A wave of protests erupted in the capital and elsewhere over the horrific gang-rape incident in Noakhali’s Begumganj with the agitators demanding justice for the heinous crime that has shaken the conscience of the nation.
Anger was already simmering across the country following a string of recent rape incidents. That anger turned to rage and people took to the streets yesterday, hours after a video footage of the gruesome incident was uploaded on social media on Sunday night.
Netizens too continued to express outrage on social media.
Many of the protesters alleged that the ruling party men were involved in most of the cases, including the ones at Sylhet’s MC College and in Begumganj, and demanded that the home minister step down for failing to stop the gruesome crimes against women.
As many as 975 women and children were raped in the first nine months of this year. Of them, 208 were gang-raped, according to Ain o Salish Kendra, a rights organisation.
In the capital, several hundred protesters staged demonstrations in Shahbagh and Uttara areas, carrying placards and shouting slogans.
Left-leaning activists under the banners of “Shahbagh Against Oppression” and “Bondi Somoyer Chitkar” started demonstrating in front of the National Museum around 11:15am. They staged a sit-in at the Shahbagh intersection at yesterday noon, slowing down vehicular movement in the area.
“Today, the entire Bangladesh has been raped… One rape after another is happening across the country from hill tracts to plain land,” Liton Nandi, former general secretary of Chhatra Union, said at the sit-in.
Such incidents are recurring because of the culture of impunity, and the ruling party men are mostly involved in those, he said, calling for resignation of the home minister.
In the afternoon, the protesters brought out an anti-rape stick procession, chanting slogans on Dhaka streets. In slogans, the protesters said they want “Azadi” [freedom] from rape and abuse.
Bangladesh Chhatra Odhikar Parishad under the banner of “Students-People Against Rape and Abuse” held a protest rally in front of the National Museum.
The Parishad leaders said the government was responsible for the rise in rape incidents across the country, and alleged that it is sheltering the ruling party men involved in such incidents.
“No one is safe… Isn’t a wife being taken away from her husband and getting raped? Aren’t innocent people becoming victims in crossfire?” said Nurul Haque Nur, former vice president of Dhaka University Central Students’ Union (DUCSU), and joint convener of the Parishad.
Demanding resignation of the home minister, he said, “What is our home minister doing? They are the ones who promote people like OC Pradeep.”
Several hundred people brought out a protest procession from the House Building area in the capital’s Uttara, demanding exemplary punishment to the culprits.
ActionAid Bangladesh and the National Women’s Violence Prevention Forum formed a human chain in front of Shyamoli Square.
In Narayanganj, Farhana Manik Muna, a final year student of the management department of the Tolaram College, staged a sit-in at the Central Shaheed Minar in Chashara area from 9:00am to 7:00pm.
Similar protest programmes were held in at least 24 districts, including Noakhali, Kushtia, Kurigram, Jamalpur, Faridpur, Naogaon, Bagerhat, Nilphamari, Satkhira, Pirojpur, Meherpur, Jashore, Netrakona, Narsingdi, Natore, protesting the recent incidents of rape.
‘SHOCKED, ANGRY, FRUSTRATED’
Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF), the ASK, Naripokkho, Breaking the Silence, Pragroshor, Centre for Women and Children Studies (CWCS) and WeCan expressed grave concern, shock and anger over the gang-rape incident in Begumganj.
In a statement yesterday, MJF Executive Director Shaheen Anam said, “We are shocked and deeply saddened by this incident. Such incidents are on the rise now because of the culture of impunity for the criminals. Women rarely get justice for oppression on them.”
“Horrific incidents like rape and gang rape are on the rise in society. Though the crime of rape is a non-bailable one, the accused in rape cases are getting bail. They come out on bail, using various loopholes in the law and also political power.”
Quoting a report of The Daily Star, the ASK in a statement said the Begumganj gang-rape victim reported the incident to Moazzem Hossain Sohag, a member of ward-9 of Eklashpur union, but he didn’t take any step.
The ASK further said supporters of the ruling party and local influential people are often involved in such incidents. It is highly undesirable that the local people’s representatives made no effort to identify the culprits, take legal action and ensure safety of the abused woman.
It observed that even though the government claims to be women-friendly at different times, in reality, the society and the state are becoming increasingly insecure and uninhabitable for women.
The ASK said such horrific crimes against women are “calling into question our identity as a civilised nation”. It hoped the highest level of the government would look into this.
Meanwhile, the Social Resistance Committee [Samajik Protirodh Committee], a platform of 66 women, human rights and development organisations, including Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, voiced deep concern and anger over the incident.
In a statement, Naripokkho said, “Has our Bangladesh become a country of rapists?
“We are shocked, angry and frustrated.”
Meanwhile, the National Human Rights Commission formed a two-member special probe committee, headed by one of its directors. They will visit the spot and submit a report within 10 working days.