This is the story of an 8 year-old Marma girl, who loves to go school, likes to play with her friends, and lives with her family in a small remote village in Rangamati in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
On 14th January 2015, she was coming home from school alone as her friends had left her behind. She did not know what was going to happen with her that day. With her child’s mind, she walked home carefree. As she passed the jungle on the way back to her home, a man suddenly attacked her and a terrible incident took place: the man raped this little girl. When the girl finally returned home, she was crying and bleeding profusely.
The family, including the girl’s parents and grandmother, was able to reach Chittagong town from Rangamati with the help of some indigenous students and they admitted the girl to a hospital. A senior sister contacted me at 10pm on 14th January and asked me to come to the hospital but my university did not give me permission to leave campus at night for security reasons. The sister stayed with the girl the whole night. According to her the girl was bleeding profusely, but the hospital authority did not try to give special attention to her condition. That senior sister cleaned the blood herself the whole the night and tried to console both the parents and the girl.
Then the next day, on 15th January, the girl was shifted to the OCC (One-stop Crisis Center) in another section of the hospital but no one was allowed to stay with the girl except her mother. As the mother cannot communicate in Bangla, I was given permission to stay with them for one night as a translator to help the mother communicate with the nurses and doctors.
As I had heard about the condition of the girl from the senior sister, I struggled to muster the courage to face the girl for first time. My steps stumbled as I walked into the room. I saw a glimpse of the girl’s face from the corner of the door, closed my eyes, and then went near her.
My heart kept sinking and pinching itself as I touched her little fingers. She did not look at me. Perhaps she was wondering about her pain and seeking answers about herself. As she was not allowed to take solid food and could only take liquids provided by the hospital, she was hungry and kept asking her mom for food. It was heart-wrenching that we could not provide food to a hungry child due to her physical condition. The whole night her mom and I barely slept because the girl would often scream due to her pain. The night passed away and the sun rose with our eyes still open.
According to the girl’s mother, they know the rapist well. He has a plantation near their home and is also a tea seller in their area. In their village, there are only 6 indigenous Marma families surrounded by the Bengalis who were settled there from elsewhere a few years back.
Due to the hospital’s rules, I had to leave the patient’s room in the morning, but the next day on the 16th I went to visit her again. I entered the OCC room by taking special permission. But this time I discovered a completely different girl compared to my first visit. The girl was smiling, even as she felt shy about answering my questions. I felt hopeful that perhaps the girl would be able to survive the psychological and physical trauma of the assault. I was touched by the support of the volunteers, donors, and social activists who have continuously done their best to provide all kinds of support to the girl and her family.
This incident happened within one month of another tragic incident on 15th December 2014, which also occurred in Rangamati, where one Marma girl was raped and murdered by settlers. This could have happened to me or any of my sisters. As I held the little girl in my arms and tried to comfort her, I kept asking myself why this had happened. Since God made all of us and filled our veins with the same blood, why didn’t God also provide each and every one of us with a compassionate heart?
Ukhengching Marma is a second-year undergraduate student at the Asian University for Women.