On 22 August 2018 at around 10 pm Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) personnel allegedly raped two indigenous Tripura teens aged 14 and 17 years respectively at Rangkhoti Para of Ward No. 1 of Fasyakhali Union under Lama Upazila in Bandarban Hill District at gun-point and threatening of death. A police case was filled with Lama Police Station in this connection. However, no accused has been arrested as of now.
From different media and local sources it is learnt that three BGB personnel, namely, Md. Suman, Md. Maruf and Md. Robiul, from Banfur Trishdeba BGB camp under 11 Battalion of Naikhyongchari sector went to Rangkhoti Para with arms on that night at 10 pm. At that time, the girls were called out of their residence by one of their female villagers, named Jonerung Tripura (26), over mobile phone. Then the BGB per personnel made the victims compelled to follow them to a jungle, a little away from the village, where the BGB members offered them money for sex and as the adolescents denied, the BGB men threatened the victims with their firearms. Among the three BGB men, Nayek Md. Robiul stood for guarding while Soldier Md. Maruf and Soldier Md. Suman raped the victims.
A case was filed with the Lama Police Station by one of the victims on allegation of rape against the three BGB personnel and Jonerung Tripura on 23 August 2018. But so far, no BGB member except Jonerung Tripura has been arrested in connection with the incident as yet. Police has produced the arrestee to the court and demanded for remand. Accordingly, the court accepted one-day remand for Jonerung Tripura on September 25. On the other, Sub-inspector Mohammod Abdullah from Lama police station has assigned as investigation officer for this case.
The victims have been taken to the Bandarban General Hospital for medical test. According to the Civil Surgeon of Bandarban General Hospital Dr. Aungswue Prue, a medical board was formed and the board conducted the medical test of the victims. However, the result of the test yet not available. It is learnt that the police and intelligence personnel cordoned the Bandarban District Hospital when the two victims were brought there on 24 August for medical test and no person including the relatives of the victims was allowed to enter the hospital. This makes one recall that during the medical test of the much-talked-about two Marma sisters’ sexual assault incident allegedly by security personnel at Orachari village of Farua Union under Bilaichari Upazila in Rangamati on 22 January 2018, wherein the two victims were kept under confinement of police allowing no visitors in Rangamati Hospital. The said two Tripura teens were also kept under solitude in the same manner while they were in the hospital.
Several organizations including Tripura Kalyan Sangsad and Tripura Strudents’ Forum staged human chain and demonstration against this rape incident in Khagrachari, Bandarban, Rowangchari and Chittagong. At the same time protesters also demanded to end ‘culture of impunity’, specially in the cases of violence against women. They all demanded exemplary punishment of culprits and rehabilitation of the victims. The CHT Women Association and Hill Women’s Federation, in a press release on 25 August 2018, expressed strong protest and condemnation against this incident and demanded exemplary punishment to the perpetrators and adequate compensation and rehabilitation of the victims and full security of the victims’ families.
Condemn by rights bodies:
A number of rights bodies including National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) condemned the rape of two Tripura girls in Lama. In a statement, Chairman of NHRC Kazi Reazul Hoque expressed his grave concern over the incident. He called upon the authorities concerned to conduct a fair investigation of the cases to ensure proper justice. On the other, Ain O Salish Kendra(ASK), through a press release, also condemned the incident and demanded proper investigation into the rape of two minors. The statement also said, “the recent incidents of rape, torture, and murder of children and girls in the hill areas made us extremely anxious.” It further added, “In many cases, there have been allegations against members of the security forces and we urge the authorities to bring the culprits to book.”
Issue of concern:
It is mentionable that the incidents of violence against indigenous women and girls have got increased in all the three hill districts in recent days. Especially, since June last, one after another such incidents had taken place. For instance, one Marma college-going girl was killed after rape on 17 June; one Tripura teen was gangraped by Bengali settlers at District Council Park in Khagrachari on 21 June; a hanging death body of Marma girl was rescued from Raozan on 5 July; one Marma house wife was raped by a Bengali settler in Kaukhali on 9 July; one Tripura grade five (student) girl was killed after rape by the Bengali settlers at 9 mile area on 29 July; one Chakma girl with speech disability was raped by a Bengali settler in Longadu on 5 August; a vain attempt to rape one Tripura women by a Bengali settler in Matiranga on 6 August; and one Chakma woman was attempted to rape by a Bengali settler in Baghaichari on 7 August etc.
It is worthy to be mentioned further that sexual violence against Jumma women and girls by the Bengali settlers and security personnel have so far been met no justice and it is for this reason, similar kinds of violence are getting increases day by day and it is not of exaggeration to say that the trend is reaching to its alarming state.
An editorial of an English daily – The Daily Star – on the incident published on August 26:
The vulnerability of indigenous girls: Make sure the rapists are not spared
The rape of two minor girls from the Tripura community in Lama upazila, Bandarban where the crimes were committed, is a reminder of how vulnerable young girls, particularly from indigenous communities, are in the region. In July nine-year-old Kirtika Tripura Purna was brutally murdered after rape, her body left in the forest. In January two Marma girls were sexually assaulted, one of them was raped. According to news reports there have been many other cases of violent crimes against girls and women of different indigenous communities.
In the latest incident two members of the Border Guard Bangladesh have been accused with another member allegedly abetting the crime. The allegations have been denied by the BGB. We expect that a thorough, proper investigation will reveal the culprits.
What is baffling though is why reporters and NGO officials were not allowed access to the hospital where the two girls are being treated. According to a report in this daily, rights activists and community organisers, the girls were being confined by the police at the hospital. Apparently this is because members of security forces who have been accused in the case are being investigated. But denying access to the victims only serves to raise questions in the public mind.
Reports of rape from all over the country are published almost every day and in most cases the rapists get away with their crimes because of legal loopholes and because they are connected to the influential and powerful in the community. In the case of indigenous women and girls, the situation is even direr as they are from marginalised communities.
We urge the government to ensure a thorough investigation into this latest case of sexual violence against two minors and that the rapists, no matter which organisation or group they belong to, are meted out exemplary punishment. Only then can we hope that these heinous crimes against women and girls of indigenous communities will stop.