The body of Lackingme Chakma has been lying in the morgue for 22 days following a row between her Buddhist parents and the family of her Muslim husband over who should receive it.
Lackingme’s parents claimed that their daughter had been abducted and then forced to convert to Islam and marry before she died under mysterious circumstances on December 10.
Her in-laws however claimed that Lackingme committed suicide by drinking poison after she was denied permission to go to a parlour on the occasion of one of their relative’s wedding.
‘Lakingme was a very emotional kind of girl,’ Rahima Khatun, the mother of Ata Ullah told New Age last Monday.
While Ata Ullah was not available at his Mathabhanga Teknaf home for comments, his mother told New Age that Lakingme had just given birth to a girl, exactly 13 days before she died.
Rahima said that Lakingme was first brought to her home near the end of April, pregnant, by her son Ata Ullah, who had just lost his job in Cumilla because of the COVID-19 crisis.
Ata Ullah, 23, has been living in Cumilla with his elder sister since he was 10 years old and visited his parents once for a few days every year.
Rahima said that some of her relatives brought Lakingme to Ata Ullah in Cumilla after she agreed to convert to Islam.
‘Ata Ullah married Lakingme not out of love but because she wanted to be a Muslim,’ said Rahima.
But another version of the story came from the place where Lakingme was born and grew up, which is a 15-minute car drive from Rahima’s house.
At Chakma Para, one of the last few surviving Chakma villages in Shilkhali of Teknaf, Lakingme’s father La La Ong, 46, a poor fisherman, said, ‘Lakingme was abducted on the afternoon of January 5’.
Once dominated by Chakmas and Rakhines, Shilkhali is now home to a few dozens of Chakma families, surrounded on all sides by the sprawling slum-like neighbourhoods of the majority Bengali Muslims as well as the displaced Rohingyas.
La La had gone fishing at sea while his wife, Keching Chakma, 30, was at the nursery where she worked, when five people abducted Lakingme.
‘The abductors just barged in and took my sister away,’ said Lakingme’s younger brother O Mong La, 12.
Some of the people who attended the afternoon prayer at a local Buddhist temple also witnessed part of the kidnapping as they heard cries from a three-wheeler CNG-run auto-r coming from the direction of Lakingme’s house.
They also recognised three people in the CNG — Isa, 30, Yasin, 22, and Abiuya 16, the accused in the abduction case filed by Lackingme’s father.
The abduction case was filed with the 3rd court of the women and children repression prevention after police refused to accept a regular case.
After investigating the abduction case for seven months at the court’s order, the Police Bureau of Investigation concluded that Lakingme was not kidnapped.
The probe report, submitted on August 9, however failed to trace where Lakingme had gone.
Lakingme’s parents had rejected the police probe outright expressing their no-confidence in it but the public prosecutor failed to bring it to the court’s notice until Lakingme died on December 10.
‘I did not realise it was a sensitive matter,’ said public prosecutor Ekramul Huda.
Ekramul eventually brought the matter to the court’s notice when both Lakingme’s parents and her abductor-turned-husband rowed over getting her body.
On December 15, the court ordered the Rapid Action Battalion to further investigate the matter and take necessary steps for Lakingme’s burial after confirming her religion.
RAB is still investigating the matter and asked the civil surgeon to determine the victim’s age.
‘A child cannot decide to marry or convert to another religion or be allowed to leave home,’ said Cox’s Bazar’s superintendent of police Hasanuzzaman.
The primary education completion examination certificate shows that Lakingme was 14 years and 10 months old on January 5. Anyone below the age of 16 is legally considered a child.
A fact-finding team comprising human rights lawyers and activists, university teacher and journalists revealed that a forged birth certificate was used to convert Lakingme to Islam and marry her.
The local birth registry office at Baharchhara Union No 5 confirmed that no such birth certificate was ever issued by them.
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