If a group of unruly men were to swoop down on students demanding justice for the gang rape of one of their classmates, what would it say about the men in question? At the very least, it would imply that they condone the rape—or worse, that they themselves were directly involved in the very act. We are thus at a loss as to why a group of men allegedly affiliated with Bangladesh Chhatra League, the student wing of the ruling party, would attack the protesting students of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University in Gopalganj if they had nothing to do with the rape incident.
According to reports, on Wednesday evening, a group of seven or eight men attacked a BSMRSTU student and her friend, took them to an under-construction building, raped her and tortured her companion. On Thursday morning, several hundred students laid siege to the Gopalganj sadar police station, demanding punishment for the suspects. Students, requesting anonymity, told our correspondent that a group of BCL men had started hurling brickbats at the students at around 5pm. In the ensuing clash between the two groups, at least 30 protesters were injured.
It would be redundant to point out that the gang rape itself, which took place in the town of Gopalganj, is highly disturbing. We are outraged that, despite the ever-climbing statistics—according to Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, at least 1,235 women reported they had been raped, and 179 gang-raped, in 2021—the government has done little to make the cities, towns and the country at large safer for women and girls, beyond cosmetic changes and empty promises. It is now an established fact that a major reason for the escalating violence against women in Bangladesh is the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators. Time and again, we have seen how the administration goes out of their way to protect the perpetrators, especially those who have some form of affiliation with the ruling party, and how the justice system, too, ultimately fails the survivor(s) as a result.
We have repeatedly called upon the government to ensure that it ends the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators, and to take stern action against the members of the ruling party who are implicated in such cases. It must investigate whether the BCL members were, in fact, involved in the attack on the protesting students, and if so, what possible justification the BCL members would have to do so, if not to protect the perpetrators. We understand that police have picked up three youths for questioning—two of whom were cleaners and whose colleagues staged a demonstration in the town claiming their innocence and demanding their release. We implore the authorities to conduct a fair investigation to find the real culprits.