An ethnic minority Marma family in Rangamati alleged on Wednesday that two of their daughters, one aged about 17 and the other about 14, were raped in their residence at a village under Bilaichari early Monday.
The parents of the victims at a press conference at Rangamati Press Club said that a group of five to six Bengalis stormed into their house around 3:00am on Monday and raped their daughters.
In the morning following the rapes, the parents alleged in Marma language during the press conference, elders of their village were called to Farua army camp where the villagers were asked not to talk about the matter.
The victims were admitted to Rangamati General Hospital on Tuesday and the condition of the elder sister was stated to be critical.
Journalists trying to talk to the relatives of the victims at the hospital found that they were under surveillance of police and detectives. They were obstructing journalists’ attempts for having a conversation with the relatives.
Quoting the victims, rights activist Yan Yan, who talked to the victims at the hospital on Tuesday, said that it was ‘a strong case of army repression on ethnic minorities as the rapists were allegedly army men’.
The victims told Yan, wife of Chakma Circle chief Devasish Roy, that ‘a team of army men’ entered into their house looking for criminals and took their parents out after tying them up.
‘Then the army men raped the sisters who could recall that their rapists were wearing army uniform,’ Yan said, quoting the victims.
Rangamati Zila Prishad chairman Brish Ketu Chakma, who also visited the victims at the hospital, said that the victims were alleged raped by army men.
Inter Services Public Relation Directorate director lieutenant colonel Mohammad Rashidul Hasan, however, claimed that the allegation against the army was not true.
He told New Age that an army team was in operation in the area during that time.
The team heard the screaming of a girl as an Ansar man entered into the house, he said, adding that the Ansar man was later handed over to his local authority.
Rangamati district commandant of Bangladesh Ansar and Village Defence Party, Md Abdual Awal said that they had withdrawn the Ansar member in question, Gias Uddin, and attached him to Shilchari Ansar base where he was being interrogated.
‘We will take departmental and legal action against him if he was found guilty. Different agencies, including police, have been investigating the incident,’ he said.
He, however, raised question as to how the Ansar member could go away from the patrol team led by an army official.
Meanwhile, different organisations held demonstrations in Rangamati and on Rajshahi university campus demanding exemplary punishments for the rapists.
They alleged that the victims’ family and their well-wishers were too intimidated to tell who the real rapists were.
The demonstrators in Rangamati and Rajshahi were Parbatya Chittagong Pahari Chhatra Parishad, Hill Women’s Federation and Ganatantrik Jubo Forum.
The Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti alleged that the army was trying to cover up the incident.