A madrasa student in Feni was set on fire yesterday allegedly for refusing to withdraw a case filed against the principal for sexually harassing her late last month.
With 75 percent burns, the 18-year-old is now struggling for life at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
Some four unidentified persons allegedly took her to the rooftop of three-storey administrative building of Sonagazi Islamia Senior Fazil Madrasa yesterday morning, saying a friend was being assaulted there.
The girl was an Alim (equivalent to HSC) examinee and a few minutes were left before the beginning of Arabic first paper test at 10:00am.
“They asked her to withdraw the case against Principal Maulana Siraj Ud Doula. As she refused to budge, one of them poured kerosene on her from a glass and set her ablaze,” the victim's elder brother told The Daily Star, quoting her.
The offenders fled the scene immediately.
“With all of her body in flames, she ran down the stairs screaming for help. Fellow students doused the fire,” he added.
She was first taken to Sonagazi Upazila Health Complex and then to Feni Sadar Hospital from where she was rushed to the burn unit of DMCH.
“All in burqa, the four attackers had their faces mostly covered. They were wearing spectacles and gloves. So she could not recognise any of them,” said the victim's brother.
But all of them seemed to her to be female, he added.
Partha Shankar Paul, resident surgeon of the DMCH burn unit, said the girl is in critical condition with 75 percent of her body, except the face, sustaining severe burn injuries. “She has been kept at the Intensive Care Unit.”
Police detained a lecturer and a student of the madrasa for questioning, said Officer-in-Charge of Sonagazi Model Police Station Moazzem Hossain.
BEGINNING OF NIGHTMARE
On March 27, a peon went to her class and said Principal Siraj was calling her over to his office room. As she went to his room, Siraj sexually harassed her, said her brother.
“As she fell sick at one stage, the principal called me to take her home,” he told this newspaper at the DMCH yesterday.
The girl shared the nightmarish experience with her mother and brother and the family members right away went to the madrasa to lodge protests.
As suggested by some teachers and members of the madrasa managing committee, the family filed a case and Siraj got arrested the same day. He has been in jail since then.
Locals said Siraj is a Jamaat leader and accused in three cases filed with Feni Sadar and Sonagazi Model police stations on charges of subversive activities and attacks on police. He was earlier arrested but got released on bail.
After the sexual assault case was filed, teachers and students of the madrasa got divided into two groups and demonstrated in the upazila headquarters. One group called for punishment of the principal while the other demanded his release.
WHAT WAS HER FAULT?
For the first two exams, the victim's brother accompanied her to the exam hall as she was still in trauma. He came out just before the exams began.
“Like the two other days, I tried to accompany my sister to the exam hall today [yesterday], but a madrasa peon barred me. He also convinced police guarding the entrance not to allow me inside,” he said.
“So I had to go back from the gate. Had I accompanied her, she would not have gone to the rooftop.”
He alleged that someone identifying himself as a Fazil (graduate) student of the madrasa called his younger brother on Friday and warned not to advance further with the case. “Otherwise, the caller threatened, there will be a murder.”
Crying her heart out, the victim's mother at the DMCH said, “What was her fault? She just wanted justice and filed the case so that the principal cannot commit such a crime again.”
She sought the prime minister's help in ensuring proper treatment of her daughter and highest punishment of the principal and other culprits.