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Digital Rape in Analog Bangladesh

Edit Date:7/21/2010 12:00:00 AM


Shimul Chaudhury
05 March 2010

The most glamorous election promise with which the Awami League had tried to thrill and tantalize the people of Bangladesh prior to 29 December 2008 Election was 'digital Bangladesh .' But since the party came to power through that 'election', the nation has not yet seen much change to the direction of digitalization. However, some secondary school going girls of the district of Pirojpur and other places of the country have recently had the taste of 'digital Bangladesh', as some of them were raped and digitalized by local leaders of Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), the student wing of Awami League (AL). Perhaps, this is the first and the only delivery of the party leader Sheikh Hasina's election pledge of digital Bangladesh that the country has witnessed so far! Other than that, the whole country has more or less remained the same analog as it was before, except for the increase in the lawlessness of the Awami affiliates and tortures by Chhatra League members of students of other political organizations at college and university campuses throughout the country.

One story goes, as reported in the Daily Star (Dhaka, 28 September 09) and the Naya Diganta (Dhaka, 30 September 09), Ahsan Kabir Mamun known as Tiger Mamun, a leader of Pirojpur district unit of Bangladesh Chhatra League, and some of his cohorts stopped and raped few female students of a secondary school after taking them to a secret location. The rapists recorded their sexual exploits in a mobile phone camera. Later on, CDs of this pornographic scene of raping the girls became available in video shops in the area. Ashamed of the social stigma and embarrassed by digital CDs of 'digital' BCL, family members of the rape victims wanted exemplary punishment of the criminals and resolved to 'go for legal action' (Daily Star, 28 Sep 09) and the local police administration accordingly assured the shocked family members of all legal aid and security. However, the police arrested three people involved in trading in the CDs, but not the rapist student leaders of the ruling Awami League party. According to the Daily Star (29 September 09), "A similar incident took place in Faridpur where a girl was gang-raped and the video was released in the market". But no arrests were made in that case either. 

Two days after the reporting of Pirojpur digital rapes, on 30 September 09, the Daily Star printed another rape report titled "10 BCL men rape girl", involving leaders of Chhatra League. In this incident, ten activists of the student wing of the ruling party, Awami League, gang-raped a teenage girl who is a student of Year-7 in Pakhimara in Kalapara upazila of Patuakhali district in the division of Barisal , Bangladesh . The incident happened when the victim was returning home with her cousin Nasir Uddin in the evening. The BCL men tortured and drove the helpless Nasir away and took the girl to a nearby garden and gang-raped her. 

However, local Awami League leaders and heavyweights intervened and ensured the exoneration of the culprits through a fake trial of village arbitration. They "compelled the victim's father not to go for legal action and also took their signatures on three blank sheets to stop any future move to that end". According to the father of the victim, local AL leaders including Kalapara upazila unit Secretary Rakibul Ahsan and Upazila Parishad Vice-Chairman Sultan Mahmud took his and his daughter's signatures on three blank sheets asking them not to seek justice in any law court. Rakibul Ahsan later tried to hide the rape crime by saying to the Daily Star, "The youths did not rape the girl, they just made an attempt. We punished them so that they don't indulge into such activities in future." Threats and intimidation forced the family of the victim to go into hiding, while the rapists remained still at large (Daily Star, 1 October 2009 ). Awami League leaders Rakibul Ahsan and Sultan Mahmud then orchestrated a press conference at Kalapara press club and had the victim and her parents present at the event. Then "the victim girl was forced to read out a written statement, declaring she was not raped but tortured while she along with a cousin was returning home after visiting a puja mandap on September 25" (Daily Star, 2 October 2009).

Readers of this essay who followed the activities of BCL leaders during Sheikh Hasina's last tenure as Prime Minister of Bangladesh (1996-2001) may remember a series of rapes and incidents of sexual harassment involving them. As Hana Shams Ahmed narrates: 

The first report in the media came out on August 17, 1998 in the Daily Manobjomin where it was reported that three female students of Jahangirnagar University had been raped by student cadres of Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) of the university. A fact-finding committee later reported (The Daily Star, September 26, 1998) that a total of 20 JU students were raped in different locations on campus and 300 were sexually assaulted by members of this group. The perpetrators were all political cadres of Chhatra League. Jasimuddin Manik, a student of Drama and Dramatics department and the former general secretary of the JU unit of BCL, was on the top of the list of seven persons accused of having committed rape. The report also said that Manik on completion of his 100th rape 'celebrated the occasion by offering sweets and throwing a cocktail party'. (Violating a Sacred Relationship, Star Weekend Magazine, 7(31), August 1, 2007)

As in the case of the rapes of September 2009, the victims of the rape crimes at Jahangirnagar University also did not go to court for legal redress; and that obviously for the social stigma attached to it. An important Awami League leader Prof Alauddin Ahmed was the Vice-Chancellor of the University at that time. He justified his inaction with regard to the punishment of the rapists BCL leaders by saying: "under the law of the land, the victim has to lodge the complaint herself" (ibid.). None of the rape criminals of BCL of JU had to face any criminal punishment, and thus was given 'a license to rape'. The rapist century-scorer Jasimuddin Manik was sent to Japan by the Awami League government to avoid further embarrassment. Manik must have preferred better life in prosperous Japan to imprisonment in poor Bangladesh . He was given a reward, not punishment, for his rape records. Manik is now believed to live in the United States . 

After a gap of seven years, Awami League with the same leadership of Sheikh Hasina has come to power; and the same incidents of rape are being repeated by Chhatra League activists. Some rape cases are reported, but many are not. During 1996-2001, Sheikh Hasina was the Prime Minister; and now also she has taken the helm of the country. Being a woman, she must understand the urgency of the matter. People want quick action from her. She should control her sons in Chhatra League who obviously misconstrued her slogan of 'digital Bangladesh '. I am sure Sheikh Hasina did not mean digitalized rape when she campaigned for election victory by using the slogan of 'digital Bangladesh '. Dear Prime Minister! Chhatra League has shown us enough of your 'digital Bangladesh !' Please deal with them!

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