Security forces while conducting a joint drive in Orachari village, Rangamati in early hours of January 22, 2018, entered a house, two men allegedly raped a Marma girl, attempted to rape her younger sister, failed, and then left. The sisters were hospitalised a day later, army denied allegations of rape, sisters wanted to be released from hospital in custody of Chakma Circle Chief Raja Devasish Roy and his spouse Rani Yan Yan, custody battle ensues, shifts from hospital premises to High Court in Dhaka, a writ petition by prominent rights activists pleading sisters be released under own custody is filed, a second writ petition by father claiming daughters’ custody while first one is pending, second bench issues verdict saying daughters should be placed under father’s custody. New Age presents a timeline of the conflicting claims over whether rape and sexual assault had occurred, whether army men were involved, whether security and surveillance was out of concern for their safety or to prevent them from speaking out etc.
22 January (Orachari): Orachari villagers inform warrant officer Subedar Mizan, two men in uniform entered a Marma house around 2:30/3:00am, raped a young Marma girl, attempted to rape her younger sister, failed, left.
23 January (Rangamati): Marma sisters admitted to Rangamati General Hospital by distant relative nearly 36 hrs later. Tight security and surveillance by law enforcement personnel and agencies begins. Condition of older sister is critical.
23 January (Bilaichari): Police file general dairy (GD) at Bilaichari thana on the incident.
24 January (Rangamati): Chakma Raja Devasish Roy, Rani Yan Yan and professor Banchita Chakma (member, National Human Rights Commission) prevented by police from entering hospital, finally allowed on condition they speak only in Bangla.
24 January (Orachari): Local Awami League politician Rasel Marma holds press conference at Rangamati Press Club to ‘dispel confusion’, parents and 7-year old brother present. Rasel Marma reads out written statement: unknown young assailants forcibly abducted sisters after patrol party left, Rasel Marma and others watched helplessly, sisters were physically tortured [‘nirjaton’ is euphemism for rape], locals saw nothing, sisters screamed, brought to hospital, regional political parties allege army rape, politicising a completely non-political matter.
Parents say (mother in Marma): we returned to empty house, do not know what happened.
Younger brother says (in Marma): they were in army uniform, turned off torch, told us to close our eyes, be silent, cocked gun at our head, I heard my younger sister scream.
(video of press conference is available on youtube, New Age has multi-lingual transcript).
24 January (Rangamati): Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti alleges army cover up.
25 January (Dhaka): Inter Services Public Relations, director Lt Col Mohammad Rashidul Hasan denies rape occurred, allegation against army not true, army team heard screams from another house, found Ansar member, handed over to local Ansar commander for necessary action.
25 January (Bilaichari): Ansar 10th Battalion zone commander Afzal Hossain says, ‘Some people are spreading lies to create unrest.’
25 January (Rangamati): Rangamati district commandant of Bangladesh Ansar and Village Defence Abdul Awal says, Ansar member Gias Uddin withdrawn, being interrogated; action will be taken if guilty.
26 January (Rangamati): Hospital authorities refuse to release Marma sisters in custody of Chakma Raja and Rani Yan Yan; custody battle ensues in hospital premises in front of sisters, police contend sisters are ‘minors’ hence Rangamati DC, police are their guardians.
27 January (Rangamati): Elder sister submits written application to civil surgeon of hospital Dr. Shaheed Talukdar: she’s 19 years old, her blood-related younger sister, 14 years old, they want to be released from hospital in custody of Chakma Raja, ‘[I am] completely averse to the idea of returning to my village home since I had suffered rape, and my sister, attempted rape, there.’ (New Age has obtained a copy of her application).
28 January (Rangamati): Rangamati additional police SP Ruhul Amin Siddiqi says, ‘court permission’ required to talk to them.
1 February (Dhaka): Rangamati police SP Sayeed Tariqul Hasan insists round the clock deployment is necessary, ‘Who will take responsibility if something unexpected happens?’
3 February (Dhaka): Press conference by CPB Nari Cell, Samajtantrik Mahila Forum and Hill Women’s Federation on returning to Dhaka from Rangamati. Highlights: searching for ‘terrorists’ is a pretext used by security forces; Subedar Mizan tried to force Tk 100 taka on elder sister; rape survivor was still bleeding when team went to hospital; Rasel Marma’s press conference was held with army’s blessings; Rangamati DC spoke in ethnically derogatory manner when team went to express their concern.
4 February (Dhaka): Press conference by Nagorik Samaj at National Press Club in Dhaka, demands perpetrators be tried under Women and Children’s Repression Prevention Act.
15 February (Rangamati): Marma sisters abducted from hospital, allegedly by security forces, Rani Yan Yan attacked, volunteer sexually assaulted. SP denies violation of Chamber Judge’s order, ‘We had the High Court directive in our favour.’
15 February (Rangamati): SP Sayed Tariqul Hasan claims Marma sisters went willingly with law-enforcement personnel; police tell media, parents, two daughters and younger son kept at Awami League leader Avilash Tanchangya’s house in Rangamati town; Tanchangya’s house cordoned by police under HC instructions; Tanchangya does not receive phone calls by media.
18 February (Dhaka): NHRC forms 3-member probe committee, nearly a month after the incident.
5 April (Dhaka): NHRC press release declares findings: evidence does not indicate rape, Ansar member Giasuddin tugged victim’s (name mentioned) hand, quilt in attempt to violate her; no clear evidence of Chakma Rani being assaulted.
Update (Rangamati): Marma sisters still in Tanchangya’s house, still under surveillance, still inaccessible.
Shortened version of timeline, constructed by Saydia Gulrukh and Rahnuma Ahmed.
I fail to understand who or what the NHRC takes into account, and on what basis they can come up with such a statement, says Shampa Basu, Samjatantrik Mahila Forum
At a joint press conference held by the Samjatantrik Mahila Forum, CPB Nari Cell and Hill Women’s Federation on February 3, it was affirmed that the elder sister had been raped, and the younger one sexually assaulted. But the probe committee report of the National Human Rights Commission states, ‘primary investigation does not indicate rape occurred.’ What’s your response? New Age asked Shampa Basu, general secretary of Samajtantrik Mahila Forum
I was in an 8-member team which represented the Samjatantrik Mahila Forum, CPB Nari Cell and Hill Women’s Federation, we went and met the Marma sisters on January 29, 2018 at the Rangamati General Hospital. We learnt from the sisters that between 21 and 22 January, at about 1:30 at night, army personnel entered their home in Bilaichari upazilla’s Orachari village, raped the elder sister and sexually assaulted the younger one. On entering the hospital, we saw that they were under constant police surveillance and monitoring by intelligence agencies, as if they were the culprits! Having suffered sexual violence, they had sought safety and had wanted to be in the custody of the Chakma Raja and Rani, but the police wouldn’t let them go. On the night of February 15, the hospital’s power line was cut off, Rani Yan Yan was physically assaulted, and the police swooped in and abducted the two Marma sisters.
And now the NHRC says primary investigation does not indicate rape. The NHRC was silent when the Marma sisters human rights was violated at each and every step. The Marma sisters thems elves said the elder sister was raped and the younger one was sexually assaulted. When women belonging to the margins allege rape, their parents are hostages, the sisters are intimidated — I fail to understand instead of taking these into account who or what the NHRC takes into account, and on what basis they can come up with such a statement.
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