Update: Bichitra Tirki fights back

Bichitra Tirki, 36, an indigenous female leader of Jatiya Adivasi Parishad (JAP) from Jinarpur village under Parbotipur Union of Gomostapur upazila in Chapainawabgonj district, who was tortured and sexually abused by a group of land grabbers earlier in August, has returned home and started fighting back against the perpetrators.

On 4 August 2014, while Bichitra was working in her rice field along with her fellow workers, a group of miscreants numbering 30-35 people, led by Afzal Hossain, made an attack on her using sticks and sharp weapons in connection with grabbing the land which she inherited from her husband. Also, three of the perpetrators namely Rezaul Karim, 30, Akbar Ali, 25, and Akhter Hossain, 35, sexually harassed her. As a result of this attack, Bichitra survived serious physical injury. Shortly after, she was taken to a local hospital and later transferred to Chapainawabganj General Hospital for better treatment.

She filed a case with Gomstapur Police Station on the same day the incident occurred accusing 18 persons.  Police has arrested 10 out of 18 persons as of now. However, Afzal Hossain, the mastermind of the attack, and some of the main perpetrators still remain scot-free.

Unlike most other victims of sexual abuse, Bichitra, however, remained strong in spirit. Before some journalists Bichitra said, the journalist can publish her name and photograph on media. She is not ashamed of social stigma because all her family members, relatives and her indigenous sisters and brothers from entire North Bengal are always beside her.

After about four weeks of her stay in the hospital, on 31 August 2014, Bichitra returned home. A group of prominent people of the country including few members of parliament (MP), JAP leaders, and members of civil society organizations escorted her home. Soon after her return, Bichitra called on her community people, organized them together to fight back against the land grabbers. Together with her indigenous sisters and brothers, Bichitra planted rice seedlings on her rightful land, which the land grabbers want to take over.  Now Bichitra is waiting for the green rice seedlings to grow and turn golden.

On 3 September 2014 Mr. Fazle Hossain Badsha, MP and convener of the Parliamentary Caucus on Indigenous Peoples, raised issue of attack on Bichitra Tirki in the Parliament. He said that Bichitra is an elected member of Union Council (lowest local government unit inn Bangladesh) and was awarded for commendable social work earlier by the government. However, such women activist was attacked by the land grabbers. Though three alleged attackers were arrested, but the masterminds of the attack are yet to be held, Badsha express his concern. Following statement of Fazle Hossain Badsha, on 4 September evening the State Minister for Home Affairs, Mr. Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, has, subsequently, made an statement in the parliament upon article 300 informing the Parliament that the incidence of torture on Ms. Bichitra Tirki as reported in the House has been found to be true though the accusation of rape has not been proved. He also promised to take all necessary actions. The Superintendent of Police (SP) of Chapainawabganj district has visited Ms. Bichitra Tirki at her home on 6 September. So far 11 of the accused (3 of the named in FIR and 8 unnamed) have been arrested. It is expected to immediate arrest of some more culprits, State Minister for Home Affairs added.

Earlier on 31 August at a rally held on the premises of Parbatipur Union Parishad office at noon, five lawmakers demanded immediate arrest and exemplary punishment of those who beat up and sexually harassed her. The lawmakers, Fazle Hossain Badsha from Rajshahi, AKM Fazlul Haque from Sherpur, Nazmul Hoque Prodhan from Panchagarh, Yasin Ali from Thakurgaon and Hajera Sultana also assured the locals that they would raise the issue in the parliament, demanding  punishment of the culprits.

On 27 August Jatiya Adivasi Parishad organised a road march from Adda intersection in Gomostapur upazila to Chapainawabganj town, demanding exemplary punishment to those who beat up and sexually harassed Buchitra. Lawmaker Fazle Hossain Badsha of Rajshahi, Ushatan Talukdar MP from Rangamati; Pankaj Bahattachariya, NAP leader; Kzai Sufia Akhtar, central leader of Jatiya Mohila Parishad; Sabin Chandra Munda, Adivasi Parishad general secretary, Bimol Chandra Rajoar, its organising secretary, Sushen Kumar, general secretary of Jatiya Adivasi Parishad, Rajshahi district unit, indigenous leaders Bina Munda, Bishut Muni Toppo, Bashanti Murmu and Bazlur Rashid Firoz, central leader of Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal spoke at the rally.