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Around six or seven activists of Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) allegedly grabbed a 20-year-old woman while she was with her husband in a car and gang-raped her, holding her husband hostage at a college hostel in Tilagarh area of Sylhet on Friday night.

The gruesome incident took place in front of Block 7 of an MC College hostel room that the BCL men occupied since 2012. The hostel was supposed to remain shut amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A team of policemen from Shah Paran police station of Sylhet Metropolitan Police (SMP) rescued the woman and her husband around 10:30pm. They seized a motorcycle and recovered the couple’s car.

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Speaking to Prothom Alo, SMP deputy commissioner (South) Sohel Reza said several youth held a man hostage, picked up his wife and raped her at a solitary place of the hostel. Police has already started a drive to identify and detain the rapists.

SMP additional deputy commissioner (media) Jyotirmoy Sarker on Saturday morning told Prothom Alo that no progress has been made in identifying and detaining the suspected rapists though police conducted raids in and around hostel area from 3:00am of Saturday.

He further said the victim has been admitted into the OCC (One-Stop Crisis Centre) of MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital, Sylhet around 12:00am. Police has been trying to detain the culprits by identifying the owner of the motorcycle.

Police said the woman is from Dakkhin Surma in Sylhet. She and her husband gone for a drive in the MC College area on Friday afternoon. The man was driving the car. They did some shopping at a store in front of the main entrance of the college in evening. Later they sat talking inside the car.

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Around 8:00pm, five young men encircled their car and forced them to get out of it. Three of them took the woman near a room of Block 7 while the other two held the husband hostage at the car. When they left him around an hour, he found his wife ravaged in front of a room of Block 7.

Wishing not to be named, a teacher of the college and two persons from the residential area adjacent to the hostel said some local people near MC College heard the man shouting. When they heard the woman shouting, teachers and employees went there from the adjacent staff quarters and found couple. Their car was in front of the hostel gate.

Local people informed the police station after seeing a motorcycle near the spot. The couple recounted the incident to the law enforcement, they added.

The husband said there had been five or six perpetrators. He saw two of them in MC College and the hostel earlier. Those two held him hostage in the car.

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Speaking to Prothom Alo, MC College principal Saleh Ahmed said, “A team of police lead by Shah Paran police station officer-in-charge sought permission to enter the hostel at night. I gave them the permission after talking to the hostel supervisor and two other teachers who live at the staff quarters. Later, they informed me that a rape had taken place there. I then contacted a team of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB)-9. RAB is also investigating the incident along with police.”

On 8 July 2012, 42 rooms of the hostel built in 1920 were burnt during a clash between Bangladesh Chhatra League and Islami Chhatra Shibir men. The reconstructed hostel building was inaugurated on 14 October 2014. Since then, BCL has been controlling the hostel though there is no committee of BCL in MC College.

No BCL leaders made any statement regarding the incident.

Two former leaders of MC College and Sylhet metropolitan unit Chhatra League, on condition of anonymity, said since the burning down of the hostel, that room of Block 7 is known as ‘BCL men’s room’.

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Factions were created within BCL to take control of the room since the inauguration of the hostel on 14 October 2014. Parts of the hostel were vandalised on 13 July 2017 in a clash of BCL factions over establishing control. The hostel was shut down for a week. It was opened on 29 July that year. The hostel has been shut down since 25 March due to coronavirus pandemic.

In response to a question of whether the room, in front of which the woman was raped, is occupied by BCL men or not, principal Saleh Ahmed said, “The hostel is closed due to coronavirus. I’ve heard leaders (of BCL) were staying there. I know nothing else. I’ve asked RAB and police to bring the perpetrators to book.”

A source from Shah Paran police station said police got information about six who were regularly going to the hostel. They are from Habiganj, Sylhet, Dirai of Sunamganj and Jagannathpur. They are former students of MC College and BCL activists.