Parimani is probably the most high profile sexually abused woman in the history of Bangladesh. However, the victim of the most high profile rape case in the history of the subcontinent was Bangladeshi Bengali actress Shabnam or Jharna Basak.
Jharna Basak or Shabnam is considered as one of the best actresses of all time in the cinema of the subcontinent. Shabnam started his film career in 1962 and has acted in about 170 movies throughout her life. No one has yet broken Shabnam’s record of winning the Best Actress award a total of 13 times. The Nadeem-Shabnam and Rahman-Shabnam duo was a super duper hit movie in the 60’s and 70’s.
On the night of May 13, 1987, Farooq Bandial, nephew of the then Chief Secretary of Punjab FK Bandial, and four of his friends attacked Shabnam’s own house with weapons. The tied up Shabnam’s husband the famous music director Robin Ghosh and their only child and raped Shabnam in front of them all night long. They all came from wealthy businessmen and political families. After the incident, there was a lot of pressure on Shabnam and his family not to sue. But at that time, everyone in the Pakistani film industry came to Shabnam’s side, forcing the dictator General Ziaul Haq Sarkar to form a special military tribunal. The verdict sentenced all the five accused to death.
The uncle of the main accused, who later became a minister in the central government, continued to put pressure on Shabnam and his family and prevented them from leaving the country. Shabnam’s own lawyer, SM Zafar, wrote a letter to General Zia-ul-Haq after the death sentence, saying that the accused had gone astray in view of the social degradation and disorderly culture that had prevailed during the last Bhutto government and could not be blamed.
Dictator General Ziaul Haque later commuted the death sentence of all the accused and the case was dropped from the rape case as a case of ordinary robbery. Shabnam and her husband later agreed to commute the death sentence of the accused due to pressure from various sections of the society. The main accused Farooq Bundial was later elected as a Member of Parliament and all his friends were established in the society as powerful businessmen. In 2016, Farooq Bandial joined Imran Khan’s political party PTI. But when the Shabnam rape case was reported in the media again, Imran Khan was forced to remove him from the party. There is a lot to learn from the Shabnam incident in the context of the subcontinent.