Kolkata: The rapists and murderers in Bilkis Bano case have been released to erase the 2002 Gujarat Riots, before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls but we will not forget it, said Jhelum Roy, a protestor while protesting in Kolkata against the remission of 11 convicts, who had gang-raped Bilkis Bano and murdered 14 of her family members including her daughter.
Today, three Public Interest Litigation (PIL)s have been filed at the Supreme Court challenging the remission of 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano gangrape and murder case, the protests have also intensified across India and in Kolkata.
The PILs have been filed by Subhashini Ali CPM politburo bureau member along with Revathi Laul and Roop Rekha Verma, while another one by TMC MP Mahua Moitra and the third one by another petitioner.
A bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana took note of the submissions.
Whereas, from Kolkata to Giridih (Jharkhand), people hit the streets to register their anger not only against the remission of convicts in the Bilkis Bano case but also against the murder of 9-year-old Dalit boy Inder Meghwal.
Standard III student, Inder was beaten for drinking water from a pitcher which was reserved for upper caste students according to the headmaster, Chail Singh, who beat him mercilessly which later caused the death of the 9-year-old.
The release of the 11 convicts by the Gujarat government in the gruesome Bilkis Bano case whereby she was gang-raped, her 3-year-old child had her smashed on a rock, her mother and sisters were raped and killed; as many as 14 family members were killed. She allegedly knew all the criminals, who were her neighbours. Five months pregnant, she escaped, because they left her for dead.
In Kolkata, several organizations which works for women rights including Feminists In Resistance, Sharamjivi Nari Mancha, Sara Bharat Pragatisil Mahila Samiti, Nari Chetna, Sara Bharat Viplabi Mahila Sangathan, Manvi and Committee Of Release of Political Prisoner hold a protest.
One of the youngest protestors, Jhelum said further, “It was deliberately done keeping in mind the 2024 elections (Lok Sabha polls). We have seen Maya Kodnani being released too. This time, it has been done to erase the memory of 2002. But we will fight tooth and nail and we will not forget it.”
“The criminals have not only got released under remission policy but they were given regular parole too. One Radheshayam has been on parole this year too. In the Bilkis Bano case, several violations of complete CrPC sections have taken place. The court should look into all these. In both Inder Meghwal and Bilkis Bano’s matters, they try to dilute it so that nothing wrong has happened. And this is how they are strengthening their politics but we have to fight it out,” Nisha Biswas of Feminists In Resistance told eNewsroom.
In Giridih, Bhim Army and Bhim Sena staged a protest against the killing of Inder Meghwal and the release of convicts in the Bilkis Bano case.
Meanwhile, because of the release of the 11 convicts, led to the beginning of another specter of mass phobia in Gujarat, bringing alive memories of the terror and mass tragedies of Gujarat in 2002.
The Indian Express has reported: “A week after the Gujarat government released 11 convicts serving life sentences in the Bilkis Bano case, several Muslim families from Randhikpur (Singwad) have started leaving their homes and have taken shelter in Rahimabad Relief Colony of Devgarh Baria taluka in Dahod district, where Bilkis has been living since 2017. Bilkis was gang-raped in Randhikpur during the communal violence that followed the Godhra train-burning incident in 2002.
On Monday, when The Indian Express visited the relief colony, loaded tempo rickshaws were bringing in residents of Randhikpur into the relief colony along with their luggage where they decided to stay until ‘a decision is made’ regarding the release of the convicts.”
Meanwhile, in an extraordinary, deeply sensitive and moving interview published in ‘Bar and Bench’, Advocate Shobha Gupta, who represented Bilkis in the Supreme Court, said:
“It cannot turn everything upside down. Here, the remission comes from the fact of the whole punishment. When it comes to the criminal justice system, if you are committing a serious crime, you have to undergo a serious punishment — it is making a mockery of it.”
She continued: “This is one saga of extreme atrocities, extreme violence, crime beyond words, comprehension and imagination. But at the same time, it is the saga of immense, incomprehensible strength shown by this girl, the bravery. I always say that we draw strength from her.”
“What do I say about Bilkis? We all are in a disturbed condition. You put in all this, ensure justice, you fight till the last court. You succeed to get the conviction upheld. Highest ever compensation in a matter because of the gruesomeness and the exceptional facts of the case, and then to come back to a minimum sentence undergone?” Gupta mentioned.
The advocate said further: “Now going for another round of appeal for harsher punishment, she would have had to live under the pain, the process for good long years. Let her live life. Let her at least allow her to learn to live her life in peace.”
(Bano, as per the interview, was on antidepressants for a considerable part of her legal journey, Gupta revealed, adding that she struggles to be in a crowd even today. She did not accept a job that was granted by a Supreme Court order because she just can’t be among people.)
And added: “She did not accept a job which was granted by a Supreme Court order because she just can’t be among people. And so we did not challenge it further, because the matter deserved a much harsher punishment than life imprisonment. We did not wish to go because we wanted peace to come to her. It should have been avoided. We failed as a society for her. It is a feeling of shame to face her. Have you ensured light at the end of the tunnel for it to come on my face like this? I have a shame written. I cannot face her. I would feel very guilty facing her.”
“See, it is not easy for a rape victim. Somebody had caused such a severe harm to your privacy, bodily integrity to your soul — what not. And to live with that pain continuously and reiterate it to get justice. to face people. Each time to tell someone that this happened to me somebody came and did like that. You suffer all that, why? Because you believe justice will be done and the wrongdoer will be booked. Booked for what? Booked for namesake? If people can come out like this to stare at your face?” asked Gupta.