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11 March, 2016 00:00 00 AM

Real story behind ‘Dumurer Phul’

By Shehab Ahmed
Real story behind ‘Dumurer Phul’

A 128-page fictional tale, with an appropriate title to it, has catapulted a young writer from journalism into sudden limelight, with certain elements threatening her with assault on social media, as her novel attracted notice from readers at this year’s Ekushey book fair in Dhaka.
So, why did the book draw such hostile reaction? It’s because Rokeya Lita dared to deal with a subject hitherto taboo among Bangladeshi writers, even journalists.
The subject of her book is a strange social custom among the tribal people in the country’s southeastern Chittagong Hill Tracts. So long the stereotype has been a non-tribal man from among the Bangalee settlers raping a tribeswoman from the hills. Debunking all that has now led to trouble for the writer.
On her Facebook page, Lita wrote back: Well, some of these so-called plain and simple tribesmen have been unmasked. Now, they want now to rape me!
‘Dumurer Phul’, Lita’s second book of fiction, deals with the contemporary political and social life of the tribal people, sketching their life in a society that still remains steeped in its own culture and traditions. The punishment for a rapist here is to pay for the crime with a pig. Also, the rapist is often rewarded with marrying the victim _ in the name of justice.
Writing about her experiences, Lita said she had tried to go deep into such traditions after working and living closely among the people in the hills during her stint as a news reporter in the remote areas of Chittagong Hill Tracts.
About touching a sensitive subject in her book, Lita said: “Those of us who live in Dhaka often hear stories about rapes in the hills committed by Bangalee men. But the reality is otherwise.  Only Bangalees are accused in the rapes, despite allegations against hill men being involved. But the tribal leaders do not bring them to the fore. Sitting in Dhaka or taking a trip for two to three days in the hills, it is difficult to obtain a real picture of the situation there.”
But the author does not only write about rapes or traditional justice, she also touches on many unreported information behind the political instability prevailing in the hills of Chittagong. Lita claims the characters in her book are real, but she used pseudo names for them.
Many readers may question what prompted the writer to name her novel ‘Dumurer Phul’, which means an unseen object in Bangla. The novel is published by Samoy Prokashon.
In a different Facebook status, Lita says: On every anniversary of the peace accord in the Chittagong hills, most journalists go there from the capital and repeat previously filed reports, though most of the stories sent from there are from local correspondents, who are mostly hill men. Their favourite topic is rape of a hill woman by a Bangalee.
“Besides rapes and the peace accord, there are many more controversial issues to write about from the hills. I only learned about those when I started writing ‘Dumurer Phul’,” Lita added.
Lita accuses the news media and some non-government organisations (NGOs) of being responsible for the present situation in the hill tracts.
“In certain cases, these newspapers and the NGOs are fuelling the political situation in the hills,” Lita said. “Not so many things are necessary to describe the situation there. Information available from the local police stations would suffice. But the problem is hill women are not always accusing Bangalees of rape. In most cases, it is seen that their men folk have politicised the situation to campaign on it.”
She further said, “I recently came across an article where the writer wrote that the hill women are considered as ‘consumer items’. The writing indicates that Bangalee settlers were taken to the hills to rape only. Such write-ups even suggest that during winter, Bangalee tourists flock to the hills only to rape the hill women!”
“It is not that rapes are not taking place in the hills,” Lita clarifies. “Perhaps, some Bangalees may be involved in such incidents. But my experience is different. During my stay in the Chittagoing hills for about eight months, I came across news about two hill women being raped. But surprisingly, there were accusations against hill men of being involved in the incidents. I was surprised to see the crimes were kept buried under the carpet for a long time.”
“There were no demonstrations against them. Nor was there any report in the newspapers. But we often get news back in Dhaka that the Bangalees are enjoying themselves raping the hill women. Such matters reveal the real face of hill politics. My novel mostly dwells on such politics,” Rokeya Lita said about her book, which has brought her not only threats, but also a sudden curiosity among readers to learn about contemporary life in the hills, which are still shrouded in tradition and local politics.

The writer is a special correspondent of The Independent.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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