• Monday, Nov 28, 2022
  • Last Update : 10:24 am

2001 post-poll violence: Purnima is forgotten

  • Published at 02:50 am October 8th, 2021
Ten years have passed since a court sentenced 11 people to life for the 2001 gang-rape of Purnima
FILE PHOTO: Rights activists and lawyers say the judge’s remarks that that no rape cases should be filed if 72 hours have passed since the incident is a violation of the constitution Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Government has not taken any step to try the masterminds, attackers

Twenty years ago, she was brutally gang raped and wounded by political rivals because she acted as a polling agent of the Awami League at the 2001 general elections.

But she did not give up.

Against all odds, she sued the accused, continued her studies and formed an organization – Purnima Foundation – through which she has supported hundreds of rape survivors and their families. She has been inspiring other rape survivors.

In 2018, then state minister Tarana Halim appointed Purnima as her personal officer, but the government did not regularize her job after the state minister left office in 2019.

Purnima Foundation has helped hundreds of women and children with cash and food aid during the Covid-19 pandemic through the funds that she had collected from various sources. Purnima, 33, is now jobless, and yet she will not give up.

Apart from working for her organization, Purnima spends time practising and teaching classical music. She is also vocal in social media against injustices of all sorts.

Now she wants to expand her humanitarian work as she finds the number of incidents of rape, mainly perpetrated against children, rising alarmingly.

Also Read - Minority leaders press home for commission, end to discrimination

She thinks that rape survivors, mainly children subjected to the assaults, need long-term support – mainly related to mental health, education and skill development to become self-reliant.

“When I work with the rape survivors, I can’t forget the night when they brutally tortured me for my political affiliation.

“I encourage the survivors to love their life and turn around - because they can’t be blamed for the assaults; rather we should punish the rapists and banish them from society,” Purnima told Dhaka Tribune.

She denounced the delay in the trial of the perpetrators, which, she said, would heal her pains. Some of the accused are out of prison on bail.

Purnima said: “Taking prompt action against the perpetrators of sexual violence by the police and completing the trials in the shortest possible time by the courts while ensuring that the survivor and her family are not harassed again are the key issues in preventing rape incidents and changing the mindset of men.

“Otherwise, the culture of impunity will prevail, and ruin the image of the government and the nation. If a nation can’t respect women, it can’t progress much.”

After a long trial, a lower court on May 4, 2011 sentenced 11 accused to life term imprisonment for the gang-rape of Purnima that occurred on October 8, 2001. 

Now the appeals filed by the convicts remain pending with the High Court.

‘AL should fulfill its pledges’

Minority rights leader Rana Dasgupta decried the delay in justice in the much-talked-about case.

He thinks the politically-motivated assaults perpetrated on the Hindus and other minority groups could have been prevented, had the Awami League government set an example by trying the criminals and executing the verdicts after coming to power in 2009.

Also Read - Hefazat-e-Islam followers attack Hindu houses in Sunamganj

The senior lawyer also urged the Awami League to enact laws for the protection of the minorities as pledged before the last general elections and try the criminals.

At a press conference on September 16, Rana Dasgupta asked the government to take effective steps to end incidents of murder, intimidation, mob attacks and violence against the minorities, and ensure their human rights, safety and social dignity and justice.

Apex court orders ignored

The High Court on April 10, 2014 directed the authorities concerned to take legal action against the persons involved in the attacks.

The bench of Justice Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque and ABM Altaf Hossain passed the order after the government published the probe committee report in a gazette notification on April 1.

The same bench on January 15 directed the law enforcers to give protection to the minorities and vulnerable groups across the country.

Also Read - US report lists communal attacks in Bangladesh in 2020

A three-member judicial probe committee, led by former district judge Md Shahabuddin, was formed in 2009 following an order by another High Court. The committee handed over the report on April 25, 2011 to the then home minister Sahara Khatun.  

It found the involvement of several ministers of the BNP-Jamaat government among 26,352 people in more than 18,000 violent incidents.

During a hearing on the matter in 2014, Manzill Murshid, a Supreme Court lawyer who filed the writ petition seeking investigation, told the court that similar attacks had been carried out on the minorities after the tenth general elections of January 5, 2014.

The counsel blamed the reluctance of the government for the violent attacks, saying it could have been averted had the probe report been made public and proper punitive action taken against the perpetrators in time.

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