Local government elections are being held regularly in the country for long. This practice is supposed to have some positive impact on the society especially by creating an environment of mutual respect and tolerance among the activists of rival political groups. But our society lacks that environment. In our country, the concept of political rivalry has been confined mainly between two leading parties. This trend is losing relevance nowadays. Rather, internal democratic and political practice of ruling party is becoming more important. Any election is inviting internal conflict of the ruling party with an increasing number of rebel candidates.
Violence in the ongoing upazila elections has reflected this trend. We are worried about the recent incidents of gang rape. We wonder whether gang rape is being used as new means of election related violence. We cannot but worry as more than one such incident occurred in Noakhali in the recent past. Political parties and administration must pay attention to those incidents. Unfortunately, a culture of intolerance and inequity is prevailing in our country. The respect and status of women is not strong in our society.
Two incidents of election-related gang rape took place in Subarnachar upazila of Noakhali. In Kabirhat upazila of the same district, a BNP leader’s wife was allegedly gang raped on 28 January after he was sent to jail. An absconding local Juba League leader was charge-sheeted in the case. The husband of the victim claimed the incident to be linked with politics. A similar incident took place in Subarnachar on 31 March. Necessary steps should be preventing the scourge at the outset.
A spokesperson of Noakhali police said that although it was widely circulated in the media that the victim was raped for voting BNP in eleventh parliamentary election, this was not mentioned in the deposition or the charge sheet. He claimed that the victim mentioned ‘prior enmity’ as the reason of the rape. While we do not deny the claim of the policeman, we demand responsible investigation and prompt action. All the suspicion would end if they can ensure justice.
We certainly do not want to reach any conclusion based on the claim of the accused. But we cannot rule out the suspicion given the newspaper reports and reaction of local people. Subarnachar upazila Awami League immediately expelled its leader following the allegation of his involvement with 30 December gang rape incident. They did not wait for the result of government investigation. In the same upazila on Sunday, a woman was raped allegedly for voting for the electoral symbol ‘spectacles’ instead of ‘lock’. Both of the candidates were Awami League backed.
We hope the authorities will stop denying the problem and act responsibly by giving due consideration to the sensitivity of the allegations.