Noakhali Gang-Rape Victim: Indifference drowned cries for justice
On the day following the gang-rape on September 2, the Noakhali woman had gone to a member of Eklashpur Union Parishad seeking his help in taking the matter to the police, but to no avail.
This is what the survivor told our correspondent, yesterday morning, in an interview held inside the Begumganj Police Station.
"I went to the member and told him that I am poor and I do not have the power to go to the police myself and asked him to investigate the matter and seek justice on my behalf. I told him what the men did to me," she said.
When he did not do anything about it, she left the area and went into hiding, she said.
On Sunday night, when footage of the incident first went viral, the ward-9 member, Moazzem Hossain Sohag, told our correspondent that he did not know who the men in the video were.
"The woman came to me after the incident, but did not name anyone, so I could not do anything," he said.
A High Court bench of Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Justice Mohi Uddin Shamim issued a suo moto (voluntary) rule yesterday, asking the authorities concerned of the government to explain in two weeks why they should not be directed to take appropriate legal and departmental action against the officials of Begumganj Police Station, including its officer-in-charge, for their negligence in protecting the victim and taking more prompt action against the perpetrators.
The home secretary, deputy commissioner and superintendent of police in Noakhali, the upazila nirbahi officer of Begumganj and other officials concerned have been made respondents to the rule, Deputy Attorney General Nawroz MR Chowdhury told The Daily Star.
The HC bench issued the directives and rule after Supreme Court lawyers ZI Khan Panna and Abdullah Al Mamun placed newspaper reports on the incident before the bench for necessary directives.
The HC also formed a three-member committee led by the additional deputy commissioner of Noakhali to conduct an inquiry into whether there was any negligence on the part of police in recording statements from the victim over the incident.
The two other members of the committee are the social service officer of Noakhali and the principal of Chaumuhoni Government SA College. The committee has been asked to submit the probe report to this court in 15 days.
The HC bench also ordered the OC of Begumganj Police Station to submit a report on the update of the criminal cases filed by the victim in connection with the incident to this court on October 28, and ordered the superintendent of police of Noakhali to provide all protection to the victim and her family.
Meanwhile, law enforcers have arrested four people, including the main accused amid widespread outrage.
"We did not even know the incident took place or we would have taken prompt action," said Harunur Rashid Chowdhury, officer-in-charge of Begumganj Police Station.
The arrestees are: main accused Badal, "Delwar Bahini" chief Delwar, Rahmat Ullah and Abdur Rahim.
Rab arrested Badal in Dhaka and Delwar in Narayanganj, recovering weapons from his person, said Lt Col Khandakar Saiful Alam of Rab-11 yesterday.
Rahmat Ullah was arrested in Begumganj upazila yesterday, reports our Noakhali correspondent quoting Shajahan Sheikh, additional superintendent of police of Begumganj Circle.
Abdur Rahim was held on Sunday night soon after the video went viral, confirmed OC Chowdhury.
The survivor, who was in hiding, was sought out and brought to the police station to file cases against the perpetrators. She named nine people, and mentioned that seven or eight unknown people were also present. In addition to those arrested, the others named in the case are Abul Kalam, Israfil Hossain Miah, Shaju, Shamsuddin Sumon, Abdur Rob and Arif.
Two cases were filed, one under the Pornography Control Act and the other addressing her rape and torture under the Women and Children Repression (Prevention) Act, informed our correspondent.
The police, however, booked the men seen in the video under "attempt to rape" charges.
As per the video, the perpetrators did not engage in penile-vaginal intercourse, and instead used their hands, as well as a large stick as a tool.
In addition, the survivor herself narrated in her first information report that the perpetrators used their hands as instruments in carrying out the act of insertion.
The charge of rape carries a life sentence, whereas "attempt to rape" commits perpetrators between 5 to 10 years.
Lawyers familiar with the incident opined that this was definitely rape. "There is video evidence of what happened. It does not matter if the rape was executed using tools like hands or sticks as long as the rape happened," said Salma Ali, eminent women's rights lawyer.
She said that the video evidence can be used to turn the charges into rape charges. Ali also advised that all stakeholders of the future trial need to be sensitised. "There is video evidence of the rape. This will be played over and over again and scrutinised by lawyers, policemen, judges. That this trial is not a further cause for trauma for the survivor must be ensured."
In its suo moto rule mentioned above, the High Court yesterday also directed the chairman of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) to immediately remove the video footage from social media. The HC also asked the BTRC chairman to record the copy of the video footage in a compact disk (CD) or USB drive before removing it from social media.
The court heard opinions from lawyers including Supreme Court Bar Association President AM Amin Uddin, its Secretary Md Ruhul Quddus Kazal, Jyotirmoy Barua, Yadia Zaman, Jamiul Haque Faisal, Rashida Chowdhury Nilu and Tanjim Al Islam before passing the orders.