A female student at an Islamic boarding school who was allegedly doused with kerosene and set on fire at the madrassa over the weekend was placed on life support Monday at Dhaka Medical College Hospital, the head of the burns unit said.
The victim was identified as Nusrat Rafi, a student at the Sonagazi Islamia Senior Fazil Madrassa in the Chittagong division of southeastern Bangladesh.
Police said seven people were being held in connection with the incident after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday ordered that the perpetrators be immediately apprehended.
“The girl came to us with burns to about 80 percent of her body, with 45 percent to 50 percent are deep burns,” Abul Kalam, chief of the burn and plastic surgery department, told BenarNews.
“On Monday, she was struggling to breathe – her lungs were not working – so we decided to put her on ventilation.” Government officials said she would be flown to Singapore for treatment at government expense.
She was reportedly set on fire after she and her family had filed a complaint with police about alleged sexual misconduct by the school’s principal.
“They bound her hands with a scarf, set fire, then shouted, ‘Go, run!’” a source who overheard a statement given by the victim to police investigators and doctors at the hospital in Dhaka, told BenarNews on condition of anonymity.
Nusrat had arrived at school on Saturday morning to take exams, when a burka-clad person told her that her friend was being beaten on the building’s roof, according to her brother, Mahmudul Hasan.
Once there, she was accosted by four others wearing burkas who told her to drop sexual assault charges against the madrassa principal before dousing her with kerosene, Hasan said.
On Monday, Prime Minister Hasina’s special assistant, Biplob Barua, visited Nusrat at the hospital.
“The prime minister is monitoring the issue,” he told reporters after the visit. “She will be sent to Singapore on government expense as soon as possible for better treatment.”
A senior hospital official confirmed that the necessary documents had been sent to Singapore.
“We are now waiting for their reply. Once they say yes and she can fly, we will take immediate action,” Samanta Lal Sen told reporters.
“The prime minister ordered immediate arrest of those who attempted to kill the female student by setting fire to her,” Sen added, according to the Daily Sun newspaper.
Complaint against principal
Mahmudul Hasan said his mother, Shirin Akter, had filed a sexual assault case against the madrassa principal, identified as Siraj-ud-Daula. on March 27. He was subsequently arrested.
Md Moazzem Hossain, the officer in charge at the Sonagazi police station, said that as of Sunday night, officers had detained seven people for questioning about the attack.
“Of the seven, at least two had held human-chain (protests) and other programs for freeing the accused principal,” Hossain told BenarNews.
“We will send them to the court.”