Dhaka, April 26 (IANS): A judicial commission in Bangladesh has concluded that "over 200 minority women were gang raped" in the violence following the October 2001 parliamentary poll that was intended to force families "to leave the country".
The acts were allegedly committed by cadres of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its ally Jamaat-e-Islami, who won the 2001 poll, the report says, citing the "involvement" of many top leaders and lawmakers of the alliance that is now in the opposition. With Begum Khaleda Zia as the Prime Minister, the BNP-Jamaat alliance ruled Bangladesh during 2001-06.
Violence went on for 15 months and "the barbarous act was intended to force them to leave the country. They were, in the eyes of the culprits, enemies as they voted for Awami League", The Daily Star said Tuesday, quoting commission sources.
An official of the commission submitted the report to Home Minister Sahara Khatun. It lists over 3,625 incidents of major crimes, including killing, rape, arson and looting.
Media reports at that time had detailed the plight of hundreds of Hindu families crossing over to neighbouring India, forcing the Indian government to express concern.
Bangladeshi poet Daud Hyder, who visited the camps in India where these families were lodged and wrote about it, was later charged with sedition and imprisoned.
The wave of violence was the subject of "Lajja" by novelist Taslima Nasreen, who angered the Islamists at home and was forced to leave Bangladesh. She still remains exiled.
Many victims and their family members interviewed by the probe panel narrated "harrowing experiences", but said they did not lodge police reports or undergo forensic tests for fear of inviting social stigma, the report says.
An official said the victims think putting their names on record as rape victims will worsen their life in society. Many victims and their family members across the country contacted the commission when it was conducting the probe. According to the panel, it would be "tough or, to some extent, impossible" to continue the probe into the rape allegations, "as the victims themselves are unwilling to do the legal battle".
The probe panel found that most of the gang rapes occurred in the country's southern part - Bhola, Barisal, Agoiljhara and Gaurnadi.
The accused were acquitted for lack of witnesses. In some cases, police gave final reports while the names of the accused were dropped in over 500 cases out of the 3,625 major crime incidents. With the passing of a decade, some of the accused utilised "good connection with ruling Awami League men", which forced the police to drop many cases, the media report said.
The panel has named several BNP and Jamaat leaders for their "involvement" in the post-poll violence.