'Rape' of Marma Girl: Questions aplenty
12:00 AM, February 01, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:59 AM, February 01, 2018

'Rape' of Marma Girl: Questions aplenty

The two Marma sisters, one of whom was allegedly raped and the other sexually assaulted by members of security forces last week, are undergoing treatment at Rangamati Sadar Hospital under tight security.

On January 28, when this correspondent went there, a group of 8-10 police members, including two female cops, were seen standing guard outside the gate of the female ward.

They were not allowing rights activists or journalists in to talk to the victims from Orachhari village of Bilaichhari in Rangamati.

Rights activists and community leaders said it was a virtual confinement and a violation of human rights of the victims.

But Ruhul Amin Siddiqi, additional police superintendent of Rangamati, said the matter was under investigation, so it would require court permission to talk to them.

Meanwhile, the medical team that was assigned to conduct necessary tests on the girls submitted its report to a Rangamati court yesterday, said district Civil Surgeon Shahid Talukdar.

But officials declined to talk about the findings of the tests.

No case has yet been filed over the alleged rape and assault, but a Rangamati court has already taken into cognisance the general diary filed by the police.

The court held a hearing on the GD yesterday and fixed February 6 for the next hearing. 

Bilaichhari police filed the GD following widespread protest and condemnation by rights activists and social media users.

An Ansar member has been closed over the incident.

WHAT HAPPENED

A team of security forces, including Ansar members, conducted a drive at Orachhari village early hours of January 22.  

During the drive, the elder sister, aged about 18, was raped while the younger sister, 13, was sexually assaulted, said Chakma Circle Rani Yen Yen, citing the victims.

“The two sisters told us that security personnel raped one and physically abused the other,” Yen Yen, who visited the two at the hospital several times, told The Daily Star.

Both the army and the Ansar authorities dismissed the allegation.

Lt Col Rashidul Hasan, director of the Inter Service Public Relation, said it was a drive of joint forces comprising army and Ansar members. When army members were searching the house in Faruay, one Ansar man entered the next house and held the hand of a girl.

Hearing her scream, army members detained the Ansar man and handed him over to the Ansar authorities. “But as far as we know, it was not a rape incident,” Rashidul told The Daily Star. 

During the incident, the two sisters and their younger brothers were inside the house and their parents were outside, said the Chakma Rani.

Quoting the victims, she said, “They told us that two men entered the house and physically abused them.”  

The victims could not confirm the identity of the accused, but both accused security personnel, she added.  

Around 2:30pm on January 23, a distant relative took the sisters to the hospital.

“We are concerned about their safety. We are giving mental support, but they are in some sort of confinement at the hospital in the name of police protection,” said Yen Yen.

“We want to take them somewhere else for better treatment but the [police] authorities are not allowing us to take them,” she said.

ANSAR VERSION

Afzal Hossen, commanding officer of Ansar Battalion-10, said the team that conducted the drive to look for a criminal had 12 army members and eight Ansar men.

“One Ansar man named Gias simply entered the house while two army men were standing at the door,” he said, adding that the two sisters were frightened at the very sight of the security personnel.

“There was no incident of sexual assault or rape. But still, Gias has been closed to the Sadar Battalion following the allegation and an investigation is underway,” said Afzal.

Sayeed Taruqul Hassan, Rangamati police superintendent, said he himself went to the victims' house the following day but did not find the victims there.

“Later, I found them at the hospital,” he said, adding that police were investigating the matter and were updating the court about their findings for the sake of a fair investigation.

Police were ensuring the security of the victims so that no one can harm them, he said, “Who will take the responsibility if something unexpected happens? …. Two female police members have been deployed at the hospital to look after them round the clock.”

Asked if police interrogated Gias, he said, “We did not interrogate him as he is a member of another agency. But we are investigating the matter and police will conduct a DNA test to find out the truth.”

MEDICAL TESTS

The tests were conducted by a three-member team headed by Hena Barua, senior consultant (gynecologist) of the hospital, on January 24.

The other members are medical officer Utapl Borna Chakma and Saima Jahan.

Asked about the findings, district Deputy Civil Surgeon Nihar Ranjan Nandi said, “After receiving the report, I have just forwarded it to the court, that's it.”

'HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS'

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Member Prof Banchita Chakma said the way the victims were kept at the hospital under police watch was a kind of human rights violation.

“I will brief the NHRC chairman about the incident. The Rangamati deputy commissioner has been asked to submit a report in this regard,” said Banchita, who also visited the victims at the hospital. 

Hill Women Federation General Secretary Monti Chakma demanded a fair probe into the incident. “This kind of crimes happens in the hills because of the culture of impunity. It was high time to bring the culprits to book.”

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