In Memory of Tomalika Shingha and writer Arpita Roychoudhury
Community Women Against Abuse are distressed and at loss by the mysterious death of our member and an exiled Bangladeshi feminist activist, Tomalika Shingha. Better known as Arpita Roychoudhury, Tomalika had served the collective as a public engagement and social media lead for more than a year. At our shock, Tomalika’s deadbody was mysteriously found in the shower room of her Berlin residence on Tuesday, 18 December 2018. The reason for Tomalika’s death is unknown and being investigated.
We express our deep condolence to Tomalika Shingha’s family. Tomalika’s sudden death is not only a loss for her family but also an unrecoverable loss for the collective of CWAA. Formerly a Botany student, the 22-year old Tomalika had overcome an incredible and lonely journey following her gang rape in 2016. In May 2016, she was abducted by a group of local Islamists, claimed to be belonging to Tangail and Maymensingha Awami League, then was drugged and raped for three days because of her belief and atheist writing. She sought safety in Germany following repeated death threats and sexual violence by her rapists. She had overcome extremely difficult situation during her flight in Bangladesh, India and in Berlin in 2016 and 2017.
It has been more than two weeks since Tomalika’s body was discovered in her residence. Her family have been eagerly waiting for the autopsy report and the coffin. But Berlin Police is yet to say when the body will be released and be handed over to her family.
“German Police never contacted the family. We never heard from the Police. They are only keeping in touch with the Bangladesh High Commission in Germany. It is causing further mental distress at this time of grief”, said Tomalika’s father.
This is unacceptable and alarming. In our view, Police should get in touch with victim’s family without delay. It is the duty of Police to update the family about the progress of investigation and about a tentative date of when the coffin would be handed over to family.
Further distressing news is that while Tomalika’s death is being investigated, a group of bloggers and Bengali news men have engaged in stories by suggesting that Tomalika Shingha’s death might be a predicted suicide. We urge everyone to disengage from and reject such fairy tales.
“Tomalika was not suicidal”, said her father and younger sister. During their last telephone conversation with Tomalika on 12 December, Tomalika sounded in good spirit – said her younger sister. Likewise, CWAA spokeperson Dr Rumana Hashem, who had known Tomalika closely for nearly three years and had written about her story, confirmed that there was no visible symptom of suicide till her last correspondence. Tomalika sounded hopeful and interested in getting involved in frontline feminist activism in early December 2018.
Tomalika was an extraordinarily strong personality, an outspoken feminist and an atheist writer of minority Singhalese background. She wanted to live, and sought safety in Berlin in winter 2017. Her host, PEN Centre Deutschland, knew her as a firm and positive person. “If she wanted to commit suicide, she could have done so 2 years ago after her rape”, said Tomalika’s father.
We express our utter disturbance by the ongoing smear campaign against Tomalika Shingha. As her father, we see such smearing is a way to cover up the crimes perpetrated against Tomalika by those who forced her to exile.
These criminals also claim that Tomalika Shingha was a traitor, hence she was exiled. They are threatening her father “to keep quiet”. “Or they would destroy and banish me and rape my other daughter”, said Tomalika Shingha’s father. Bangladeshi and German media are silent about the incidence. Instead of publishing the names of her perpetrators media published victim’s home address, father’s name, work place and details about the family. “This has furthered the potential for persecution and enabled her rapists to target her younger sister”, reported Tomalika’s father.
We advise press to stop publishing fairy tales and refraining from re-victimising the victim. Media should publish the details of her rapists and extremists who forced Tomalika Shingha to seek safety in Germany. We call upon all media to only publish first hand accounts of her family members. According to Tomalika Shingha’s father newsmen in Bangladesh and Germany never tried to contact him. Neither police nor media made any contact with Tomalika’s father. Tomalika Shingha’s family is currently under religious persecution.
We call upon the government of Bangladesh to take urgent initiative to ensure safety of Tomalika’s family. We call upon German Police to ensure a fair investigation into Tomalika Shingha’s mysterious death. We demand Justice for Tomalika Shingha.
Readers are encouraged to share this post with your friends and network – far and wide. Tomalika Shingha’s family need your support. Please DO NOT engage with any story of suicide before Tomalika Shinghas’s autopsy has been completed.
What YOU Can DO to HELP
To help get justice for Tomalika, you can do the following.
- Email Bangladesh’s recently re-elected prime minister, Sheikh Hasina Wazed. Feel free to copy any part of the text above and email to: firstname.lastname@example.org .
- Tweet to German Police by asking for a fair and prompt investigation. You can say:
“German #polizei, ensure fair and prompt investigation into Bangladeshi feminist and exiled writer @PEN_ Deutschland Tomalika Shingha’s mysterious death. Why is it taking you so long to give us a clue of what/who killed Tomalika? Did @polizeiberlin contact victim’s family yet?
#BerlinPolizei Tomalika’s father awaits your phone call #JusticeForTomalikaShingha
- Tweet to Bangladesh’s prime minister and say: “PM @PmSHasina we’re pleased to see a female PM in Bangladesh. Did you hear the mysterious death of a young minority woman of your country whose body was found in Berlin? What are you doing to get a fair investigation into #TomalikaShingha’s death ? When will #Tomalika’s coffin be handed over to her family?
Sheikh Hasina, ensure #JusticeForTomalikaShingha
- Or tweet: “The young Bangladeshi feminist and atheist writer @PEN_ Deutschland whose deadbody was discovered in her Berlin residence was gang raped by ruling party Islamists in Bangladesh. They’re now threatening victim’s father. As a woman leader of Bangladesh @PmSHasina must ensure #JusticeForTomalikaShingha
Sheikh Hasina, prosecute rapists of #ArpitaRoychoudhury Ensure safety for victims family #JusticeForTomalikaShingha
The above are some tips only. Feel free to take your independent initiatives and let us know if you have a better idea to create pressure on authorities. We are here to listen to you.
Contact @CWomenAA or Pushpita Gupta <Pushpitagupta@gmail.com> or Rumana Hashem <email@example.com>
DON’T keep silent. DON’T let Tomalika’s family be silenced. Act NOW!