Recalling the trauma of gang-rape and subsequent stigmatization during the BNP-Jamaat government in 2001, Purnima Rani Shil labelled BNP leader Tarique Rahman “a disease.”
Speaking at Awami League’s peace procession in the capital last Friday, Purnima, who still recalls the doomsday-like incident – then just 14, when a group of 30-40 men attacked her home in Sirajganj district – asked: “Where is Tarique Rahman now? How do you talk about humanity? Don’t you have any shame?”
“Tarique Rahman is a disease for Bangladesh,” she said.
The unthinkable brutality Purnima experienced made headlines after a group of men raped her in Ullahpara of Sirajganj on October 8, 2001. Her mother was shell-shocked by the situation. Neighbours witnessed with kerosene lamps in their hands, but no one came forward to save her from the clutches of the rapists who dragged her out of the house.
Purnima was one of many victims selectively targeted for belonging to the minority Hindu community and for supporting Awami League after the BNP-Jamaat alliance formed the government in 2001.
Her ordeal did end there, but intensified in the following years due to delay in justice, prejudices in society, and scourge of poverty. She and her mother had to leave their village as ridicule, harassment and bullying defied the limits of tolerance.
Not to be outdone by what life threw at her, she graduated from a private university, worked as a personal assistant for lawmaker Tarana Halim, and applied for nomination for the reserved seat for women with an Awami League ticket.