We condemn the repeated attacks on the anti-rape protesters who were on a long march from Dhaka to Noakhali by the men of ruling party MP in Feni. According to the president of Bangladesh Chhatra Union, goons of the local Awami League MP in Feni launched attacks on the protesters with sticks and rods after the demonstrators concluded a rally in the Shaheed Minar area. And the police present there did not do anything to stop the attackers; instead they joined the ruling-party men and chased the protesters. According to news reports, the protesters also alleged that plainclothes men in DB jackets took part in the attack which left at least 35 protesters injured, 10 of them suffering severe injuries. What is even more horrifying is the fact that those injured could not take any treatment in Feni as the Chhatra League and Jubo League men took up positions on the sides of the road from Feni to Noakhali to stop them from seeking treatment and terrorising them further.
The long march was arranged in the wake of a dangerous rise in the incidents of rape and violence against women across the country. After the gang rape in Sylhet's MC College and the gang rape and torture of a woman in Noakhali, which shook the conscience of the entire nation, we are coming across many other reports of rape and gang rape and other forms of violence against women on a regular basis. This long march is a protest against the prevailing culture of rape and sexual violence against women in the country and against the impunity enjoyed by rapists and criminals.
While the demands of the protesters—exemplary punishment for those involved in gender-based violence, reformation of the Evidence Act, implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) charter, put an end to repression of women in the hills and on plain land, etc.—got support from the general public all over the country, it seems that the ruling party backed student organisations are against it. Otherwise, why would they attack the peaceful protesters of the long march? In fact, in most of the recent rape cases across the country, the members of the youth organisations of the ruling party were found to be involved, which explains their anger against the protesters.
The role of the police was also questionable in this incident. Why did the police not stop the attackers in the first place becoming their associates instead? Why did they attack the protesters when their mandated duty was the opposite—to help them? Whose side are they on? The police must answer these questions.
The unwarranted attack on peaceful protesters has only served to damage the image of the government and erode people's trust. We demand immediate arrest of the attackers on the long march and expect that rapists and their protectors will be made to face justice according to our law.