Over 200 minority women were gang raped allegedly by the then ruling BNP-Jamaat alliance cadres in 15 months since October 2001, finds the judicial commission probing the 2001 post-polls violence.
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, said commission sources.
The commission has also found involvement of some BNP and Jamaat leaders in the oppression on minorities and Awami League workers.
Of the BNP leaders, the commission named Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, Abdul Wadud of Khagrachhari, Joynal Abedin, also known as VP Joynal of Feni, Nadim Mostafa, HM Selim of Bagerhat, Maulana Shakhawat Hossain of Keshabpur in Jessore, Abdus Sobhan of Pabna while the Jamaat leaders are Maulana Matiur Rahman Nizami and Abu Taher of Comilla.
On Sunday, some other commission sources told The Daily Star that Delwar Hossain Sayedee, Altaf Hossain Chowdhury, Maj (retd) Hafiz Uddin Ahmed, Ruhul Quddus Talukdar Dulu, Hafiz Ibrahim and Zahir Uddin Swapan were among the leaders of the then government who led the oppression.
Talking about some incidents in Bhola, commission sources said Maj (retd) Hafiz Uddin Ahmed and his men picked up one of their rivals and shot him dead.
In another incident, Hafiz and his men tore off clothes of another rival and forced him walk around a local market.
Family members of the deceased and witnesses of the killing incidents gave depositions to the commission. Some people also appeared before the commission with witnesses of the atrocity and brutality they faced.
Hafiz, however, refuted the allegations and challenged the commission.
"People know my family well. I was voted a lawmaker six times while my father three times," he said.
Khagrachhari BNP leader Abdul Wadud said the inclusion of his name among the ones involved is politically motivated.
He added "I made lots of contributions to mosques and temples of Hindus and other tribal communities in my area, which testify to the fact that I did not oppress them."
VP Joynal and Nadim Mostafa, however, could not be reached over the phone for their statements.
A high official of the home ministry said the commission identified most of the rape victims on the basis of newspaper reports of that time.
Many victims and their family members across the country contacted the commission when it was conducting the probe.
Rapists in 22 incidents of the 200 grabbed the victims' residences, he added.
Fearing social stigma, majority of the victims had not done any forensic test following the incidents.
"Many victims described their horrific experiences before the commission but denied lodging complaints against the rapists."
The victims think putting their names on record as rape victims will worsen their life in society, said the official.
The probe commission found that most of the gang rapes occurred on 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.
As for the cases running at present, it was found that police were compelled to drop the names of the perpetrators as they have good connection with ruling AL men.
The commission recommended that the government should form district committees comprised of a magistrate, public prosecutor and some others of the district authorities to carry out further investigation into the incidents.
It, however, apprehended that 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.
In case of arson attacks, investigators will hardly get any evidence. The victims of the attacks over the last few years built new structures in place of the damaged ones.
The judicial commission has made a report of the 2001 post-polls violence mentioning over 3,625 incidents of major crimes including killing, rape, arson and looting by cadres of the then ruling BNP-Jamaat alliance.
Of the incidents, the commission described 355 as politically motivated murders while 3,270 were incidents of rape, arson, looting and other atrocities.
Member secretary of the commission Monwar Hossain, deputy secretary of the home ministry, handed over the report to Home Minister Sahara Khatun on Sunday.