation at the beginning of 2010.
According to the probe report: “After the vacation of Eid-ul-Azha, Cadet Pollen joined the college on February 2 with the other cadets. Pollen showed an interest in the different activities of the college and did not express any negative mentality until the incident. She was even interested in the picnic of the college which was scheduled for February 12.
“She had constructive plans to make the picnic more joyous. As a house prefect she instructed her house team on February 10 at the inter-house handball competition and joined in the games. All this proves that Pollen’s psychological condition was not suicidal.”
Considering the distance between the shower pipe and the floor, Pollen’s height and her weight, the probe report said it was impossible for her to commit suicide without the aid of something to step up on.
The report stated that she was killed first and her body was then hanged to give the impression that she had committed suicide.
What happened that day
The probe report does not reconstruct the specific events leading up to Pollen’s murder. Telephone calls and a letter from Pollen’s fellow cadets, sent in the month after she died, have helped him piece together her final moments.
Pollen’s father told the Dhaka Tribune he received a letter on February 19, 2005, eight days after Pollen’s death, from a cadet named Shila. The letter claimed that inhuman torture by Major Nazmul and Sergeant Nowsher caused Pollen’s death.
Bashar said his daughter’s fellow cadets told him that around 10am on the day of her death, Pollen was on her way to mess along with friend Munmun Rowja to attend milk break, when Major Nazmul gathered all the security guards at his office room.
Nazmul reportedly called Pollen from behind and told her to stay back, telling Munmun to go on to mess.
Bashar said Pollen went to Nazmul and Munmun, as she went towards mess, she heard Pollen scream.
Munmun wanted to turn back and check on Pollen but Sergeant Nowsher and security guard Hena barred her from doing so. Soon afterwards, Pollen’s body was found hanging in the bathroom.
Current situation of the accused
Different sources confirmed that the prime accused, Nazmul Haque, is now a Lieutenant Colonel working at army headquarters. Non-commissioned officer (NCO) Nowsheruzzaman is now a warrant officer and platoon commander at Rangpur Cantonment. Assistant professor Abul Hossain is now retired and living in the Banasree area of Dhaka. Hena Begum, the security guard, is now a dormitory staff member at MGCC. The then DAG (cadet colleges) Major Munir Ahammed is absconding.
Advocate Biswanath Pal, Pollen’s case lawyer in the Mymensingh court, told the Dhaka Tribune: “The accused are on bail.”
Much investigation, but still no justice
After Pollen’s death, a five-member investigation committee was formed headed by the then vice-principal of MGCC, Afroza Sattar. Army headquarters also formed a three-member probe body. The Home Ministry formed a five-member committee headed by then deputy secretary (administration) Abdul Monaf Patwary.
Pollen’s father MA Bashar Patowary told the Dhaka Tribune: “We do not know anything about their investigations or findings. They did not give us their reports.”
“In 2013, we sent a letter to the Defence Ministry to demand that the accused be tried and punished. After that, army headquarters again formed a committee. They summoned us. We went. But nothing happened,” he said.
Waiting for justice
Pollen’s father, Bashar, told the Dhaka Tribune: “My daughter was so beautiful and meritorious. I sent her to cadet college to ensure her safety. But they killed her.”
He said: “It has been 10 years since I lost my daughter. It took more than eight years to have a positive probe report. But the trial process has still not started.
“Every day starts with tears and ends with tears for me. I do not know how many years it will take to get justice. I am still waiting.”