Gang-rape survivor Bilkis Bano, who was among several Muslims to be brutalised in 2002 post-Godhra riots in Gujarat, has said that the premature release of 11 convicts has "shaken" her faith in justice and has taken away her peace.
Earlier on August 15, all 11 convicts serving life sentence in Bilkis Bano rape case were released from jail after the Gujarat government constituted a panel to review their cases under the remission policy.
"I trusted the highest courts in our land. I trusted the system, and I was learning slowly to live with my trauma." Bano said in a statement on Wednesday. Bano, who was 5-months pregnant then, was gang-raped and brutalised when she, along with her family members and 3-year-old daughter, was fleeing the communal violence in her village in Gujarat. The group was ambushed by rioters, armed with swords, sticks and sickles.
"The release of these convicts has taken from me my peace and shaken my faith in justice. My sorrow and my wavering faith is not for myself alone but for every woman who is struggling for justice in courts," she said.
Bano and her family had reached Chapparwad village on March 3, 2002 and had sought refuge in a field when they were attacked. Bano,her mother, and three other women were raped and brutalised. Her toddler daughter was also killed in the attack.
"No one enquired about my safety and well-being, before taking such a big and unjust decision," Bano said after the release of the 11 convicts. "Please ensure that my family and I are kept safe," she said appealling the Gujarat government.
Officials part of the panel said the report was drafted based on several factors including "good behaviour of the convicts and their compliance with the jail rules".
The 11 convicts included Radheshyam Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Vohania, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Nitesh Bhatt, Ramesh Chandana. They were all held guilty by a court in 2008 of gang-raping Bilkis Bano in the Gujarat riots and killing seven members of her family, who were fleeing the raging violence in their locality.
Meanwhile, the Opposition slammed the government over the release of the convicts. "Those who raped a 5-month pregnant woman and killed her 3-year-old girl were released during the 'Azadi Ke Amrit Mahotsav'," Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said on Twitter.
"What is the message giving to the women of the country who are talking about women power? Prime Minister, the whole country is seeing the difference between your words and deeds," he wrote.
On Wednesday, pictures of the convicts being welcomed and garlanded at the Vishwa Hindu Parishad office after being released from the Godhra sub-jail surfaced on social media.
The convicts had approached the court for premature release after completion of 15 years in jail. The application for remission was sent to the Bombay High Court and the defence then moved Supreme Court seeking remission. The top court asked the state government to submit a report on the conduct of the convicts in jail to deliberate upon their release in tandem with the remission policy.
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