Two teenage sisters of a Marma family have been allegedly raped and sexually assaulted by members of security forces in Orachhari village under Farua Union in Rangamati’s Belaichari Upazila four days ago, an incident which has led to a barrage of criticism from different quarters on social media.
Although the Adivasi girls have reportedly claimed that military personnel were involved, the army have detained and handed over an Ansar and VDP member over to his battalion, according to the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Directorate.
The Ansar member was later closed to the battalion headquarters and an investigation is going on.
Both the army and Ansar, however, have denied any involvement of their personnel in the reported incident.
Meanwhile, a man named Rasel Marma, on behalf of the victims’ family, at a press conference at Rangamati Sadar on Wednesday claimed the sisters were not raped or sexually assaulted, and some people with vested interests were spreading lies.
But Rasel’s ties to that family could not be verified even though the victims’ parents and brother were reportedly present at the briefing.
Many rights activists, joining the social media firestorm, have also demanded exemplary punishment of the alleged perpetrators from the security forces.
Local sources said the army and Ansar had conducted a joint-raid at Orachhari village around the midnight on January 22. During the raid, a Marma girl, 18, was allegedly raped and her younger sister, 13, was reportedly sexually assaulted by the members of the security forces.
Both sisters were admitted to Rangamati Sadar Hospital the next day.
Chakma king and queen vent frustration
Chakma King Devasish Roy, Queen Yan Yan, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Member Prof Banchita Chakma, Rangamati MP Ushatan Talukder and Rangamati Hill District Council Chairman Brisaketu Chakma visited the two sisters at the hospital on Thursday.
Afterwards, Devasish on a Facebook post alleged that he and the others had faced obstruction from security personnel at the hospital when they went to see and talk to the two sisters.
The Chakma king said he even had to remind them that as the head of the Chakma Circle he had the right to talk to people who live in areas under his jurisdiction. “... It was clear that both sisters were in a psychologically terrified state. As the queen speaks Marma, we were able to talk to them,” he wrote.
Devasish told the Bangla Tribune: "We do not know who were involved. The victims mentioned men in uniform. But they could have been members of either army or BGB or police or Ansar. It’s not confirmed yet.”
He also said that he has urged the NHRC to provide legal aid to the Marma sisters. “No case has been filed yet over the matter. We will try and help (the victims).”
Devasish also added that the two girls did not know anything regarding Rasel Marma and his press briefing on Wednesday.
His queen Yan Yan also took to the social networking site and accused the security forces of terrorizing the victims. She also alleged that attempts were being made to keep the Marma sisters silent.
Prof Banchita Chakma told the Bangla Tribune: “The incident is really tragic. The younger sister, who speaks a little Bangla, said she had seen men in army uniforms. Anyone involved in this incident must be brought to book. Otherwise, such incidents will happen again.”
Meanwhile, Rangamati’s Civil Surgeon Dr Shahid Talukder said a six-member team, led by Dr Henu Barua, was formed to conduct the medical tests of the Adivasi girls. “It will not be right to say anything till the tests are done. We will be able to say more when we get the report.”
[caption id="attachment_242941" align="aligncenter" width="800"]
An organization of women demonstrates in front of the National Museum in Shahbagh, Dhaka on January 26, 2018, in protest against the alleged rape and sexual assault of two Marma sisters in Rangamati | Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune
Army, Ansar brush off allegations
Regarding the allegations that military personnel were involved in the alleged rape, ISPR Director Lt Col Mohammad Rashidul Hasan told the Bangla Tribune no one was raped during the raid in Belaichari’s Orachhari on January 22 midnight.
He said an army patrol team was searching a house when they heard the scream of a girl coming from another house. “They had found an Ansar member inside that house. Later, he was handed over to the local Ansar commander for necessary action. No incident of rape happened there.”
Afzal Hossain, zone commander of Ansar’s 10th Battalion deployed at Belaichari, also made a similar claim. He said a 20-member patrol team, consisting 14 army troopers and six Ansar members, was raiding suspicious houses to catch local criminals.
“A girl got frightened and screamed after seeing an Ansar member when he entered their house to search during the raid. Nothing else happened. There was no chance for anything else to happen,” he claimed.
“We are here to protect the hills. Some people are spreading lies to create unrest,” Afzal told the Bangla Tribune.
Rangamati district’s Ansar Commander Abdul Awal also backed Afzal’s version. "Nothing suspicious happened there that night. Still, Ansar member Gias Uddin who is facing the allegations has been closed to the battalion headquarters. We are also investigating the matter.”
The Chittagong Hill Tracts-based organizations, including Parbattya Chattagram Janasanghati Samity (PCJSS) and United People's Democratic Front (UPDF), have also strongly protested the alleged rape and sexual assault of the two Marma sisters.
This article was first published on banglatribune.com