Recently two gang-rapes took place; one is in Delhi and another in Rangamati… In Rangamati case, a Marma school-girl of class-eight was gang-raped in Rangamati on December 21. Three Bengali settlers raped the fourteen-year Marma girl and killed her afterward. As rape cases, both events were similar in its forms and consequences and thereby both cases were expected to trigger serious reaction and massive protests in the society… it happened otherwise in Rangamati case which unveils the class relations of demonstration and ugly face of minority-majority politics prevalent in Bangladesh.
Women empowerment, dissemination of women-education, gender equity, economic ability of women, right to self-determination and equal rights of women have long been agendas of rights movement in Bangladesh for decades. Nevertheless, it unfortunately did not decrease the degree of discrimination being happened to women and various forms of violence being taken place against women. Consequently, violence against women is repeatedly occurring in the society. Rather, its increasing tends and tendencies are being observed at home and abroad. However, the forms, contents, characters and applications of violence against women have changed over the years but brutality and atrocity are no less than the past. One of the major forms of violence against women is “rape” which has been historically used as an effective tool to assault, defame and demoralize women in the male-dominant and patriarchal society.
There might have various contexts, circumstances and prerequisites of raping a women but raping simultaneously affects a women socially, culturally, mentality, morality, and of course physically, in the existing social settings and systems embedded in masculine perspective of life and livings. As a strategy and technique of defeating opposition, taking vengeance against others, taking revenge for family-clash, even as retribution of land-dispute in the village, dismantling opponent’s mental strength, raping opposition’s women is perceived as a war-strategy to win the battle. Therefore, history of the liberation-war on the other way around is the history of tears of women which is left unaddressed in the popular narratives of independence written by educated class and elite historians. History of Bangladesh liberation is an ideal example of such tragedy where popular narratives simply remark “sacrifice of the ijjat of two lakh mother-sisters” without taking into accounts millions of unaddressed events of sexual violence taken place in liberation war in 1971. That is different agenda which could be discussed in another piece. This article is concerned with two recent rape cases occurred in different context, different countries, different sites and under different circumstances but both spiritually uphold the state of women’s positioning in the so-called democratic, liberal and modern society. Taking the cases not as a technique of defeating opposition but as a unit analysis to understand the position of women in the male-dominant and patriarchal society, this article examines the forms and degree of protests to unearth the dynamics of reaction, ways of demonstration and socio-cultural & political implication of demonstration in two different contexts.
Recently two gang-rapes took place; one is in Delhi and another in Rangamati. In Delhi case, a 23-year old medical student was gang-ranged on a running bus in Delhi on December 16. Six sinners raped the girl and threw her on the street from the running bus (day before yesterday the rape-victim passed away!). In Rangamati case, a Marma school-girl of class-eight was gang-raped in Rangamati on December 21. Three Bengali settlers raped the fourteen-year Marma girl and killed her afterward. As rape cases, both events were similar in its forms and consequences and thereby both cases were expected to trigger serious reaction and massive protests in the society demanding capital punishment of perpetrators so that no one in near and far future would dare to do the same.
However, surprisingly it happened otherwise in Rangamti case which unveils the class relations of demonstration and ugly face of minority-majority politics prevalent in Bangladesh. For analytical purpose, I will make a sharp but cruel comparison between the cases but it is not intended to prioritize one over another. Before going to further discussion, it should be made clear here that for any sensible human beings, both cases are not acceptable at any cost and subject to hate and exemplary punishment.
Though both cases deserved serious reaction and intense repercussion in every quarter of the society but we found fairly dissimilar response in Rangamati case. In Delhi case, media personnel, rights-workers, mass people of different professions, civil society representatives, NGO workers, politicians, general students of school, colleges and universities, various professional and occupational groups, in fact people from every corner of the society unprecedentedly expressed their anger, grievance and exasperation which was reflected in violent demonstration and massive protests across the country. Print and electronic media seems to appear in a battle field with the sturdy criticism of state’s malfunction in protecting girls and women in India that claims to be the largest democratic one in the world. The degree of protest was so forceful that even Sonia Gandhi, also congress chief and chief of alliance that formed the Indian Government, came out of the house and expressed eternal solidarity with the thousands of protestants. Even president Pranab Mukharjee agreed the justification of anger of the demonstrators and expressed deep concerned over the case. Prime minister Dr. Monmoon Sing addressed the issue making official statement before the nation and admitted the rationalization of people’s protest. In fact, he was compelled to pledge to take every necessary measure to ensure safety of the girls and women across India. However in Bangladesh, we found quite an opposite scenario in addressing the Rangamati case. Only Pahari Chatra Parishad (PCP) and Hill Women’s Federation (HWF) staged a small scale local demonstration by bringing out a procession in Rangamati on December 23. Besides, Marma Students Council (MSC), some Pahari adivasi students of Chittagong University, some Pahari NGO workers and Pahari rights activists formed a human chain in Rangamati on December 25. On December 28, a human chain was formed in capital which was also organized by Pahari right activists. That is all!
I was rather curious to know whether any human rights organizations and any human rights activists made any statement demanding the stern punishment of the perpetrators and justice to bereaved Marma family. I was observing with great hope whether any so-called civil society representatives came forward and stood in protest against this heinous crime. I was noticing with optimism whether any NGOs made any statement in protest against this inhuman deed. I was at end of the day seriously frustrated and disappointed. Even, no private TV channel telecasted any exclusive report on this issue. No so-called talk-show specialists raised voice against this brutal offense. Even, after December 16, no print media unfortunately published any editorial and post-editorial on this issue [one or two in few dailies just to maintain courtesy!]. Why? Despite of being similar cases of gang-rape, why is Rangamati case quite contrasted to the Delhi one in terms of reaction, protests and demonstration? The answer to this question lies in the politics of center and periphery, politics of nationalism and the politics of cultural difference what the Pahari adivasi people experienced across historical watershed. We find the class relations as well as socio-cultural and political implication of protest and demonstration in Rangamati case unlike the Delhi one.
Why did the Rangamati case follow state’s reluctance, media’s negligence and inactive role of activists? Is it because it took place in the periphery rather than center? Is Rangamati beyond Bangladesh state? Or, there were six perpetrators involved in Delhi’s gang-rape whereas only (!) three in Rangamati case? While president, prime minister of India and congress-chief became concerned with Delhi event, in Rangamati case even local union Parishad member and chairman did not visit victim’s family let alone prime minister, home minister or local MP. Why? This is indeed the politics of class and the politics of cultural difference. Where Bangladesh state is even not ready to admit that there are any indigenous or adivasi people in Bangladesh, how and why we do expect state would address the matter of an adivasi rape-case with great concern! Where state’s exclusionary politics historically pushed the Pahari to the margin of the society, why state should play role to give justice to a little Pahari girl! Where major part of civil society representatives in the country work as local agents of corporate capital for making money by selling “poverty” and “indigenity”, what it matters really to them whether an indigenous girl was ganged-rape or killed! Where print and electronic media spends their most energy, merits and strength to cover the political circus being taken place every day in center (capital), it, very likely, hardly pays any attentions to the periphery whether a school-going girl was raped or killed; whether she is Pahari or not!
In fact, Pahari adivasi girls and women of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) have regularly been raped by Bengali settlers and security forces since the CHT was militarized by deploying forces in the late seventies and settler Bengalis were migrated to the region in the early eighties. Hardly any rape and killing case drew state’s sincere and cordial attention and rarely any perpetrator was brought to punishment under state’s rule of law and justice. Because the state and state’s establishment always plays arbitrary role in handling the matter relating to the rape and killing of the Pahari adivasi. The paradox of ethnic majority (Bengalis) and ethnic minorities (Pahari) issue is at the center in addressing any incidents taken place in the CHT. I have been passing days since December 16 with the burden of being one of majority! I feel poignant when I saw no meaningful reaction and no appealing demonstration from any quarters of the society (except some Pahari organizations) staged demanding the justice to the raped girl and exemplary punishment of the perpetrators. I feel really sad thinking how far Delhi is away from Rangamati!
(December 30, 2012; Germany)