Police have arrested one of six youths accused of raping a minor girl in Gopalganj’s Kotalipara upazila after a local arbitration let them go scot free by allegedly making them pay Tk3 lakh in fines.
The arrest was made at the upazila’s Shuagram on Saturday night hours after the victim’s father filed a case against the six with Kotalipara police over the rape of his daughter, a seventh-grader, on August 15.
Earlier that afternoon, the arbitration, led by Kotalipara upazila Vice-Chairman Motiar Rahman Hajra and Vice-Chairwoman Laxmi Rani Sarker, had “settled the matter” in the presence of influential residents of the village.
The arbitrators had fined Anik Baidya, the prime accused and first to be arrested in the case, and Dipankar Baidya, 25, Tk75,000 each. It also fined Rony Baidya, 18, Shimul Baidya, 19, and Tomal Bairagi, 19, Tk50,000 each. All five are from Shuagram.
The sixth accused is Sumon Biswas, 20, from Raghunathpur in Gopalganj sadar.
Laxmi Rani and some parents of the accused told the Dhaka Tribune that the fine was collected on the spot and later handed over to Motiar Rahman Hajra for safekeeping. But the upazila vice-chairman denied having the money.
Motiar said: “We did take an initiative, but it wasn’t successful. If the matter was settled, then the rape case wouldn’t have been filed and police wouldn’t have arrested anyone.”
The father of the schoolgirl had not agreed to the settlement made by the arbitration and later went on to sue the six youths.
Kotalipara police station Sub-Inspector Shahadat Hossain said the case over the gang rape was lodged around 11:30pm on Saturday. “We heard about the settlement of the matter through arbitration. But in this kind of case, that can’t happen in line with the law.
“We’ve already arrested the main accused and are trying to catch the other five. The victim’s medical examination will be conducted soon too.”
According to the case docket, on the evening of August 15, the schoolgirl was returning home from Shuagram temple after attending a Kirtan programme when Anik and the five others attacked her near the Shuagram bridge.
Then they forcibly took her to a remote place on the north side of the bridge and took turns raping her.
The girl’s father said the families of the rapists had threatened him when he first attempted to take legal action. The arbitrators had also held several meetings at the Baidya households to settle the issue since August 15.
Several villagers, requesting anonymity, said the arbitrators had even asked the girl’s father to not pursue legal measures against the rapists.
“Even though I objected, the upazila vice-chairman on Saturday afternoon had fined the rapists a total of Tk3lakh. Later in the night I started the case,” said the father.