Khagrachhari Gang-rape and some relevant questions

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Bachchu Chakma

One mentally disabled indigenous Jumma woman (26), was gang raped by 9 Muslim Bengali settlers in Bolpiya Adam village adjacent to Golabari Union Parishad Office of Khagrachhari District Sadar Upazilla on 24 September 2020. Not only gang raping, but also the valuables including gold ornaments and a cash amount of Tk 8,000 were plundered along with. The statement produced by the Superintendent of Police of Khagrachhari District reveals that the miscreants raped the mentally challenged woman for two hours. Even some from among the 9 accused, raped her more than once.

It is of worth-mentioning that the victim became mentally unsound due to losing her brother in 2005 and her father in 2006 simultaneously – says the family source.

Protest with demand for bringing the culprits involved in the hair-raising brutal crime under judicial trial and ensure illustrious punishment is continuing throughout the country.

After the incident, the police arrested 7 accused through conducting combing operations in various places including Khagrachhari and Chittagong on 26 September 2020. But 2 rapists are still remaining out of reach of the administration. The arrestees are: 1) Mohammad Amin alias Nurul Amin 40, Father: Late Abul Qasem of Toichala para, Ramgarh; 2) Mohammad Belal Hossain, 23, Father: Late Akbar Ali of Comilla Tila under Khagrachhari; 3) Mohammad Iqbal Hossain, 21, Father: Mohammad Imran Hossain of Bara Pilak, Guimara; 4) Mohammad Abdul Halim, 28, Father: Mohammad Habil Miah of Adarshagram, Amtali Union of Matiranga; 5) Mohammad Shahin Miah, 19, Father: Abdul Qader of Barapilak, Guimara; 6) Mohammad Antar, 20, Father: Ahammad Ullah of Darogapara, Ramgarh; and 7) Mohammad Abdur Rasid, 37, Father: Shamsul Haque of South Muslim Para, Matiranga.

The Press Conference held by the Khagrachhari Superintendent of Police, Mohammad Abdul Aziz on 27 September 2020, reveals that the rescued cash and kinds includes: cash Tk. 48,000 accrued out of selling the looted gold ornaments; cash Tk 4,900 out of the looted cash 8,000; looted 1 mobile set from the accused Mohammad Antar: 1 piece shovel used in breaking door; 2 pieces knives and 2 pieces choppers used during rape and looting; a green color CNG auto-rickshaw having no registration number; a pair of rubber shoes left behind by the miscreants of which was identified to have belonged to Mohammad Rashid who was arrested later. The Police Superintendent confirmed that the arrestees had confessed their crime during preliminary interrogation.

The victim’s mother Puspa Rani Chakma (53), filed a case (No.14 dated 24/09/2020) with the Khagrachhari Police Station under Section- 395/397 of Bangladesh Penal Code and Section 9(3)/30 of the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act (Amenment-2003) referring to the gang raping and looting in the house.

I would like to thank to the police force for their speedy action and arresting 7 accused out of 9 through conducting operations in various sites including the far off place like Chittagong. This has been the best evidence that if the police go active with honesty and sincerity, arresting the criminals is quite possible.

But in context of the earlier raping incidents of CHT, some relevant questions have risen in the mind set of people. The questions are: Will there be an exemplary punishment to the settlers involved? Will the remaining rapists be caught? The aspects that have given rise the questions are: the statement says: ‘The gang-raping incident is not a racial-based issue,’ secondly, despite having detail confession of the accused at hand, names of the two other culprits have not yet been made public; and trend of highlighting the point of ‘plundering’ more prominently than the point of ‘gang raping,’ etc. in light of all this developments, relevant questions have arisen in the public mind on justice and illustrious punishment to the perpetrators of raping.

‘Racial aspect is not a considerable issue’:

On 27 September 2020, Mohammad Aziz, Superintendent of Police, in the Press Conference said: “The very identity of a criminal is ‘criminal’ only; that who commits robbery is a robber; and the person who perpetrates raping is a rapist. It is not at all considerable to us as to which community; which faith; which caste; hillman (Jumma) or Bengali, the individual concerned belongs. …Drawing an issue on Hillmen-Bengali people may lead to creation of an undesirable situation. We view the criminal as a criminal. If some quarter of vested interest makes a statement on communal line towards ‘that direction’ as saying: ‘no measure is being taken for being Bengali or no action is being undertaken for being Hill people; if so, that will be very painful to us and our professionalism may be mounted by a big question. We do not want to let such question mount on us.”

But is not the Hillman-Bengali issue considerable in this brutal gang rape incident? Can the criminal of this incident be generalized as mere a criminal or rapist, here? Dealing of the incident, which has been caused by the dominating community settlers, passes from ruling power down to the marginalized Jumma woman; and that too, where a mentally disabled woman has been gang raped; it cannot be said that there is no space with the crime to be considered in light of communal, racial, caste, religious and national issue.

The Muslim Bengali settlers have been rehabilitated in CHT with government financial support in 1980s. They have been receiving government ration over the four decades. They are blessed with special facilities ranging from the army to local administration including all levels of the state machineries. As a part of Negative Communal Policy, the settlers have been brought in and rehabilitated in CHT with a view to marginalizing the Jumma people to minority and turning the non-Muslim CHT into a Muslim-dominated region. Consequently, they have been enjoying immunity all the time from the crimes such as, ranging from raping and killing after raping, perpetrating communal attacks, setting fire in village after villages, forcible land occupation, etc. It is for this reason, having been enthused with the immunity, instead of refraining from such crimes, they are continuing to perpetrate such incidents one after another. But offence of this sort is though seen in the plains, yet it is, mysteriously very rare to be seen happening within the settler society in CHT, let alone the Jumma youths raping the settlers’ women.

In most of such cases, it is due to existence of racial issue, dilly-dally is done in serving medical reports on raping and killing after raping cases. Having prepared motivated Ejahar (legal allegation valid for filing a suit) while keeping safety gaps, feeble cases are let file by the police through the victim’s guardians and weak charge-sheets are served accordingly. As a result, though the persons involved are arrested, later on, they easily get released from the jail on bail. Even in some raping incidents wherein the law & order forces are involved, tough obstruction is offered during demonstrations and rallies held against the predators guised as protectors.

Needless to say, the weak and marginal sections, such as, national, religious, ethnic indigenous, women, children, persons with disabilities, etc. are vulnerable to victimization of discrimination and deprivation in the society. Hence, special measure in light of positive/affirmative policy is undertaken to protect human rights of those communities. So, the incident of Jumma woman gang raping by 9 settlers must be considered as to be more fragile and of risky for, the victim as a member of Jumma community, a woman and a handicapped; and that special effective measure has to be stepped up. Turning it otherwise will mean to get the process of ensuring justice and illustrious punishment to the persons involved thrown into uncertainty.

Plundering and Raping

In the statement delivered by the Police Super, the 9 gang rapists have been primarily portrayed as a gang of dacoits. While looting, they also committed raping. The Police Super said: “The accused plundered and also raped alongside.” Quite naturally, question arises: Is Police Super making the point of looting prominent to lessen the gravity of gang rapping?

If looting had been the prime objective to the accused from different locations, why did they target an ordinary Jumma villager’s house? It is known to all that most of the Jumma people are poor. What amount of money and wealth will be gained out of robing their houses? Professor Zobaida Nasrin Kona of Dhaka University is right to say: “Since, being belonged to same area, the rapists knew that the woman is mentally imbalance; and raping her is comparatively easy. After gang raping the mentally imbalanced girl, they also plundered the house.”

It can safely be said that raping was the main motive to the miscreants. Thereafter went the looting. But the trend that has caught the eyes is the Police Super’s statement before the press in which he had an attempt to highlight the misdeed of ‘looting’ while lessening the heinous and barbaric gang raping of the mentally handicapped Jumma girl.

How did the mobility deceive the eye of Law & Order and Security Forces?

Before the incident, the miscreants began to gather at the spot of occurrence since 2:26 am via Ramgarh, Jaliapara and Matiranga. They waited for several hours at the spot site roaming around to let the night become deep. The Police Super said: “They (miscreants) came to Khagrachhari bus-station to let the night pass deep. They smoked and chewed pan there and halted for half an hour there. …The accused did also visit to a house near the temple.” After having engaged in causing the incident for two hours, they also went back by a CNG auto-rickshaw and motor cycle at 4:30 am.

Point to be noted that there are already two check-posts of law enforcement & security forces some 300 to 400 yards away of the spot of occurrence. Besides, according to the government version: ‘CHT, as a terrorist-prone area, there are numerous check-posts of the law & order and security forces along each of the roads in Khagrachhari district. The rapists came down from far off Ramgarh, via Jaliapara and Matiranga; and halted for a long time around the spot of occurrence and after completion of their mission, they went back safely. Now, question arises: Despite mobility and hours-long activities of the miscreants, why all this has not caught the eye of law & order and security forces? If the 9 miscreants had been Jumma people, as such, would it have been possible for them to make so long ‘to & fro’ journeys and moving around at deep night without interruption? Certainly not. Can it be thrown away by saying that there is no poisonous vapor of deep-rooted intrigue?

Why no whereabouts of other two culprits?

Though 7 out of 9 culprits involved in Khagrachhari gang rape were arrested yet the administration has not been able to arrest 2 other accused. Even their names also have not been made public. It is for sure that names of the two accused might have been known from confession of the 7 arrestees without difficulties. But why the police vis-a-vis administration are not bringing their names before the people? This has given birth to various questions among the people. Is it that the police or administration is playing ‘hide and seek’ game with the two accused? Skepticism has developed in public psyche as to whether attempt for saving the two unexposed accused is being undertaken.

Are the two unexposed rapists belonged to the state sponsored communal and fundamentalist groups and backed by the ruling party influential men, law & order and security forces? The silence is being considered to be mysterious to many. If the inside of the responsible administration is affected, as the local proverb says, by the ‘ghost inside the corn’; it becomes very difficult to drive the ghost away. When the Protector turns into a Predator, then it remains nothing else but the ‘culture of lacking judicial trial of Bangladesh’ to be blamed.

One-eyed statement of Bridge Minister, Home Minister and Teachers Association of DU:

The Awami League General Secretary and Road & Transport and Bridge Minister Obaidul Qader said: “Government stance over the Sylhet MC College incident is hard. The offenders shall be brought under trial. Nobody shall be spared (The Samakal daily, 27 September 2020).” The Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said: “The persons involved in MC College incident shall have to face punishment (Campustimes.com, 28 September, 2020). But both of them did not mention the incident of brutal gang raping of a mentally challenged Jumma woman by 9 able-bodied male settlers, which is more hair-raising than that of MC College incident or did not ensure the issue of bringing the rapists involved in the incident under trial and awarding them punishment.

Further worthy to be mentioned, in a Press Release titled: “Protest against violence of women and oppression” dated 29 September 2020, Professor Mohammad Lutfar Rahman, President-in-Charge of Dhaka University Teachers Association and Professor Dr. Nizamul Haque Bhuinya, General Secretary, protested over the Sylhet MC College gang rape incident; raping a young girl in Chittagong; raping a girl in the name of love in Savar; raping a girl in pretext of love in Dhaka University; lifting up a girl on rejection of love proposal and killing her, etc. contemporary incidents one after another. But to the utter surprise, they flatly veered away the most ruthless incident wherein one mentally disabled Jumma woman was gang raped by 9 settlers in Khagrachhari.

The question is: why the two influential ministers and Dhaka University Teachers Association by-passed the Khagrachhari gang rape incident? Is it that they side-lined the incident just because of the gang raping was perpetrated by settlers, the nurturing sons hailing from the Muslim Bengalis who have been rehabilitated by the state in CHT, the once non-Muslim area to be turned into a Muslim-dominated region, as part of the mission? Or is it fact that the ministers and intellectuals carefully maintained silence on the issue since, raping is used as a weapon for ethnic cleansing of Jumma people and hence, needs impunity or for, the CHT is under prerogative jurisdiction of the army, the most influential factor of the country?

The genre of outlook that is maintained by the government influential ministers and the top most academic institution, Dhaka University Teachers Association, the policy-makers and intellectual faculty of the country, can be undoubtedly regarded as an extreme racial outlook; and it is for nurturing such outlook, as the culture of lacking judicial trial in Bangladesh; similarly, it can safely be said, having the rapists of CHT provided with immunity, it is to enthuse the rapists covertly in a way.

If any incident occurred in CHT is to be comprehended, it is to be realized in light of the historical situation and of existent reality. In CHT, behind these heinous and barbaric incidents, raping women, illegal land occupation, communal attack, pitiless atrocities of the army, etc. are perpetrated by the ruling class, as a part of ethnic cleansing of the Jumma people. It is for this reason, though voluntary and open confession of the crimes, the rapist settlers go unpunished. These heinous criminals are released on bail from serving in the jail.

The trial of non-compromising women leader Kalpana Chakma has not yet been heard in the court of law; none of the culprits involved in raping incidents of Sujata Chakma of Longadu, Pone Mala Tripura of Khagrachhari; Bolimila Chakma of Rangamati Sadar; and Tuma Ching Marma of Kawkhali, many more, have not been awarded illustrated punishment. In 2011, after raping and killing Sujata Chakma, the rapist and killer, settler Ibrahim was arrested and confessed his crime but he was not punished. Many instances of the kind can be cited.

Translated by the Hill Voice from Bangla.

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