Investigation reveals five, not two, were raped on January 6 morning
Jessore police have turned the gang raping of at least five Dalit women into stories of two ordinary rapes, trying to bury a part of the spate of post-election violence against minority people, investigation reveals.
Evidence suggests that police tried to bury the incidents altogether until the matter was revealed in the media in the early hours of January 8 – two days after the rapes at Rishipara of Monirampur in Jessore.
The local police also allegedly influenced the stories of the victims in two cases filed, making them sound like ordinary incidents of rape. The three other victims mysteriously changed their previous statements and are now denying to have been raped.
The police took three days to have medical examinations of the two complainants, significantly reducing the chances of finding any evidence at all, which ultimately led to the conclusion that there had been no rape.
However, contradictions in the first information reports (FIRs) filed by the two victims, video footage recorded by local journalists and statements of witnesses still substantiate that at least five women of the families of two neighbouring brothers were raped on the same night.
The victims are the wives of the two brothers, their daughters, and a daughter-in-law.
We decided to leave the village and not to file any case as we barely have a hand-to-mouth existence and cannot bear the cost of running a case,” said the husband of a victim. The victims are Dalits,members of the Rishi community, who are cobblers by profession and are socially considered at the lowest tier in the Hindu caste system –the “untouchables.
Neighbours suspect when one of the families left the area with all their belongings the morning following the rape, the other took shelter in a date orchard near Rishiparawhere they had bought three kathas of land.
The Rishiparaincident took place three days after some 300 families of Malopara village of Abhaynagarhad been driven away by the activists of Jamaat-e-Islami, its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir and their key ally BNP.
“The question is whether the rapestook place at all. Does a husband lie with his wife the next day she was raped?” saidMonirampur police station’s Officer-in-Charge Mir Rezaul Hossain in his first reaction to a question asked by thisreporter about the rape.
Rezaul went on speaking in the same manner at his office on January 14 evening, claiming that those women had come up with the stories of rape for getting money or aid.
Rape is not a matter for them [Dalits]. They do not hold it [having sex] in high regard like us. They can compromise their honour for anything, for mere fun!”
“They make a mountain out of a molehill. They lie a lot,” Rezaul said. The OC insisted that the number of rape victims – three – as mentioned in the FIRs was not true and it would be two, and that too was “highly doubtful.
The Dhaka Tribune has copies of the FIRs filed by two rape victims – one of the daughters and the daughter-in-law, who mentionedthe name of a third victim.
The half-page FIRs sound incomplete, only describing that seven to eight masked men stormed into their houses around 1:30am and 2:30am on Wednesday and that only one of them raped the complainants. The other members of the group held the family members hostage for an hour.
The name of a fourth rape victim appears in the statement of Ashutosh Mandal, a member of the Village Defence Police posted in the area. He told the Dhaka Tribune that he had encountered the family while they were leaving the village the next morning.
Video footage recorded during a visit to the area by two local journalists on January 9, a copy of which is available with the Dhaka Tribune, shows the fifth victim.
I addressed them as my sons and begged for not dishonouring me, but they defiled me!” cries one of the mothers in the footage.The husband of a victim is seen saying: “They entered the house one after another.”
Ashutosh said: “I heard three men raped…[name withheld].”
He confirmed that the Monirampur upazila Nirbahi officer had been informed by Union Parishad Member Afzal Hossain around 3:30pm on Wednesday.
Police visited the area twice that evening,” said Govinda Das, one of the youths who have been guarding the area at night since the incident. However, OC Rezaul claimed that he had not learnt of the matter until Thursday evening, a statement that contradicts that of the district’s Police Superintendent Joy DevBhadra, who told the Dhaka Tribune: “We came to know about it in the evening of January 8 [Wednesday].
A local journalist said police had forced the two complainants to lodge stories of being raped by a single man in the case as a case of a gang rape would have caused further backlash against the law enforcers’ failure to protect Hindus.
“But they could not hide it entirely as the media had already interviewed some of the victims,” said a journalist.
According to the two complainants, they had not been taken to the police station until Thursday night and had their tests done two days later, on Saturday morning.
Jessore General Hospital Superintendent Yakub Ali and several forensic experts told the Dhaka Tribune that the chances of finding rape evidence in the body of a victim were slim after 24 hours, especially in the case of married women.
The Dhaka Tribune has copies of the medical tests that found no proof of rape.
The case could have been proved in another way – by examining the clothes the victims were wearing during the violence. However, police appear not to have even considered this method.
“I do not see any hope because of the role police are playing,” said Niranjan Prasad Biswas, chairman of Haridaskathi union.
Police have arrested two people who are not even suspected by the victims.
The four suspected by victims are still at large.
Although the police claim that the two arresteesare activists of the BNP and Jamaat, the one identified as a Jamaat activist is known as a supporter of the Awami League in the area.